With the end of the Cold War, interest in the heroic freedom fighters of Afghanistan has been replaced by either indifference or caricatures of fanatical Afghans turning their lust for violence against one another. Rubin has written a superb book that places Afghanistan in the context of state formation and the effects of the U.S.-Soviet rivalry that added to Afghanistan's misery after 1978. He rejects the notion that present-day tribalism is some atavistic artifact of an earlier period. Instead, he shows, it is very much the product of Afghanistan's forced integration into the modern state system. This study is theoretically informed, empirically grounded, and gracefully written. Anyone who wants to understand Afghanistan's troubled history and the reasons for its present distress should read this book.