The return of colonial anthropology?
“A dysfunctional ethnic and tribal brawl has been the norm in Afghanistan for centuries. Afghanistan is a mess. ” Who said that? A frustrated U.S. military officer? No, a professor of anthropology, Robert L. Moore.
In his article Tribes, Corruption Ail Afghanistan in The Ledger he shares his concerns about the difficulties for “us” (=the U.S. military) to “push this contentious country into the 21st century” and turn it into a “normal, stable country” that will be “governable in the way that most nations are".
His main point: Afghanistan is an ethnic and religious mess:
Afghanistan is a mess. It is populated by a multitude of ethnic groups, the dominant ones being Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara and Turkic. Many of these groups are further subdivided into traditional tribes whose members regard loyalty to their tribe or clan as more vital than loyalty to any nation or government. Alongside these tribal and ethnic divisions are religious differences that separate Shi’a from Sunni Muslims. The upshot of all this is that Afghanistan is not governable in the way that most nations are.
“In this harsh landscape", he continues, “our efforts to “stabilize” Afghanistan cannot bring about rapid dramatic change":
There are areas of Afghanistan, mainly non-Pashtun regions, where the Taliban are deeply distrusted and in these areas our troops might be welcomed. But would our fighting on behalf of, say, Tajiks (who, by the way, are ethnic cousins of Iran’s Persians) help solve Afghanistan’s long-standing problem of ethnic conflict? It is more likely to simply add another dimension to the dysfunctional ethnic and tribal brawl that has been the norm in Afghanistan for centuries.
Ethnic mess – apartheid as ideal? U.S-military="us". “Anthropology= serve those in power” - Sounds like 19th century colonial anthropology!
Over at Zero Anthropology, Maximilian Forte gives an overview over European press coverage of U.S. Army’s Human Terrain System and its embedding of civilian social scientists in Afghanistan and Iraq.