Samuel Johnson was right. "Nothing focuses the mind like a hanging," he said.
Journalist and Oregon native Jere Van Dyk, who was kidnapped and held prisoner by the Taliban in 2008, evokes that clarity and self-reflection in his new book, Captive: My Time as a Prisoner of the Taliban (Times Books). It's a real-time narrative that's both a prison diary and a primer on regional history, Islam, and, ultimately, the intractable nature of America's longest war.
Van Dyk writes from experience. He first visited Afghanistan in 1973 and later traveled with the mujahideen in 1981 as they battled the Soviets, an experience recounted in his book, In Afghanistan. The shortest distance between the mujahideen, America's friends, and the Taliban, America's enemies, is a straight line.
Van Dyk is a former track phenom who speaks Pashto (read: "adrenaline junkie" and "scholar-historian" are not mutually exclusive).
Captive, should be Exhibit One in the political debate about America's mission in Afghanistan. It's a helluva read.