Graeme Wood

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The New Orleans Project

Originally appeared in GOOD magazine.

Every year, the United States suffers attacks on American soil so brutal, our military can do little more than rebuild our wrecked cities, and console the wounded once the enemy has withdrawn.

This enemy is the Atlantic hurricane system, and the price of its damage, in dollars spent and in lives lost, rivals that of man-made war. Hurricane Katrina, which totaled nearly $100 billion and 1,800 dead in 2005, cost only slightly less than a year of the occupation of Iraq, and killed more Americans in a day than the Iraq war claimed in over two years. Last year, Hurricane Ike claimed only 177 lives, but still wreaked $31 billion of damage.

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Filed under: GOOD,

The Great Gamble

Originally appeared in The Barnes & Noble Review.

To stumble into Afghanistan is to stumble into history — or at least to stumble into a trap laid by historians, whereby any foreign occupier of the country is compared, all too tediously, to his failed predecessors. Notice the hierarchy of these comparisons. If the historian draws parallels to the armies of Alexander the Great, he does you an honor: Alexander’s empire had at least conquered the known world before Afghanistan undid it. Analogies to the Anglo-Afghan Wars and Elphinstone’s army in 1842 are less flattering, and more menacing. And if the historian remarks that your unit is “just like the 154th Spetsnaz Detachment,” he is saying not only that you’re doomed to ignominious defeat but also that you’re too historically ignorant to realize when you’re being insulted.

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