Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Irresistible Illusion

The London Review of Books just published Rory Stewart's blistering essay "The Irresistible Illusion." The essay exposes the hubris and delusion with which Westerners view their efforts in Afghanistan.

The essay is available here.

This is a must read.

1 comment:

  1. Quite the best thing I have read on Afghanistan. Stewart's "the Places in Between" is in the Wilfred Thesiger school of travel/anrthropology/reportage; that is, wonderfully out of step with the times. I would like to know more about Stewart's cultural organization, the Turquoise Mountain Foundation, in Kabul. Who funds it? How did he, as a Brit, win over local power-brokers, enabling him to work unhindered and without heavy security?

    Stewart's attack on the the policy langauge and the logic underpinning it reminds of what Quentin Skinner (an historian of political thought) has called, in a different context, "rhetorical redescription." The point is that the habitual use of a particular normative vocabulary can, if we are not very careful, make us numb to the limits of our own agency and the difference between real and ideal outcomes.


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