Thursday, April 24, 2008

Afghanistan -- The Highway of Conquest

Last week's Islamist Entanglement lecture was about Afghanistan. It is difficult not to feel sorry for Afghanistan -- after all, until the 18th century it was not really so much a country as a place that had been conquered numerous times over the centuries, by empires from the East, West, North and South, earning it the description as "highway of conquest". In 1747 the first independent Afghan Kingdom was finally formed when various tribal factions agreed to submit to the rule of a relatively weak central ruler. However, the situation in the country did not dramatically improve after the 18th century and Afghanistan remains the most primitive of the places so far discussed. The country reminds one of Europe during the Dark Ages or present day Africa -- tribalism and religion predominate in the population's thinking and, apart from foreign interventions, continue to guide its course. No serious attempts at Westernization have occurred until the early 20th century. Scott concludes the lecture with a pessimistic assessment of Afghanistan's future, even more so than either Egypt's or Turkey's. He predicts that the Bush administration's attempt to "democratize" Afghanistan will fail. Next up -- Iran. Don't miss it -- sign up now for the whole course or individual lectures!

No comments: