New year, new job, new students… While it’s always a challenge to teach Afghan politics, I have to say I am pretty excited at the prospect of teaching a new course on “War and State-Building in Afghanistan.” For my first class at Radboud University, I was happy to see about 50 undergraduate students show up to talk and learn about this fascinating country. So much for giving up on Afghanistan! US forces might withdraw in 2014, but it looks like the new generation still cares about what’s going on over there. It might not solve anything but that’s definitely good news!
We’re on for eight weeks of discussing state formation, violence, and foreign intervention in Afghanistan. Yesterday, we briefly touched upon the idea that Afghanistan might not be the “graveyard of empires” everyone wants it to be. Of course, one might argue that the Brits, the Soviets, and the Americans all failed in their state-building attempts. Sure, but that doesn’t mean that previous empires did not conquer or rule Afghanistan in one way or another. They just didn’t try to change Afghan society the way these three countries (empires?) did. It’s all a question of power and legitimacy; two things that should be on our minds in the weeks to come. Hopefully the readers of this blog will find value in discussing and debating their ideas with a whole bunch of students who are eager to know more about Afghanistan and its people.