Monday was our last session here in Evanston. Needless to say, I had a great time and really hope I will get the opportunity to teach that class again. It was a lot of work of course, but definitely worth it!
For once, our discussion was entirely devoted to the civilian component of the intervention. Although the students had been asked to read background material on the international community’s plan for “building success” (namely, The Afghanistan Compact), we did not spend time talking about unrealistic benchmarks and objectives. Instead we discussed the values behind the Western intervention. We looked at a couple of articles, but there is one we spend more time on: “Conflicted Outcomes and Values: (Neo) Liberal Peace in Central Asia and Afghanistan” by Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh (for full reference, please look at the class’ syllabus). We focused on this article for two reasons. First, it is the article the students found most interesting. Second, research for this article was supported by a project I was involved in.
The Sciences Po/University of Kabul study was only one component of a wider research project undertaken by the Science Po Center for Peace and Human Security (CPHS), aimed at questioning the assumptions and values beyond the western model of peacebuilding. A group of Sciences Po researchers led by the CPHS director (Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh) took several trips to Kabul to conduct the part on Afghanistan. There, we recruited, trained and worked with Afghan students, who interviewed Afghan groups and individuals both in Kabul and in selected provinces. In parallel, the “French” team met with interviews with members of the so-called international community (NGO workers, UN personnel, soldiers and generals, diplomats, etc.) to question them about their agendas and objectives.
Now that I briefly presented the project, let’s go back to Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh’s article. In “Conflicted Outcomes,” she discusses the relevance of the ‘liberal peace’ model that has been implemented in Afghanistan. She defines ‘liberal peace’ as follows:
[D]emocracy-building through the institution of presidential elections, a parliament, freedoms for the media and civil society, and installing the supremacy of the market economy through private-sector-led development.
In other words, ‘liberal peace’ rests on both a liberal economy and a liberal political system. In the Afghan case, the already overly-ambitious project is further complicated by the will to ‘stabilize’ the country. ‘Liberal peace’ therefore ends up being a ‘post-conflict’ project in a war situation. Go wonder…
In short, not only does ‘liberal peace’ go against Islamic and traditional values that people actually believe in, but it is also fundamentally destabilizing for societies (both economically and politically). It is neither efficient nor legitimate.
To end today’s post on a positive note I would like to thank my students again for a wonderful seminar, and all the bloggers who contributed to making this Afghanopoly a success and a wonderful teaching tool. The quarter is now over, but I decided to keep the blog alive. I promise I will try to post as often as possible and to enhance fruitful debates about the future of this amazing country. Anything from thoughts and articles to my Afghan adventures and pictures will be posted! Thank you all again, and long live Afghanopoly!