But the pressures are clearly in the opposite direction. Yeah, but it’s more organic than just the pace of daily media. We make a lot of assumptions about the world in order to make sense of it quickly so we can move on with our lives. On one level, this is a book about storytelling. It’s about the way we use stories to organize things that disrupt our lives, that make us really uncomfortable. Because it’s much more uncomfortable to think that this person who killed this great, gentle American woman had these problems and there was nowhere in his country he could go to get help, and he was poor and probably not educated and he was the butt of jokes in this village. I’m not saying we should feel sorry for him—he did a terrible thing—but understanding this guy makes it a much more complicated story. Then you have to ask questions like, ‘Who exactly are we fighting here?’ One of Paula’s teammates, Clint Cooper, said to me, ‘There’s no good and bad. This war is just crazy.’ He felt that the more he actually talked to Afghans, including guys who had been picked up as insurgents, the more he thought, ‘Wait a second. Where’s this bad Taliban people talk about?’ That was an amazing moment for me because Clint was a lifelong military intelligence guy, a former interrogator. He’s stepped back from that, but his politics are not on the left; same with Ayala. They both came to the conclusion that this situation is just really, really complicated. In The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien wrote that war’s ‘only certainty is of overwhelming ambiguity.’ He also wrote that ‘in a true war story nothing is ever absolutely true.’ Maybe it’s utopian, but I wish there was more space for ambiguity in our daily journalism.

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Brent Cunningham is CJR’s managing editor.