Endings are times of reckoning. Now that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are winding down, it seems an appropriate moment to consider their costs. What have these wars done to the countries they were supposed to liberate? What have they revealed about the United States—both the leaders who so cavalierly led the country into long-term, unwinnable engagements and the civilians who sat so meekly by while all of this was happening? Finally, what damage have these wars caused to the bodies and minds of our soldiers?

These questions—questions not just about our country’s policies but about our country’s soul—are taken up in a series of recently published books. Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Little America: The War within the War for Afghanistan (Knopf, $27.95, 384 pp.) is a detailed and sobering work. An associate editor at the Washington Post, Chandrasekaran is best known for his 2006 book Imperial Life in the Emerald City, where he exposed the almost surreal incompetence of U.S. reconstruction efforts in Iraq. If Imperial Life in the Emerald City often read like farce—look at how obtuse Americans can be!—then ...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.

About the Author

Anthony Domestico is an assistant professor of literature at Purchase College, SUNY.