In an effort to better acquaint you, the reader, with the VQR staff, members of our team will share excerpts from our personal reading—The Best 200 Words I Read All Week. From fact to fiction, from comedic to tragic, we hope you find as much to admire in these selections as we do.
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As the United States leaves Afghanistan after 20 years of war, there can be little doubt that we lost the war — or to put it more gently, did not attain our objectives. In recent weeks, the Taliban have advanced across the north of the country. Bereft of U.S. support, the Afghan army and police have reportedly lost more than two dozen districts over the course of a month and are now fighting on the outskirts of key cities such as Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif. Senior U.S. officials have warned of a civil war, while intelligence reports are said to forecast the fall of the Afghan government — which the United States has worked to strengthen for two decades — within a year.
Why did we lose? I’ve been trying to answer that question for 12 years, starting in 2009 when I was a civilian officer in the far-off district of Garmser in Helmand Province. I continued to ponder the question in 2013 and 2014, when I served as political adviser to Gen. Joseph Dunford, commander of all U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and later as Dunford’s senior adviser when he was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Associate Editor Alex Brock
“What America Didn’t Understand About Its Longest War,” by Carter Malkasian, in Politico
Good art is a truing of vision, in the way a saw is trued in the saw shop, to cut more cleanly. It is also a changing of vision. Entering a good poem, a person feels, tastes, hears, thinks, and sees in altered ways. Why ask art into a life at all, if not to be transformed and enlarged by its presence and mysterious means? Some hunger for more is in us—more range, more depth, more feeling; more associative freedom, more beauty. More perplexity and more friction of interest. More prismatic grief and unstunted delight, more longing, more darkness. More saturation and permeability in knowing our own existence as also the existence of others. More capacity to be astonished. Art adds to the sum of the lives we would have, were it possible to live without it. And by changing selves, one by one, art changes also the outer world that selves create and share.
Editorial Intern Riley Halpern
Excerpt from Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World by Jane Hirshfield