I’ve admired Nir Rosen’s work in Iraq and Lebanon and have regularly used this blog to call for independent, non-embedded journalists to get in and provide us with another view of Afghanistan. I had high hopes for Rosen’s Rolling Stone feature on the Taleban, but it’s a devastating disappointment. While I don’t share Dave Dilegge’s view that journalists shouldn’t embed with “the enemy” — I’ve always thought we have to cover both sides of a conflict — I find it equally distressing that someone would call this “an instant classic of war reporting”. Elizabeth Rubin’s Korengal piece was a classic; Dexter Filkins’s Falluja dispatch was a classic; Rosen’s own “The Myth of the Surge” was a classic. The Taleban story isn’t. It’s an extended travelogue with little narrative power and even less insight. It doesn’t tell me the war is lost; it just tells me the Taleban think it is. And, apart from dropping vague hints that they’re not who they seem to be, it tells me very little about the Taleban themselves. In fact, what it really amounts to is a left-wing Michael Yon story — instead of patriotic bluster it’s just laden with endless gloom, and instead of victory it celebrates defeat. I fail to see the big difference.
(Josh Foust’s detailed critique is here.)