The Foreign Service Journal - November 2014 - page 33

102 Days of War:
How Osama bin Laden,
Al Qaeda & the Taliban
Survived 2001
Yaniv Barzilai, Potomac Books, 2014,
$24.95/hardcover, $13.99/Kindle,
194 pages.
Almost 10 years before Osama bin
Laden was killed, the United States had
a rare opportunity to decapitate the organization that had just
carried out the deadliest foreign attack on American soil in his-
tory. During battles that raged across Afghanistan in the 102 days
after 9/11, CIA officers and special operations forces allied with
local Afghan resistance forces to topple the Taliban and go after
al-Qaida. Yet bin Laden escaped, and al-Qaida and the Taliban
endured the initial onslaught.
102 Days of War
, Yaniv Barzilai takes the reader from
meetings in the White House to the most sensitive operations in
Afghanistan to explain how America’s enemies survived 2001.
Using a broad array of sources, including interviews with U.S.
officials at every level of the war, Barzilai concludes that the out-
come stemmed both from tactical errors and, more importantly,
failures in policy and leadership.
Yaniv Barzilai is a first-tour Foreign Service officer serving
in Baku. Prior to joining the Service, Barzilai was awarded the
Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship from the U.S.
Department of State in 2009. He worked in the Office of the
Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the
Office of Afghanistan Affairs, as well as the Office of the Special
Representative for Somalia at Embassy Nairobi. For Barzilai’s
take on publishing in the Foreign Service, see the June
A Body of Language: Revealing
the Common Mind of Mankind
Matt A. Ellsworth, Amazon Digital Services,
Inc., 2013, $5, Kindle.
A Body of Language: Revealing the Common
Mind of Mankind
offers a great boost for those
learning Arabic and a good read for anyone who
loves anthropology, linguistics, the common origins of human-
kind—or a good mystery.
Matt Ellsworth proposes the solution to an ancient linguis-
tic mystery, which the Arabs refer to as the phenomenon of
al-ishtiqaq al-akbar (when several words share the same letters,
those words are often akin in meaning). The theory behind the
phenomenon is that each phonetic character of the Semitic
mother tongue had a particular semantic value—or meaning—
in the remote past.
Ellsworth shows that the sounds of the Arabic alphabet derive
their meaning from reference to the shape and function of parts
of the human body. Readers are guided through the author’s
journey in this daunting project, with descriptions of how he
found the meanings of particular sounds, demonstrations of
how the sounds and their meanings work together “as semantic
molecules” to form words, a review of writings on the al-ishtiqaq
al-akbar phenomenon and the author’s thoughts and ideas,
which he calls “digressions,” along the way.
Matt A. Ellsworth, currently a general services officer in
Kinshasa, has served in Asia, Africa, North and South America
and the Middle East. He speaks French, Spanish, Arabic and
Russian, and is a trained conference interpreter. Originally from
Arizona, his interest in linguistics started during his missionary
experience in Chile in the 1970s and continued through studies
at Brigham Young University, the Monterey Institute of Interna-
tional Studies, the Defense Language Institute and the Foreign
Service Institute.
Outsmarting Apartheid:
An Oral History of South Africa’s Cultural
and Educational Exchange with the
United States, 1960-1999
Daniel Whitman, ed., with assistance from
Kari Jaksa, SUNY Press, 2014, $105/hardcover;
$29.95/ebook, 470 pages.
Outsmarting Apartheid
is a major contribution to the study of
‘soft diplomacy,’” says John Campbell, retired FSO and author of
Nigeria: Dancing on the Brink
. “It is a wonderful picture of the
way the public diplomacy section of an embassy works, and the
positive impact it can have on advancing U.S. interests.”
For several decades prior to South Africa’s first democratic
elections in December 1994, some 3,000 South Africans partici-
pated in cultural and educational exchange programs with the
United States through the Department of State. Many of those
individuals were involved in helping to bring about the peaceful
end of apartheid and build a post-apartheid democratic system.
They now occupy important positions in academia, the media,
parliament and the judiciary of South Africa.
With an introduction and final note by Daniel Whitman, a
former program development officer at Embassy Pretoria, the
book consists of interviews with more than 30 South Africans
and Americans who administered, advanced and participated
in the government-funded exchange. The result is a detailed
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