Nick Turse in The American Conservative:
Quick — name the five most important, influential, and best known books on the Afghan War. Okay, name three. Okay, I’ll settle for two. How about one?
While the American war in Vietnam raged, publishers churned out books whose titles still resonate. In 1967 alone, classics like Mary McCarthy’s Vietnam, Howard Zinn’s Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal, Thich Nhat Hanh’s Vietnam: Lotus in a Sea of Fire, not to mention Norman Mailer’s Why Are We in Vietnam: A Novel all hit the shelves.
In fact, between 1962 and 1970, as American involvement in the conflict accelerated and peaked, some 9,430 books were written about the Vietnam War. From 2002 to 2010, less than half as many — 4,221 texts of all types — have been written about the Afghan War.
Of course, it didn’t help that, from 2003-2008, the Iraq War sucked up all the attention and left Afghanistan largely “forgotten,” analytically and otherwise, nor did it help that the Afghan War never had a significant antiwar movement. The vibrant, large-scale movement of the Vietnam years, filled with people eager to learn more about just what they were protesting, proved an engine that drove publishers. Significant numbers of books produced by and for members of that movement investigated aspects of the civilian suffering the American war brought to Indochina. Not surprisingly, the Afghan War has produced many fewer works on the conflict’s human fallout, and books like Zinn’s, calling for withdrawal, have been few and far between.
Four decades ago, a stream of books was being produced for popular audiences that exposed the nature of war-making and focused readers’ attention on the misery caused by U.S. military actions abroad. Today, a startling percentage of the authors who bother to focus on the current conflict are producing works dedicated to waging the seemingly endless American war in Afghanistan better.