Two Stories to Read Today

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1) "Anatomy of an Afghan War Tragedy," by David Cloud, in yesterday's Los Angeles Times.  This is the most vivid recent rendering of a truth that in our bones we all understand: that the most technologically advanced, complex, and "sophisticated" new U.S. combat tools are ill-matched to the realities of a mountainous, pre-modern society with no obvious battle lines or clear distinctions between friend and foe. Read this story before your next discussion on whether American strategy can "succeed" in Afghanistan. Read and weep.

Illustration from the LAT site:
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Esquire.png2) "M," by John Sack, published in Esquire forty-five years ago with the cover line, "Oh My God -- We Hit a Little Girl!" Bonus question/current-events IQ test: See if you can guess why I am suggesting reading these two stories back to back.

This John Sack article, which I remember seeing as a teenager, is part of a wonderful Esquire project of putting "The 7 Greatest Stories in the History of Esquire Magazine" on line, in their entirety. Congrats to Esquire's Tim Heffernan for this effort, and to the Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf for the tip to it, via his The Best of Journalism site.
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Can't say it often enough: by far the best way to read these long online essays is with Instapaper, which sends beautifully and readably formatted versions to your iPad, Kindle, portable computer, etc. More about it here.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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