Is Afghanistan Really Stuck in the Middle Ages?

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Like it or not this article has the facts and interpretation spot on! Read this piece from Nancy Goldstone in the New York Times:

Miss the Middle Ages? Try Afghanistan

By Nancy Goldstone
Story posted 2010.10.16 at 12:05 AM PDT

 …For some time now, it has been obvious to me that the political model that best illustrates the philosophy and practice of the Afghan government is a medieval court… 

The methods and practices of medieval courts were certainly far removed from those Americans most cherish, such as voting, representation and protection of civil rights. Imposing a Western-style democracy on such a system is unfortunately similar to coating an unhusked coconut with chocolate and trying to pass it off as a Mounds bar…

In 1415, Henry V… employing high-tech, state-of-the-art weaponry, the longbow, walloped the French at Agincourt. Within a few years, the English occupied Paris and much of western France. Henry V appropriated the French throne, thereby dispossessing the dauphin, the rightful heir, who was forced to concede the capital. Although the formidable Henry would die soon after, he was replaced by his extremely competent brother, the duke of Bedford, who continued to rule France as regent. This series of events is eerily similar to what happened when the U.S. first invaded Afghanistan, occupied Kabul and forced the Taliban into the countryside. 

The dauphin … held that part of the realm south of the Loire, just as today the Taliban exercises power over various enclaves outside the capital. The English vowed to eject him and, with the help of the duke of Burgundy …managed to win a number of battles …but… the duke of Burgundy expected to be paid for his participation… 

… eventually the English got tired of bribing the duke of Burgundy. … [who]unbeknownst to England, looked to sell his services elsewhere. Ambassadors from the duke’s court met surreptitiously with ambassadors from the dauphin’s court…

The result of these secret meetings was that the dauphin made discreet financial overtures and succeeded in separating the duke of Burgundy from his former allies. England … subsequently lost the war… without the support of the duke of Burgundy, there were never enough English soldiers to hold the kingdom.

On Monday, Karzai confirmed … “We have been talking to the Taliban as countrymen to countrymen. Unofficial talks have been held with Taliban representatives over an extended period.” On Thursday White House and NATO officials said that the U.S. had aided these discussions in the hope of promoting a negotiated peace. 

…Karzai will continue to hold the capital, with the Taliban and other warlords in control of the rest of the countryside. The Taliban will turn a blind eye to a certain percentage of opium trafficking, the proceeds of which will go to Karzai …Karzai and his supporters will go off to a comfortable retirement and the Taliban will ride into Kabul.  

Nancy Goldstone is the author, most recently, of “The Lady Queen: The Notorious Reign of Joanna I.” Her next book, about Joan of Arc, will be published in 2012.

Read It All… 

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