Since 9/11, I have made a practice of trying to conduct an in-depth interview with every author of every book I consider crucial to understanding the war in which the West is engaged. I call these books collectively "The Necessary Bookshelf," and frequently urge my listeners and readers to begin their study of them as soon as possible.
Many fine books do not make this shelf because I realize that time is limited. These are the books that every decision-maker ought to have read, and anyone who thinks to opine on the future conduct of the war is unqualified to do so if they haven't bothered to read even this basic course on the global conflict that rages on. These books are not about score-settling, second-guessing or self-defense. They are all about what the West faces and how that future ought to be confronted.
I will list all of the books below, but want to draw your attention to the most recent addition to the shelf, Dexter Filkins' brilliant, riveting and deeply disquieting The Forever War, now making its way up best-sellers lists. Filkins is a reporter for the New York Times, and The Forever War is a memoir of his first eight years covering the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Very, very few people have seen as much of the front lines as Filkins, and only a handful have the talent to convey those lines to the people of the west.
I spent two hours with Filkins on yesterday's radio show, and the podcasts of those hours are available here and here, and the transcript here. The book is a journey back to the beginning of his assignment to Afghanistan in 1998 and forward through the long years that followed there and in Iraq, but yesterday's interview was more than a preview of the book, it was also an epilogue of sorts as Filkins is just back from Pakistan, and his report should leave you much more alarmed about Waziristan than market turmoil. Markets can recover from sharp losses. The West may not be able to recover from a Pakistan engulfed by a rising Islamist extremism and Taliban hegemony along the border with Afghanistan.