Afghanistan
Mullah, Marx, and Mujahid

Afghanistan: Mullah, Marx, and Mujahid
By Ralph H. Magnus and Eden Naby
Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 2002. 304 pp. $17.50, paper

The 2001 military campaign against the Taliban and al-Qa'ida resulted in unprecedented American interest in Afghanistan, and a plethora of instant experts arose to try to explain the country's volatile history. Magnus (who died in November 2000) and Naby are no instant experts but have expertise and extensive experience in Afghanistan, readily visible in this survey of modern Afghan history.

The authors' overview of Afghanistan's complicated geography and demography is organized and well presented, as is their succinct survey of early Afghan history (from 500 BC to 1973 in less than 30 pages)--though one wishes, given the important current role played by former king Zahir Shah, that Magnus and Naby would have told more about his four-decade rule (1933-73). Subsequent history is well narrated and accessible. The authors discuss imperialism without falling into the trap common to Western academics of blaming all of Afghanistan's woes upon foreigners. The analysis has balance and perspective. For example, they address (albeit only in passing) the Pushtun-nationalist rhetoric of successive Afghan governments in the 1950s through 1970s, a critical factor in understanding Pakistan's subsequent decision to back Islamist rather than ethnic nationalist groups in Afghanistan. Likewise, Magnus and Naby's treatment of the rise of the Taliban is well researched and balanced (and fortunately does not subscribe to the oil-company-conspiracy theories peddled by Pakistani author Ahmad Rashid in his well-known 2000 study of the Taliban).

There are curious omissions in the narrative, though. Serious discussion of the United States arming of the mujahideen in the 1980s is absent, as is any serious focus on the evolution of the "Afghan Arabs," whose origins are more often than not shrouded in myth rather than reality. Usama bin Ladin is mentioned only in passing. Nevertheless, for those wishing to gain an understanding of the quagmire called Afghanistan, Magnus and Naby's book provides a good start.

Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at AEI.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Michael
Rubin


  • Michael Rubin is a former Pentagon official whose major research areas are the Middle East, Turkey, Iran and diplomacy. Rubin instructs senior military officers deploying to the Middle East and Afghanistan on regional politics, and teaches classes regarding Iran, terrorism, and Arab politics on board deploying U.S. aircraft carriers. Rubin has lived in post-revolution Iran, Yemen, both pre- and post-war Iraq, and spent time with the Taliban before 9/11. His newest book, Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engagement examines a half century of U.S. diplomacy with rogue regimes and terrorist groups.


    Follow Michael Rubin on Twitter.


  • Phone: 202-862-5851
    Email: mrubin@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Ahmad Majidyar
    Phone: 202-862-5845
    Email: ahmad.majidyar@aei.org

What's new on AEI

image The money in banking: Comparing salaries of bank and bank regulatory employees
image What Obama should say about China in Japan
image A key to college success: Involved dads
image China takes the fight to space
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
    MON
  • 22
    TUE
  • 23
    WED
  • 24
    THU
  • 25
    FRI
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Graduation day: How dads’ involvement impacts higher education success

Join a diverse group of panelists — including sociologists, education experts, and students — for a discussion of how public policy and culture can help families lay a firmer foundation for their children’s educational success, and of how the effects of paternal involvement vary by socioeconomic background.

Event Registration is Closed
Thursday, April 24, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Getting it right: A better strategy to defeat al Qaeda

This event will coincide with the release of a new report by AEI’s Mary Habeck, which analyzes why current national security policy is failing to stop the advancement of al Qaeda and its affiliates and what the US can do to develop a successful strategy to defeat this enemy.

Friday, April 25, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Obamacare’s rocky start and uncertain future

During this event, experts with many different views on the ACA will offer their predictions for the future.   

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.