Can nation building defeat terrorism? Jack Fairweather asks this question at the outset of The Edge of Eden, a history of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Admittedly, the question is rhetorical – having been answered by all too evident failures and the high cost in blood – but that doesn’t lessen Fairweather’s impact.
Fairweather was the Telegraph’s Baghdad correspondent and the Washington Post’s man in Afghanistan; this books commits a decade of strategic and political errors made to posterity's record. The account is high-political: an antidote to the foot soldiers’ memoirs that have emerged in recent years. Fairweather follows a group of senior officers and officials as they strive to avoid repeating the mistakes of Iraq in Afghanistan, and failing for the most part.
Both Bush and Blair courted ‘History’ in their pious self-defences, aware that it will judge them for better or worse. Fairweather’s history walks the line between contemporary chronicle and measured analysis. A first draft of history then, passing a judgement of certain contempt.