A Man and a Motorcycle, how Hamid Karzai came to power
Bette Dam, author
With a secondhand motorcycle, the support of a few powerful tribesmen and a good friend in the CIA, the unknown Hamid Karzai willed himself to power as the new hope of Afghanistan. Acclaimed journalist Bette Dam chronicles the astonishing rise of Afghanistan’s U.S.-backed leader from obscurity to one of the most influential figures in the global war on terror. Following the 2001 toppling of the Taliban, a fragile Afghanistan was on the brink. Karzai, armed with a recipe for victory came within inches of helping the U.S. declare victory in the war on terror. But sentiments run high in post-9/11 America, and the desire for revenge derailed an early chance at peace. As U.S. troops leave Afghanistan, and power is handed to a new president, Karzai’s legacy remains one of betrayal, mistrust, and missed opportunities.
Reporter Dam meticulously recounts Hamid Karzai’s rise to power, drawing on the experiences she’s had living in Afghanistan for the past eight years, including multiple meetings with the president. In fact, she recalls being surprised, as a woman, by the level of access she had to him, and to Afghan politicians in general. Armed with this first-hand knowledge, Dam begins by laying out the system of tribal nepotism and patronage that keeps the country running but hinders it from advancing into a functioning democracy. She goes on to show how those systems were disrupted by the arrival of the Taliban and restored under Karzai, despite American efforts to paint the new regime as a paragon of democratic government. Dam also outlines how American military might was co-opted by regional warlords in power struggles neither U.S. policy makers nor troops fully understood. Military history enthusiasts and students of comparative culture will be grateful the author has decided to share her unique perspective on Karzai and Afghanistan. The book’s focus on the minutiae of the Afghan president’s life and career can be overwhelming, but it quickly becomes clear that only this level of detail will allow Americans to understand a very different culture. (BookLife)