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In one of my conversations with General Musharraf, I had asked him what he expected from the United States. He didn't answer immediately, and then he said, bitterness edging his voice, "The United States must help clean up the mess that you created during the days of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Pakistan served your interests very prominently as a frontline state. But when the Soviets withdrew, the U.S. government also pulled out, leaving us high and dry."
Through no fault of the author's, this is a terribly depressing book. It's damned hard upon finishing it to harbor much hope for Pakistan's future, certainly none that it will develop into a stable capitalist democracy anytime soon. As General Musharraf's comments above indicate, the U.S. does share some of the blame, but as Ms Weaver makes clear, Pakistan has many, many more problems that are of its own making.
The book is for the most part a collection of essays that Ms Weaver wrote for The New Yorker, here knitted together, somewhat loosely, to form a first hand account of the past decade or so in Pakistan. The result is a less systematic survey of the country than one might like, but she does combine a series of fascinating profiles--of main players like Zia ul-Haq, Benazir Bhutto, Osama bin Laden, and Mr. Musharraf--with almost a travelogue, describing her own adventures in country. Along the way she reports on such disturbing facets of modern Pakistan as the "blowback" from the Afghan jihad, the continuing tension with India over Kashmir, the rise of fundamentalist Islam, the rivalries among the various ethnic groups that comprise the nation, and the seemingly omnipresent poverty, corruption, and hopelessness. Add nuclear weapons to this mix and the presence of al Qaeda remnants all over the country and you've got a recipe for continuing decline, disintegration, war, and eventually maybe even deadly apocalypse at the hands of their Hindu neighbors.
The book is very readable and each chapter, or nearly every chapter, can stand on its own. The one quarrel I have with Ms Weaver is that she interjects herself into the narrative quite often and frequently criticizes U.S. policy towards Pakistan, but then doesn't really put forth any suggestions for what needs to be done differently. That may simply be because there's no way to save Pakistan from a bloody collapse, but, if so, then one wonders if American policymakers had any better choices than those they made. And if Ms Weaver, who obviously has great familiarity with the country, has no idea how to improve its situation, then one would wish she'd have come out and said so. If the future of Pakistan is as desperate as she makes it sound, then perhaps we should treat it with even greater brutality and disregard for its doomed people, in order to protect ourselves to the greatest degree possible. Foremost among the options we might want to explore is a more blatant tilt towards our fellow democratic capitalists in India and a lessening of our pressure on General Musharraf and the Pakistani military to surrender power in Pakistan. In the end, it may be that the Pakistani military is our first line of defense and the Indian military our last line against a nation that is no longer viable, if it ever was.
-BOOK SITE: Pakistan: In the Shadow of Jihad and Afghanistan By Mary Anne Weaver (Written Voices)
-EXCERPT: from Pakistan: in The Shadow of Afghanistan (Written Voices)
-ESSAY: General on a Tightrope (Mary Anne Weaver, APF Reporter)
-ESSAY: The Real bin Laden (Mary Anne Weaver, 2000-01-24, The New Yorker)
-ESSAY: Letter from Qatar: Democracy by Decree (Mary Anne Weaver, 2000-11-20, The New Yorker)
-ESSAY: Blowback: The CIA poured billions into a jihad against Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, creating a militant Islamist Abraham Lincoln Brigade believed to have been involved in bombings from Islamabad to New York. Is Bosnia next? (Mary Anne Weaver, May 1996, The Atlantic Monthly)
-INTERVIEW: Islam Rising: A conversation with Mary Anne Weaver, whose new book shows that there is much more to Islamic activism than guns and bombs (Atlantic Monthly, February 17, 1999)
-ESSAY: India's Bandit Queen: A saga of revenge -- and the making of a legend of "the real India" (Mary Anne Weaver, November 1996, Atlantic Monthly)
-INTERVIEW: Tracking India's Bandit Queen A Conversation With Mary Anne Weaver (The Atlantic's Toby Lester, November 1996)
-REVIEW ESSAY: 'Pakistan': A Nuclear Yugoslavia (ROBERT D. KAPLAN, NY Times)
-REVIEW: of Pakistan: In the Shadow of Jihad and Afghanistan by Mary Anne Weaver (Nayan Chanda, Washington Post)
-REVIEW: of Pakistan: In the Shadow (Steven Martinovich, Enter Stage Right)
-REVIEW ESSAY: Pakistan's Slide Into Misery (Sumit Ganguly, November/December 2002, Foreign Affairs)
-REVIEW: of Pakistan: In the Shadow (Michelle Goldberg, Salon)
-REVIEW: of Pakistan: In the Shadow (RICHARD LACAYO, TIME)
-REVIEW: of Pakistan: In the Shadow (Michael Hsu, Asian Review of Books)
-REVIEW: of Pakistan: In the Shadow (Ahmed Rashid, NY Review of Books)
-REVIEW: of Pakistan: In the Shadow (Laurie Edwards, Culture Dose)
-REVIEW: of A Portrait of Egypt: A Journey Through the World of Militant Islam By Mary Anne Weaver (Steven Martinovich, Enter Stage Right)
-REVIEW: of A Portrait of Egypt ( L. Carl Brown, Foreign Affairs)
-REVIEW: of A Portrait of Egypt (THEODORE SPENCER, Salon)
-REVIEW: of A Portrait of Egypt (Amir Asmar, MIT)
-REVIEW: of A Portrait of Egypt (Lt Youssef H. Aboul-Enein, USN, Air & Space Power Chronicles)