News from Tartary II
Yet another collection of miscellaneous reading and linkage on Afghanistan, Central Asia, and their involvement with the rest of the world. Includes footage of me banging my head against the fall. Update, 6 October 2003: Now includes item on Uzbekistan accidentally omitted on first posting.
- A nice piece in the Guardian on the Mongolian army detachment in Baghdad (see News from Tartary), noted by Danny Yee and Gary Farber.
- A fascinating exchange on Tibet between the Chinese dissident Wang Lixiong and a Tibetan historian Tsering Shakya in the New Left Review [via an earlier avatar of Memory Hierarchy]
- Asia Times reports that Dariga Nazarbaeva, the daughter of President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan seems to be positioning herself to succeed her father. One is pleased to see that this sign of the progress of women's equality is not limited to Uzbekistan (News from Tartary I.)
- Speaking of Uzbekistan, can we please get past this "benign dictatorship" nonsense once and for all? It never works. It's a good thing to learn (via Jeanne d'Arc) that Jews in Uzbekistan don't feel threatened, but that does nothing to make Karimov's regime better. As The Head Heeb (a.k.a. Jonathan Edelstein) remarks in Jeanne's comments,
Dictatorships always turn on the Jews eventually - if Karimov doesn't, the next one will - and without a working civil society or rule of law, nobody will be there to protect them when the time comes. I'm saddened, although not entirely surprised, that the Uzbek Jews haven't figured this out.
- Tamim Ansary contemplates the contest between order and anarchy in Afghanistan, and the difficulties the Kabul government is facing in getting a critical mass of Afghans to have enough of a stake in it, and enough confidence in its stability, to in fact be stable. At the same site, Ansary has a useful primer from 2001 on the cross-cutting ethnic, linguistic and religious divisions of Afghanistan.
[The main point where I'd disagree with him is when he says that Dari-speakers have not been the traditional rulers of the country. In fact, ever since the time of Mahmud of Ghazni, the territory has almost always been dominated by elites which used Dari as their language of administration and high culture. These elites have tended to come from backgrounds in which they spoke a different home language --- Pashto or Uzbek or Chaghatai Turkish, etc. --- but after attaining power, they grew up bilingual, or even with Dari as their mother tongue, which contributed, on some occasions, to a tension between the urban ruling groups and their rural power-bases. The association is so strong that a folk etymology (which may even be correct) derives Dari from darbar, "the court".]
We may gauge how well the forces of order are doing by the fact that the Serbian government says we've accepted their offer of 1,000 combat troops and military police for Afghanistan. "The American thinking was that the need for combat troops ready to take casualties in Afghanistan overrode political considerations about the wisdom of such a mission, and that in any case, the Serbs would probably be on their best behavior, officials indicated." Officials did not indicate whether they hoped the Serbs would win the Taliban around by swapping storied about being bombed by the Americans, or atrocities against women. Of course, if we hadn't tied down all our available troops fighting a completely separate war, and hadn't managed to alienate almost every single one of our allies, we might not be reduced to the point where we'd seriously consider offers of assistance from an army we've fought twice in the last ten years, and vetting our auxiliaries for wanted war criminals. In fact, I simply can't believe we are that desperate, and think whoever over-rode concerns about the wisdom of this action should themselves be over-ridden. (Gary Farber has some more bright ideas where that one came from.) [Story pointed out to me by Kris, who comments that Afghanistan is on its way to having Saudi schools and Serbian policemen.] Update, 7 October 2003: Billmon also has some choice words. (Some posts in his comments are from obvious loonies, though.)
Disclaimer: Ansary's father and my grandfather studied in the US together and remained friends when they went back to Afghanistan. I think I remember meeting Tamim once, at my parents' house, when I was very young.
- I corresponded with Patrick Farley for a while, years ago. Now, following up on a link from Brad DeLong, I discover the man's turned into a bloody genius of a graphic storyteller. (Addendum: Don't just take my word for it, listen to another bloody genius of a graphic storyteller.) I mention this here because Spiders, his story of the Gore Administration's war in Afghanistan in 2001, is beautiful, brilliant and moving. Unhesitatingly recommended unless you have no affinity for comics at all. (DeLong linked to a much more upbeat story: Apocamon, or the Book of Revelations illustrated in the style of Pokemon. Farley is asking \$0.25 to see part 3, and it's well worth it.)
Afghanistan and Central Asia
Posted at October 06, 2003 15:46 | permanent link