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Book Reviews

Enduring The Freedom: A Rogue Historian In Afghanistan

by Sean M. Maloney

Washington, DC: Potomac Books, 2005
336 pages, $US27.50
ISBN 1-57488-953-2

Reviewed by Chief Warrant Officer J.W. (Bill) Dalke

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Book Cover: Enduring the FreedomAfghanistan is a topic that figures prominently each day in every form of Canadian news. News providers attempt to deliver concise depictions of events to Canadians seeking an understanding of the environment in which Canadian soldiers currently serve with such distinction. In Enduring the Freedom: A Rogue Historian in Afghanistan, Doctor Sean Maloney delivers a clear and concise explanation of the historical development of the situation in Afghanistan, and then brings the reader along as he accompanies troops on operations conducted there in 2003. All this is delivered, not only with detailed accuracy, but also with a writing style that incorporates wit and humour. Far from being simply a dry compilation of facts, this book is an engrossing, entertaining, and informative read. Perhaps even more importantly, it is written by a Canadian with particularly relevant experience (drawn from time spent as an 8th Canadian Hussars junior officer, and also as a historian for the Canadian Army during the Cold War and in the Balkans). This experience shines throughout the book, and Maloney applies it in order to explain and to give context to events as they unfold.

The introduction to the book details Maloney’s reaction to the events of 9/11 as they occurred, and the process by which he quickly determined that Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda were responsible for the attacks. The book is divided into five parts. Part I is entitled, Why We Fight, and it serves as an excellent historical explanation of events leading up to the Afghanistan intervention of 2001. Maloney’s ability to simplify the frequently very complex details is remarkable. This section alone would serve as an ideal primer for any soldier deploying to the region, or to every Canadian seeking to make sense of the events that led to Canada’s involvement.

Other parts of the book deal with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Operation Enduring Freedom, the name given to the American military response to the 11 September 2001 attacks. The reader travels with Maloney to Kabul, Bagram Airfield, and Kandahar. Although the nationality of the forces involved has changed today, the narrative clearly details the environment and the type of operations being conducted. They serve to leave readers with the satisfaction of achieving an understanding of the manner by which operations are conducted in theatre. The mystique is removed, and Maloney’s straight-forward presentation style instantly brings to mind the similarities to current operations in theatre being conducted by Canadians. Maloney’s style also accurately depicts the sense of humour and camaraderie that exists within military units. For example, Maloney is awakened one morning after a very active day in the middle of an operation with the words, “Bob is here.” As Maloney struggles to awaken and to determine just who “Bob” is, it is explained to him: “Big orange ball. The sun...”

Although the historical portion of the book may appear a bit dry, the remainder is captivating, sometimes suspenseful, and frequently funny. The reader will be intrigued and amused by Maloney’s encounters with Geraldo Rivera and his entourage in theatre, as well as by several events involving Afghan warlords and a provincial governor. Maloney also offers much insight into PSYOPS (psychological operations), as well as Special Forces operations that serves to de-mystify them and to place them into context.

This book should be at the top of the list of anyone seeking to understand the conflict in Afghanistan, the manner by which operations are conducted there, or the incredible professionalism of those who serve in the region. For non-military readers, this book answers the questions that an eight-second televised news clip cannot provide. Those with questions about al Qaeda, the Taliban, or Afghanistan will find them answered succinctly, and readers will be left with a sound appreciation for the mission and the role of those taking part in the Afghanistan conflict, as well as a first-hand glimpse of just exactly how progress there is accomplished. Enduring the Freedom: A Rogue Historian in Afghanistan is an excellent source of information for anyone seeking to understand what is happening in Afghanistan and why it is happening. This book, written by a Canadian, also appears to be written for Canadians. It is a captivating read, an outstanding reference, and should be considered for inclusion in the CF Professional Reading List. I eagerly await the 2008 release of his next book, Stabilizing Afghanistan: The Return of a Rogue Historian, which will deal with his trips to the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kandahar. I anticipate that it will be equally relevant.

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CWO Dalke recently completed the Knowledge Acquisition Program at the Royal Military College and was selected to become the Wing Chief Warrant Officer at 16 Wing, Borden.


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