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Games Without Rules: The Often Interrupted History of Afghanistan

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Today, most Westerners still see the war in Afghanistan as a contest between democracy and Islamist fanaticism. That war is real; but it sits atop an older struggle, between Kabul and the countryside, between order and chaos, between a modernist impulse to join the world and the pull of an older Afghanistan: a tribal universe of village republics permeated by Islam. Now, Ta Today, most Westerners still see the war in Afghanistan as a contest between democracy and Islamist fanaticism. That war is real; but it sits atop an older struggle, between Kabul and the countryside, between order and chaos, between a modernist impulse to join the world and the pull of an older Afghanistan: a tribal universe of village republics permeated by Islam. Now, Tamim Ansary draws on his Afghan background, Muslim roots, and Western and Afghan sources to explain history from the inside out, and to illuminate the long, internal struggle that the outside world has never fully understood. It is the story of a nation struggling to take form, a nation undermined by its own demons while, every 40 to 60 years, a great power crashes in and disrupts whatever progress has been made. Told in conversational, storytelling style, and focusing on key events and personalities, "Games without Rules" provides revelatory insight into a country at the center of political debate.


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Today, most Westerners still see the war in Afghanistan as a contest between democracy and Islamist fanaticism. That war is real; but it sits atop an older struggle, between Kabul and the countryside, between order and chaos, between a modernist impulse to join the world and the pull of an older Afghanistan: a tribal universe of village republics permeated by Islam. Now, Ta Today, most Westerners still see the war in Afghanistan as a contest between democracy and Islamist fanaticism. That war is real; but it sits atop an older struggle, between Kabul and the countryside, between order and chaos, between a modernist impulse to join the world and the pull of an older Afghanistan: a tribal universe of village republics permeated by Islam. Now, Tamim Ansary draws on his Afghan background, Muslim roots, and Western and Afghan sources to explain history from the inside out, and to illuminate the long, internal struggle that the outside world has never fully understood. It is the story of a nation struggling to take form, a nation undermined by its own demons while, every 40 to 60 years, a great power crashes in and disrupts whatever progress has been made. Told in conversational, storytelling style, and focusing on key events and personalities, "Games without Rules" provides revelatory insight into a country at the center of political debate.

30 review for Games Without Rules: The Often Interrupted History of Afghanistan

  1. 5 out of 5

    Care

    (Perseus Books Group kindly gave me a pre-publication galley of this book, but it will be available to the general public on 27 November 2012.) Of all the histories I have read on Afghanistan, and I have read more than a few, Tamim Ansary’s is absolutely the best. Whether your knowledge is a clean slate and you are looking for one book that will explain this complex nation, or you are fairly conversant in the country, but want a brief refresher, Mr. Ansary will lay out everything you need to know (Perseus Books Group kindly gave me a pre-publication galley of this book, but it will be available to the general public on 27 November 2012.) Of all the histories I have read on Afghanistan, and I have read more than a few, Tamim Ansary’s is absolutely the best. Whether your knowledge is a clean slate and you are looking for one book that will explain this complex nation, or you are fairly conversant in the country, but want a brief refresher, Mr. Ansary will lay out everything you need to know in his latest offering. [b]Games without Rules[/b] begins with the rise of the Durrani line and brings the reader up through the present, with reporting through May of 2012. Tamim Ansary does a number of things in his book that make it especially accessible for readers, but chief among them is linking events in Afghanistan to events with which his readers might be more familiar, such as the fact that the opening of his work, the dawning of the Durrani Empire, with its founder Ahmad Shah Baba, known as Afghanistan’s Founding Father, happened in 1747, roughly the same time as the founding of the United States of America. Over the course of reading the book the reader will also learn a great deal about the histories of India, Pakistan, and the neighboring central Asian republics, as the destinies of these nations and that of Afghanistan are all inter-linked. Another fact about Mr. Ansary’s writing that becomes quickly apparent is that this is not the writing of a dry, boring scholar of a historian. While never stooping to comedy or disdain, he manages to always keep a storyteller’s mien, full of adventure and humor and at times even anger and despair. In addition to being written in an easily accessible style, this history is very well organized, carrying the reader seamlessly from one era into the next, clearly illustrating how each event, and not always those occurring solely within Afghanistan’s borders, caused the next to proceed. Perhaps most valuable is Mr. Ansary’s explanation of Afghanistan’s placement upon the world stage-the role that it has played over the last two hundred years, so often caught up geographically in the maelstrom between world powers, for instance, between Russia and British India. As he takes his reader along on a journey through the various powers, foreign and domestic, who have vied for power over her people, Tamim Ansary, in a marvelously conversant manner, gives a cultural education that is unparalleled. From the cities to the furthest reaches of the valleys, the governance and social customs of the country are explained, and he uses this information to break down for the reader exactly why he feels that attempts by various foreign powers over the centuries to govern the Afghani people have not succeeded. His analysis is insightful and well-laid-out, and for those not well-versed in the subject, this book will prove especially useful in helping you to understand exactly why the political and social situation there is so complex. My one very slight reservation for my conservative readership is that Mr. Ansary is very clearly a liberal, and that does bleed through, especially with regards to our current president. He is quite a fan of the president’s policies with regards to Afghanistan, something with which most conservatives do not agree. To give credit where credit is due, he also admits that Clinton made errors while in office. However, for the most part he does strive for partiality and is generally successful. No matter how conservative your leanings, you would be doing yourself a disservice not to read this book-Mr. Ansary’s political views only come into play in the very last section and are toned down enough that even this conservative reviewer did not find them obtrusive enough to overwhelm all the excellent material contained within the rest of the book. And I personally found his views even here to be insightful and interesting, even if I might not agree with them. In four hundred pages of reading a person’s time will be well vested here. I give Tamim Ansary’s newest history my highest endorsement, not only for the knowledge it imparts, but for its readability. If you read one book on the modern history of Afghanistan, her culture, her politics, and her role in our global peace (or otherwise), this should be the one you reach for.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    This was a really excellent book delving into the history of Afghanistan, a rather misunderstood, yet pivotal, country. The author, Tamim Ansary, was born in Afghanistan and his family pops up throughout its history in fascinating ways. It is clear form his writing how much he cares about his home country and his desire to properly explain its nature to outsiders. As a history Ansary hits all the important markers: names, dates, events and the like. The story of Afghanistan unfurls in a linear wa This was a really excellent book delving into the history of Afghanistan, a rather misunderstood, yet pivotal, country. The author, Tamim Ansary, was born in Afghanistan and his family pops up throughout its history in fascinating ways. It is clear form his writing how much he cares about his home country and his desire to properly explain its nature to outsiders. As a history Ansary hits all the important markers: names, dates, events and the like. The story of Afghanistan unfurls in a linear way and he shows the slow, incremental progress that was being made to knit together a group of peoples who are fiercely independent. The evolution is fascinating with a succession of strong leaders building up social connections between notable tribal leaders and beginning the formation of a national character. These development, however, is often interrupted by foreign invasions which tend to jumble things up and reset the national consolidation progress. The consistent theme, and I think the most important take away from this book, is that the story of Afghanistan is not one of rival ethnic groups or foreign interventions or even battling ideologies (though all three did have significant impacts on the development of Afghanistan) but rather one of Kabul and a outward view of the world versus the countryside and an inward view of the world. The pendulum has swung back and forth between these two centers of power, sometimes resulting in Afghanistan open to foreign influences and culture and other times resulting in a return to more traditional ways of life. Much of the conflicts and changes in Afghanistan can be clearly explained through their paradigm. Leaders rise and fall but this dynamic seemed to be a consistent driver of Afghan society. Until the damn Societs showed up. I truly did not appreciate just how much that invasion servery disrupted Afghan society. Not only did it create millions of refugees, hundreds of thousands of deaths, and a destroyed nation, it also broke the cultural link between that generation of Afghans and their history. Women and children huddled in refuee camps while the young men went off to kill Soviets. Ansary puts forth the idea that this social climate, completely male and infused with violence, left a psychic scar on these men, the same men who would rule and fight over Afghanistan after the Soviets left. Their ties to a community and family were massively weakened and violence, instead of social standing and the ability to make deals within a community, was seen as the social currency of their post Soviet state. The result was Warlords, more violence, and the eventual ascendancy of the Taliban (helped greatly by rogue elements of the Pakistani government), and an explosion of opium production. This book is a great gateway into understanding the character of Afghanistan and how to came to be the way it is today. It was written in an extremely accessible manner that also succeeded in conveying some subtle and nuanced observations about the country. I felt like I not only learned alot but have a new perspective on how the world works.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Stian

    This is a history of Afghanistan as seen through the eyes of an Afghan. The author, Tamim Ansary is an Afghan-American, and as such it is quite a personal history. Tamim writes, for example, "Nadir [the king] attended a high school awards ceremony for academic high achievers. One of the boys was my father, then in tenth grade. Another was a boy rasied in a Charki household. My father and this kid played soccer together after school, and that week the boy had bragged that he would soon make some s This is a history of Afghanistan as seen through the eyes of an Afghan. The author, Tamim Ansary is an Afghan-American, and as such it is quite a personal history. Tamim writes, for example, "Nadir [the king] attended a high school awards ceremony for academic high achievers. One of the boys was my father, then in tenth grade. Another was a boy rasied in a Charki household. My father and this kid played soccer together after school, and that week the boy had bragged that he would soon make some shots that would be remembered in history. My father assumed he meant soccer shots on goal. The next day, at the ceremony, when the king arrived, my father witnessed this boy stepping out of the line to shoot Nadir dead." This type of violence is nothing new to Afghans. On top of all the internal strife and conflict, Afghanistan is a country that, since its modern birth as a state in 1747, has been invaded by another foreign power five times in the last two centuries. The British in 1839; the British yet again forty and eighty years after that; the Soviets sixty years after that; and recently the NATO and US invasion. There are familiar patterns emerging from every invasion: there is a consistent misunderstanding of what Afghanistan is. It isn't (at least it was not) a unified country in the way many Westerners often imagine it. As Ansary writes "Foreign intervention in Afghanistan don't just undermine the designated proxy but the authority of Kabul within Afghanistan. The erosion of central authority releases the country's propensity to fragment, and so in the end the foreign power finds itself facing a burgeoning chaos that saps its resources, leaving little time or strength for carrying out the original intentions of the intervention, whatever those were." This is already painfully apt in the case of the US invasion. There is a fundamental problem in thinking that you can send democracy abroad with missiles and Apache helicopters. As Tamim writes, the possibility for democracy and peace in Afghanistan depends on Afghans, and the ability of Afghans to find resolutions to the wild contradictions within the country. The pendulum in Afghanistan has swung from fragmentation to centralization, and back again, always more and more extreme with each swing. "The problem," writes Ansary, "is not that Afghans unite and then cannot be conquered; the problem is that Afghans fragment and then cannot be governed." Afghanistan is a country today, according to Ansary, where "the twenty-first century lies directly atop the tweltfth." But he ends on an optimistic note: in the midst of it all, Ansary remains hopeful, and writes that "if Afghanistan succeeds in blending its many strains into a cohesive cultural whole, well, then, maybe there's hope for the planet too." Maybe, Tamim. I sure hope so too!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Erin Kelly

    I knew nothing about the history of Afghanistan and wanted an objective POV written by an Afghan. This book was it. The writing is engaging; it’s never unnecessarily dense or academic; and it provides objective cultural and historical context.

  5. 5 out of 5

    J.M. Hushour

    If ever there was a lay history of Afghanistan that the average person should read, this'd be it. This is an often hilarious, never pretentious history of Afghanistan from 1750 on. Ansary is a fun writer he never gets lost in the academic morass or unneeded political niceties that dog so much of contemporary history. Afghanistan is fucked-up and he makes no bones about this, but he keeps his analysis simple, salient, and funny. It's all here: the early attempts by Afghani rulers to hoist their re If ever there was a lay history of Afghanistan that the average person should read, this'd be it. This is an often hilarious, never pretentious history of Afghanistan from 1750 on. Ansary is a fun writer he never gets lost in the academic morass or unneeded political niceties that dog so much of contemporary history. Afghanistan is fucked-up and he makes no bones about this, but he keeps his analysis simple, salient, and funny. It's all here: the early attempts by Afghani rulers to hoist their region by its ankles, the British and Russians fucking around, the Soviets fucking around, the Taliban show up, then the Americans and everything goes even further to shit. All the while, normal Afghans bear the brunt of stupid conflicts imposed from without that most of them have nothing to do with it. Ansary never loses sight of Afghanistan's complexity and, in fact, this serves as the backbone to the work: Afghanistan's cultural and social nuances and weirdness is exactly why it's been a perennial thorn in the sole of anyone attempting to meddle with it, not because conflict is ingrained or innate, somehow, but because its multifaceted nature makes any simple solution (read: military) meaningless from the get-go. The recent decades of Afghanistan have been marked by this constant conflict from without, fed by crazies within who try to out-do each other in their zealotry. And the Afghan people suffer.

  6. 5 out of 5

    'Aussie Rick'

    I don't think I could add much to the many good reviews already posted in regards to Games Without Rules . I picked this book up in a local book shop one weekend and was sucked into the story straight away. As soon as I got home I started reading the book, learning little bits and pieces of history as I went. If you know the history of this region there may not be a great deal that is new to you, but regardless, this is a fresh look at Afghanistan's history from the perspective of the people I don't think I could add much to the many good reviews already posted in regards to Games Without Rules . I picked this book up in a local book shop one weekend and was sucked into the story straight away. As soon as I got home I started reading the book, learning little bits and pieces of history as I went. If you know the history of this region there may not be a great deal that is new to you, but regardless, this is a fresh look at Afghanistan's history from the perspective of the people and land, a look from the inside, not the outside. The telling of the story is engaging and at times funny: Indeed, there is a robust tradition of the mullah as rascal, typified by Mullah Nasruddin, a fanciful figure featured in a rich body of humorous folk anecdotes. One such anecdote, for example, relates that the mullah’s neighbour came to borrow his donkey. The mullah was reluctant. He said, “I’m sorry but my donkey died yesterday.” Just then the donkey began to bray behind the house. “What’s this? What’s this?” the neighbour said. “Mullah-sahib: your donkey isn’t dead, I can hear it braying.” The mullah was indignant. “Who are you going to believe?” he snorted. “A mullah or a donkey?” Or: Abdu’ Rahman had a legion of mirzas. He put them in his cabinet and gave them command of his armies. Not only did he allow them to enjoy lives of luxury and grace but he insisted on it, for they represented his grandeur and, therefore, everywhere they went, they must be seen in the finest garments, riding the most magnificent horses. The trouble was, young men stepped in so much privilege tended to get big ideas. The amir was always on the lookout for plots that his pampered mirzas might be concocting. His favourite wife Halima, nicknamed Bobo Gul, once asked him why he didn’t kill the ones he didn’t trust. “It wouldn’t be practical,” he replied. “I don’t trust any of them.” What this book provides is a general, easy to read and understand overview of Afghanistan’s recent history. It helps put a back story to the many military accounts currently coming out of the country and helps readers to get a better picture of why things appear as they do. The book also helps answer the questions we have all asked at some stage about the war in Afghanistan; how & why did this happen? It is well told account and I found quite a few things of interest whilst reading the book and managed to learn a few new things as well. I would recommend this for anyone who wants to get a better understanding of why the war in Afghanistan has taken the course it has and to actually get a feel for the people of Afghanistan who have been affected by the fighting. The author does offer some light at the end of the tunnel for those who are genuinely interested in the outcome.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jerome

    A good, accessible history of the country. What I enjoyed most was how Ansary links current and recent events in Afghanistan to its own complex history, and how he puts Afghanistan into an international context; for example, he writes how events in India led the British and the Russians to engage in the “Great Game”, and how events in Afghanistan in the 1990s influenced, and were influenced by, events in Central Asia. Ansary writes well, and the story never bogs down or gets boring. The story is A good, accessible history of the country. What I enjoyed most was how Ansary links current and recent events in Afghanistan to its own complex history, and how he puts Afghanistan into an international context; for example, he writes how events in India led the British and the Russians to engage in the “Great Game”, and how events in Afghanistan in the 1990s influenced, and were influenced by, events in Central Asia. Ansary writes well, and the story never bogs down or gets boring. The story is full of humor, adventure, naivety and despair. The book is also well-organized, and Ansary does a good job linking each phase of Afghan history to the next, and to the preceding one. He gives us a great account of the power struggles that define Afghanistan’s history and makes them very understandable. The same is true for Ansary’s depiction of the social and political aspects of the country, where he gives us good cultural analysis that will benefit even those unfamiliar with the nation’s complexity. Ansary’s story is focused on Afghanistan’s relations with the outside world, which sometimes leads to clichés like the “graveyard of empires.” The Great Game is a good example of this: the British aimed to use Afghanistan as a buffer against the Russians, who supposedly threatened India. Although the Great Game has been meticulously documented by numerous books, I still fail to see how the British saw the Russians as a threat: there were exactly zero Russians anywhere on the Afghan northern border at the time. And the British were invited into the country by Shah Shujah, who wasn’t even in Afghanistan at the time. The events that took place after 9/11 to the end of 2001 are covered, unsatisfactorily, in a mere two pages before he resumes his narrative. Although I enjoyed the book, I did find a few issues: at one point in the book’s bibliography, the book jumps from chapter 25 to Chapter 27; no idea what Ansary’s sources were for Chapter 26. A more irritating issue I had was the slangy, often awkward tone of Ansary’s writing. He uses exclamation points frequently, and often writes in first person in what is supposed to be a work of history. King Shuja was a “whiner”, and “some nameless nobody” assassinated Shah Shuja. And when discussing the Great Game, he calls Persia “Iran”, which didn’t come into use until 1935. “This guy was too popular with the Afghan people!” is another painful example. “A bunch of rebels” kidnapped Soviet advisors in 1979. “Many would say that real presidents don’t appoint themselves, but hey, political development is a slow process.” “Even stupid Taraki would make a better head of state.” “When Amin went in to use the facilities, they would lock the door---boom!Ha!” “You have to take your legitimacy where you can find it, I guess.” “They pressured Sudan to do something about this guy.” “He renewed his friendship with the ISI folks he had gotten to know.” “This was the country that was, to Western eyes, winning the Cold War and might soon (cue evil laughter) rule the world.” “On the face of it, building a pipeline through explosive, anarchic Afghanistan seemed...what’s the word I’m searching for? Insane.” Incredibly, Ansary, when discussing World War One, writes that “a leading member of the Axis group was the Ottoman Empire.” The Axis did not exist in World War One, they existed in World War Two, and they never had any support from the Ottoman Empire (which didn’t exist in Word War Two!). Ansary of course, means to write that in Word War One the Ottoman Empire was a member of the Central Powers. And they were hardly a “leading member.” Turkey was a third-rate power at the time. He also writes that the contra guerrillas brought down the Nicaraguan government; this is also incorrect. The contras were locked in a stalemate for almost a decade, and never succeeded in overthrowing the government. He writes that there were 22 hijackers on 9/11, but there were actually 19. He also, inexplicably, calls bin Laden’s escape from Tora Bora “mysterious”; I can’t see why. We eventually had clear evidence that he escaped there and bin Laden’s whereabouts from his escape from Tora Bora to his fateful hideout in Abottobad are now fairly well documented. Still, these are all side issues for the most part; they do not significantly detract from an otherwise enjoyable book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tariq Mahmood

    A very bold and subjective view of history of Afghanistan from the time of Abdullah Shah Baba to the present. I enjoyed the particular take of history from Tamim Ansary point of view. Afghanistan is not unconquerable but ungovernable and Afghanis don't unite to fight against the occupier but divide even further, making the occupiers task impossible. As a Pakistani though, I found his views on Pakistan pretty difficult to digest. There was scant regard for Pakistan's hospitality role in housing m A very bold and subjective view of history of Afghanistan from the time of Abdullah Shah Baba to the present. I enjoyed the particular take of history from Tamim Ansary point of view. Afghanistan is not unconquerable but ungovernable and Afghanis don't unite to fight against the occupier but divide even further, making the occupiers task impossible. As a Pakistani though, I found his views on Pakistan pretty difficult to digest. There was scant regard for Pakistan's hospitality role in housing millions of Afghanis in its midst. I myself saw my Islamabad literally invaded by thousands of Afghanis back in the 80's bringing the property prices up. I also didn't quite understand the 'non-aligned' role which Afghanistan seemed to have adopted. How can it be nonaligned if it was openly vowing both superpowers? Even the title and Afghanistan's analogy to Buzkushi seems to be very similar to most of the South Asian countries like Pakistan and India. Most traffic I have experienced in Pakistan is the same organised chaos as described by Tamim. so nothing new here. Still Tamim's present book is a timely and important one, as little is written from the Afghani point of view .

  9. 5 out of 5

    Domhnall

    Excellent history written with compassion and clarity. Tamin Ansary succeeds in covering two centuries of Afghan history without sounding bitter or cynical, despite confronting with open eyes the often appalling ingredients of his story. Threaded through a history of violence and reaction he manages to trace a process of evolution and modernisation by which Afghanistan, left to its own devices or not, always was and still remains capable of emerging as a viable, coherent and prosperous nation. P Excellent history written with compassion and clarity. Tamin Ansary succeeds in covering two centuries of Afghan history without sounding bitter or cynical, despite confronting with open eyes the often appalling ingredients of his story. Threaded through a history of violence and reaction he manages to trace a process of evolution and modernisation by which Afghanistan, left to its own devices or not, always was and still remains capable of emerging as a viable, coherent and prosperous nation. Part of his message is that a country, its culture and its people cannot be understood in simplistic terms. Afghanistan is internally complex, with a major division between the more sophisticated cities and the highly traditional rural communities. Strategically, it is located at the focal point of too many external interests to hope it can ever be free of foreign influence and the threat of foreign intervention. Invasions, especially by the Russians and then in different ways the Americans, have savagely wrecked many of the traditional social and economic arrangements that made Afghanistan distinctive. A huge proportion of the population has only experienced dislocation, life in refugee camps and the turbulence of war. Cultural intrusions acting to distort or destroy traditional values have included Western inspired educational innovations on the one hand and fundamentalist Islamic education and ideology in their refugeee camps in Pakistan, facilitated by the Pakistan state and often funded and controlled by the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia. Yet within a web of foreign interests working so hard to corrupt all that is natural to Afghans, there remain huge physical and human resources from which to construct something of great value. Perhaps two major features present Afghanistan with the possibility of future prosperity. One is the recognition of substantial mineral resources within the country. The other is the prospect of new and hugely important trade routes weaving through the country to Central Asia and hence to Russia and Europe, to China and India, as well as to the seaports of Pakistan. It turns out that this country in the middle of nowhere is actually in the middle of everywhere. And oddly enough, because it is of such interest to everyone, it has a real chance to avoid depending on any one of its neighbours. Ansary is a true optimist with an attractive vision of what really is possible.

  10. 4 out of 5

    吕晓晓 Chinese

    The author is an American of Afghan descent. From his description, he should have spent most of his childhood in Afghanistan, so even though he is a foreigner now, he still knows his home country quite well. What's more, his family seems to be a famous family in Afghanistan. The author has a good grasp of the structure of the entire book. From the "Father of the Nation" Ahmed Shah to today's Afghanistan, the historical framework of more than 200 years that Afghanistan has truly formed is describ The author is an American of Afghan descent. From his description, he should have spent most of his childhood in Afghanistan, so even though he is a foreigner now, he still knows his home country quite well. What's more, his family seems to be a famous family in Afghanistan. The author has a good grasp of the structure of the entire book. From the "Father of the Nation" Ahmed Shah to today's Afghanistan, the historical framework of more than 200 years that Afghanistan has truly formed is described in the author's pen. It is very exciting. . Although in terms of brushwork, the text in this book is closer to historical prose rather than serious official history. On the one hand, there is no quotation at all. It seems that all the content comes from the legends that the author has heard or read. On the other hand, based on his Afghan-American identity, the author sometimes expresses his emotions from the perspective of caring about his homeland, and sometimes From the perspective of understanding Western readers, I will give some examples that Western readers are easy to understand but not completely reliable. However, in general, for Chinese readers who do not know much about the history and current situation of Afghanistan, this neighboring country, this book is still very suitable as an entry-level reading. As the author said at the beginning, the real formation of Afghanistan may be attributed to Ahmed Shah more than two hundred years ago. Therefore, the author's assertion in the preface—the "Empire Cemetery" is a cliché that does not conform to the facts, and I do not fully agree with it. The conquerors such as the Aryans, Greeks, and Turks listed by the author were long before Afghanistan took shape. They—as the author himself admits—have become part of the Afghans. The facts described in the "Imperial Cemetery" are more aimed at empires like Britain, Tsarist Russia, the former Soviet Union, and the United States, which are trying to conquer this land after Afghanistan has taken shape. And why did Afghanistan become the graveyard of these empires? A large part of the reason, as the author has analyzed throughout the book, is that Afghanistan is a multi-ethnic tribal society that is deeply dependent on agriculture. "An official position does not represent corresponding power", even if it is a nominal king. Power is scattered in the personal network of tribes, especially in the vast rural areas. But outsiders can never guess the secret of this power (or can't find the correct answer if they guess), and have repeatedly supported the puppets, but the ruled area is largely beyond the border of the city of Kabul. Therefore, a group of outsiders came and brought disasters time after time, leaving behind a corpse of his own and Afghans; a group of rulers, from the civilized king to the so-called "Marxist-Leninist" in the Soviet Union The political parties from the Northern Alliance to the Taliban are rotating in a reckless manner. They reluctantly pulled Afghanistan, a backward agricultural country, into the 21st century, so that even remote Afghans can learn about the information society such as TV, the Internet, and e-mail, but they can never change the culture of Afghanistan. Irregular multi-ethnic tribal culture. Maybe, add a little bit of Islamic fundamentalism. In fact, such a country is far more than Afghanistan. Perhaps, Afghanistan is still one of the more historic ones. For example, Iraq, its formation was at least after World War I; for example, Afghanistan’s neighbor Pakistan, its formation was even after World War II, and it was entirely man-made. If a country like this does not actively change its own culture—as some people have asserted, “modernization is Westernization”—even if it is only a small part of it, relying only on the promotion of outsiders, the so-called "idealistic" America There is really a big question mark about how the so-called returnees from Afghanistan can integrate with modern society. You can compare it with another neighboring country of Afghanistan-the Heavenly Dynasty. After being beaten for more than a hundred years after the Chinese dynasty fell behind, the "rabbit" used the method of encircling the city from the countryside to gain the right to rule. There is a two-part theory here. In the first paragraph, the structure of the celestial dynasty is actually comparable to that of Afghanistan. To put it in an exaggeration, it is also an "irregular multi-ethnic tribal culture." One big difference is that Han peasants accounted for the vast majority of the population in the heavenly dynasty. Therefore, mastering the Han farmers is close to mastering the country. For Afghanistan, it seems that even if you master the majority of the population, but not an overwhelming majority of Pashtuns, it does not mean that you can master Tajiks or Hazaras. Therefore, "rural surrounding the city" in Afghanistan first means to truly control the countryside. At this point, successive kings, even the Northern Alliance, and even the once mighty Taliban, seem to have failed to do so. The author who seems to have a good understanding of the rural and urban areas of Afghanistan also has no answer. In the second paragraph, after the mud legs enter the city (assuming that the mud legs can actually enter the city), of course the way of doing things cannot continue to be mud legs. The affairs of the celestial dynasty are too sensitive to unfold. Speaking of Afghanistan, extreme fundamentalist mud-legs like the Taliban not only do not adjust their thinking and behavior, but instead develop mud-legs thinking to the extreme, and are everywhere against the general trend of the world. The book-burning pit is inconsistent with their own teachings. It’s hard to imagine such a regime. (Recommend a cartoon about the story after the Taliban took power-"The breadwinner", which tells how the underage daughter of an Afghan intellectual was captured by the Taliban after his father was taken away. The story of propping up this family and trying to save my father) what bright future can it bring to the country. Judging from the above logic, the author's final answer to the Afghanistan problem-"For the US government, the real problem is how to let go"-is obviously too optimistic, and optimistic is a bit absurd. To quote Trump's remarks against Saudi Arabia, "Without the support of the United States, they will not last for two weeks." This is true in Saudi Arabia. Why is the author so confident that the current puppet regime in Kabul will be able to control the rural areas of Afghanistan after the United States has let go? The hardest thing to change is oneself. Whether it is before or after the countryside encircles the city and the mud legs enter the city.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bilal Shakir

    Games Without Rules provides a satisfying overview of the basic history of Afghanistan. The book has several redeeming qualities. First, it is told in an accessible, subjective, and conversational style by Tamim Ansary, and the book is an absolute breeze to go through. There is not a moment where one feels bored. Ansary avoids giving his readers either too much or too little context. Second, the volume fills a lacuna in the literature that is otherwise inundated with accounts of/about/by/with th Games Without Rules provides a satisfying overview of the basic history of Afghanistan. The book has several redeeming qualities. First, it is told in an accessible, subjective, and conversational style by Tamim Ansary, and the book is an absolute breeze to go through. There is not a moment where one feels bored. Ansary avoids giving his readers either too much or too little context. Second, the volume fills a lacuna in the literature that is otherwise inundated with accounts of/about/by/with the Taliban -- a morass in which the broader history of the country from where the Taliban first emerged is usually relegated to a few expository footnotes. Third, Tamim Ansary tells the story of Afghanistan that is often laden with adjectives and his own subjective assessments of what was desirable or undesirable in Afghanistan's historical trajectory. On the flip side, this can, in some instances, become a rather frustrating exercise. Often, readers are presented with assertions without the evidence to back up such claims. But I guess the exculpatory evidence against such a charge can be that the book was never meant to be a serious work of history, but a subjective story, telling the modern history of the regions encompassing Afghanistan. In this more modest aim, the book does an excellent job. Finally, in the adjective-laden epic told by Ansary, readers may be surprised to find the conspicuous lack of a sympathetic adjective for the country that housed much of some 6 million Afghani refugees following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. An omission that, at least for this writer, sat uneasily.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Zainub Reads

    History often repeats itself or so goes the proverb that often comes to life in Afghanistan, a country that cannot be painted with just black and white colors on the canvas of time. This well-researched and detailed book provides a sharp bird’s eye-view of Afghan history beginning with Ahmed Shah Baba, the founder of the Durrani Empire in 1747 leading up to the American invasion and the Obama Presidency. Despite the intensity of the subject matter the author writes with occasional humor making t History often repeats itself or so goes the proverb that often comes to life in Afghanistan, a country that cannot be painted with just black and white colors on the canvas of time. This well-researched and detailed book provides a sharp bird’s eye-view of Afghan history beginning with Ahmed Shah Baba, the founder of the Durrani Empire in 1747 leading up to the American invasion and the Obama Presidency. Despite the intensity of the subject matter the author writes with occasional humor making this an easy-to-follow book about the past, present, and future state of this landlocked country, and the political power-play of countries that have been for a very, very long time now, treating Afghanistan as a pendulum between them. He explains with a lot of clarity the appeal that this land has held for many foreign powers (namely the British, the Soviets, the US, and Pakistan), and its significant mineral wealth. The book ends with an eerie prediction that has hit the bullseye in the last few days with the Global Super-power abandoning its promised goals with a hasty retreat, leaving the Country in shambles, further pushing it back into darkness. It is a shame then, that it costs only 3$ to place a landmine but a 1000$ to remove it and therefore, not very surprising that in the current age of capitalism, human life has become very cheap indeed. “Every foreign force that comes crashing in thinks it's intervening in a country, but it's actually taking sides in an ongoing contest among Afghans about what this country is.”

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Young

    Ansary tells the story of Afghanistan as it tries to coalesce into a single nation. while it is dealing with internal struggles between the rural/tribal and the urban/progressive populations, it is repeatedly invaded by foreign powers. afghanistan's spot on the globe has long made it of strategic interest to powers who have no love for the people who live there. Britian thrice, the soviet union, and the US have all kept armies there, and they have all been harried by tribal and guerrilla warrior Ansary tells the story of Afghanistan as it tries to coalesce into a single nation. while it is dealing with internal struggles between the rural/tribal and the urban/progressive populations, it is repeatedly invaded by foreign powers. afghanistan's spot on the globe has long made it of strategic interest to powers who have no love for the people who live there. Britian thrice, the soviet union, and the US have all kept armies there, and they have all been harried by tribal and guerrilla warriors. the author is suprisingly even handed as he relates the story of superpower after superpower 'becoming involved' in his country's affairs. read this book to get an afghan-centered perspective of two centuries of progress amid 5 foreign invasions and near constant meddling with its internal affairs. i loved this book for its clear, concise history, and its highlighting of how the customs of the region contribute as much or more than the soldiers always on the ground. with elections coming in afghanistan in several days, some of the major players in this book are still either campaigning for power as an elected official, or orchestrating insurrections behind the scenes. it's as if, at the end of this book, the pages spilled out into real life in the present. the next chapter will be written next week, so go get caught up on the back story!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jared Nelson

    Truly a masterpiece. The personal stories intertwined with the grand history really made the story come to life in a compelling way. Superbly narrated by the author. Written in colloquial that made its stories seem less distant. Loved that. Two Afghanistans are introduced. The tribal and the federal. So much to understand. Enjoyed its comparison with Switzerland. Afghanistan really just wants to live in peace as a central Asian neutrality. 5 stars.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    As an American, I feel it's only courteous to learn about a country my country has invaded. This is a fascinating and accessible introduction to the history of Afghanistan, beginning in the 1700s and concluding in the latter half of Obama's presidency. I knew practically nothing about the material before reading this except that Afghanistan has been invaded many, many times because it has the rotten luck of being perpetually in the way of the strategic interests of Great Powers, sort of like Ukr As an American, I feel it's only courteous to learn about a country my country has invaded. This is a fascinating and accessible introduction to the history of Afghanistan, beginning in the 1700s and concluding in the latter half of Obama's presidency. I knew practically nothing about the material before reading this except that Afghanistan has been invaded many, many times because it has the rotten luck of being perpetually in the way of the strategic interests of Great Powers, sort of like Ukraine. Ansary begins by laying out a handful of insights that he develops throughout the book into pretty convincing arguments. First, that the place is, despite its reputation, not "un-conquerable", it's just that everyone who has successfully taken over the country are now called "Afghans." His main point, however, is that the country is, in fact, on its way to becoming a successful state with a own national identity and valuable role to play in global politics and cultural exchange. Afghanistan simply needs everyone to stop invading it ("for its own good") periodically to achieve that end.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Keval

    My earliest memory of Afghanistan was shaped by war, and it remains so. That is why, at some point, I became desperate to know what the country looked like before the Soviets came in. The first glimpse I got of pre-war Afghanistan was a documentary called Afghan Star. Tamim Ansary's book adds by leaps and bounds what little I saw in that film. Several times Games Without Rules felt like it was describing a country that existed far away in history, and in fact in some parallel universe. So often My earliest memory of Afghanistan was shaped by war, and it remains so. That is why, at some point, I became desperate to know what the country looked like before the Soviets came in. The first glimpse I got of pre-war Afghanistan was a documentary called Afghan Star. Tamim Ansary's book adds by leaps and bounds what little I saw in that film. Several times Games Without Rules felt like it was describing a country that existed far away in history, and in fact in some parallel universe. So often I had to remind myself that just the other day, there was a bombing in Kabul. How did it all come down to this? Ansary's book provides some, if not all, the answers. It's not some stiff academic piece of work, but therein lies its appeal and accessibility. I would recommend this book to anyone who requires an understanding of Afghanistan. That certainly includes the movers and shakers in Washington DC.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Ansary writes an accessible and engaging narrative about a country whose history is frequently misunderstood or ignored, even by the nations that invade it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    This is my third Ansary book. He's a great writer and historian. This is my third Ansary book. He's a great writer and historian.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    This was not an easy book to read, and I feel like it took me a long time to read, and I am not sure how much I will retain. However, it was fascinating and illuminating, reminding me of how much I do not know about the world and history. The book also helped me understand current events in Afghanistan, although the book was published in 2012. I liked that the author, who was born in Kabul, but came to the U.S. as a teenager and has mostly lived in America, inserted bits of his own personal hist This was not an easy book to read, and I feel like it took me a long time to read, and I am not sure how much I will retain. However, it was fascinating and illuminating, reminding me of how much I do not know about the world and history. The book also helped me understand current events in Afghanistan, although the book was published in 2012. I liked that the author, who was born in Kabul, but came to the U.S. as a teenager and has mostly lived in America, inserted bits of his own personal history, and that of his family members. The author also sucessfully ties in world events. I have added some of Ansary's other books to my tbr. And I want to reread The Kite Runner. The country of Afghanistan is approximately as old as the United States. However, in the country's life (so far), various outside nations have tried to control and/or guide Afghanistan. Included are Great Britain, Soviet Russia, Pakistan/Taliban, and the United States. None it seems learned from the mistakes of its predecessors, seeming to ignore the history and customs of Afghan natives. There are many things I want to remember from reading this book, indicated by the referenced quotes. Around 1880, "Counting colonized subjects, the British government ruled about a quarter of the people on Earth." (73) "But how could any king assert day-to-day authority over a people who honored over a people who honored only the dictates of religion, custom, culture, tribe, clan, village, and family? This was the problem that preoccupied Afghan rulers over the next half century, a quest that divided Afghanistan into two cultural worlds." (86) "The Iron Amir set the parameters of a struggle in Afghanistan, between forward-looking change led by a central government and an urban elite, and backward-looking stasis vested in the villages and traditional leaders of the country, a struggle that would have profound consequences not just for Afghanistan itself but for attempts by foreign powers to intervene in the affairs of the country over the next century." (99) "For the most part, the Family's [Musahibban - Nadir Shah: King 1929-1933; Zahir Shah, his son: King 1929-1973] combination of repressive brutality, cultural grace, and domestic diplomacy kept Afghanistan remarkably calm for the remainder of the thirties, throughout the forties and fifites, and deep into the sixties." (137) "As a rule, however, Afghan peasants didn't see their life in terms of class interests. They saw their world layered and compartmentalized by ethnic, tribal, and religious factors. Peasants were often the poor relations of wealthy local khans. Even leaving blood ties out of account, rich and poor were commonly bound together by mutual obligations and ties embedded in centuries of family history, personal interactions, and emotions." (183) "The regime was inviting them into a framework where affiliations would be based on policies rather than blood, history, and personal connections. It has no chance of working." (184) "The Taliban espoused the same doctrine as the Mujahideen [Islamic resistance who fought the Soviets in the 1980's], only more so. On every point, they were more literal, more simplistic, more extreme. In their own view, what they were was more pure." (238) In 1998 - "But US policy makers went the other way. They narrowed the scope of their approach, excluding social, political, cultural, and economic factors from consideration to focus tightly on Islamism as a military problem. They also narrowed down their definition of the military problem finally to one man: Osama Bin Laden. By implication, neutralizing him would end the threat." (249) "In the decades of turmoil, the smartest move for any Afghan had been to trust in guns, distrust neighbors, and cluster under the protection of the nearest strongman of familiar ethnicity." (275) In the early 2000's - "In short, one unit of [foreign] technical expertise roaming the Afghan landscape represented nearly $1 million on the hoof. [salary, lodging, security, vehicle, interpreter, etc.] Meanwhile, locals hired to do the physical labor were paid on the local scale of forty to seventy dollars a week. So million-dollar units were managing the work of people breaking rocks for five to ten dollares a day. That's a prescription for trouble." (296) "Today, the term 'Taliban' casually lumps together all sorts of figures from drug-mafia captains to local religious zealots to foreign Jihadists radicals to former honchos of the Mujahideen movement that fought the Soviets." (315) "The Talibanist insurgency thus came to present the same challenge to NATO and the United States as the Mujahideen insurgency had posed for the Soviet Union in the 1980's and as Afghan tribesmen had posed for Britain in the Anglo-Afghan war of a century earlier. The British gave up on trying to defeat the insurgency of their time and simply pulled out of Afghanistan the moment they found someone to whom they could hand the reins, a man tough enough to dominate the country yet canny enough to act as Britain's partner of international, strategic matters. America would be wise to do the sam if only it could find a man like Abdu'Rahman [The Iron Amir, reigned 1880-1901], but no one on the Afghan political scene right now seems to fit that description." (322) "The real problem for NATO was that its troops couldn't distinguish the people they were fighting against from the people they were fighting to protect. This wasn't their fault. One had to be on the inside to know the difference, and even there the boundaries were often blurred." (328) "The killing of Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011, should have marked a turning point, given that when the United States went into Afghanistan in 2001, capturing Bin Laden and defeating al Qaeda were the avowed purpose of the war. The Taliban came into it only because they had abetted Bin Laden. As for the Afghans in general, they were defined as the intended beneficiaries of the intervention. Bin Laden's mysterious escape in 2001 and his subsequent silence left the War on Terror in Afghanistan without a marker than could define victory." (329) "The world's greatest powers have a choice. They can take turns trying to conquer Afghanistan, or they can act together as neutral referees to promote Afghan reconciliation." (348) "The real question for the United States, then, is not how America can forge true democracy in Afghanistan or end corruption in Afghanistan or change the status of Afghan women: those questions are for Afghans to settle, and Afghans will settle them if left to their own devices. The real question for the United States is how to liberate Afghanistan from the United States - and all other outside powers." (348)

  20. 4 out of 5

    Abhi Gupte

    "Games Without Rules" was an enlightening book to listen to. Tamim Ansary deftly chronicles the tumultuous history of Afghanistan from it's pre-modern to current times. I say deftly because he wishes to convey two important messages about Afghanistan- 1. The inherent dichotomy of Afghanistan makes it a difficult country to govern in the modern sense. Rural vs urban, traditional vs modern, conservative vs liberal - the pendulum swings along these dimensions ever so often throughout Afghan history. "Games Without Rules" was an enlightening book to listen to. Tamim Ansary deftly chronicles the tumultuous history of Afghanistan from it's pre-modern to current times. I say deftly because he wishes to convey two important messages about Afghanistan- 1. The inherent dichotomy of Afghanistan makes it a difficult country to govern in the modern sense. Rural vs urban, traditional vs modern, conservative vs liberal - the pendulum swings along these dimensions ever so often throughout Afghan history. Westerners try to understand and failing that, manipulate the structure of Afghan society to fit a model they're more familiar with. This squaring of a circle never works. 2. The "natural" progression of Afghan politics was often disturbed by foreign powers seeking to use Afghanistan as a playground in their geo-strategic games. First the British, then the Russians and now Pakistan. The disproportionate power these assailants had compared to the native Afghans meant that they could wreak disastrous damage on Afghanistan whose fragile socio-political system could not sustain the damage. You might be surprised that I haven't listed the United States as one of the playground nations. That's because one can't be accused of nefarious intent if one doesn't have any clue what their intentions are. There are a number of books that describe the blundering US policy in Afghanistan in more detail. What Ansary does is describe it's impact on the day-to-day lives of Afghans; a refreshing though saddening perspective. You might also be surprised that I have included Pakistan alongside Great Britain and the Soviet Union, in the list of nations that destructively interfered in Afghanistan. Stephen Coll's "Directorate S" makes an indubitable case in this regard. But while Coll explains Pakistani interference in Afghanistan as a product of an Islamized, India-fearing, unaccountable military leadership, Ansary hints at Pakistani goals to expand it's sphere of influence towards Central Asia. However, Ansary doesn't go into as much detail as I would've liked. For achieving an understanding of Afghan society and its historical context, this book is a must read for Americans since American soldiers have been fighting in Afghanistan longer than they did in Germany or Korea or Vietnam or even Iraq.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Gary Klein

    This is the best book I've read regarding the history of Afghanistan from an Afghan perspective. Parts I-IV (Chapters 1-27) detail the country's early formation followed by the back and forth struggle between an "old," traditional, rural, and locally governed Afganistan; and a "new" Afghanistan embodied by more modern urban centers and a centralized leader. The author uses this frame to help the reader understand simultaneous internal struggles and that between great powers (e.g. the UK, Russia, This is the best book I've read regarding the history of Afghanistan from an Afghan perspective. Parts I-IV (Chapters 1-27) detail the country's early formation followed by the back and forth struggle between an "old," traditional, rural, and locally governed Afganistan; and a "new" Afghanistan embodied by more modern urban centers and a centralized leader. The author uses this frame to help the reader understand simultaneous internal struggles and that between great powers (e.g. the UK, Russia, and the U.S.) involved in Afghanistan. Highly recommended for anyone interested in a better understanding of the modern Afghan conflict.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Emily Curtis

    A conversational and essential history of modern Afghanistan and the follies of foreign interventionism. That I've gone so long without knowing much about a country the United States has occupied for the majority of my life is an embarrassment, and I'm grateful for an account that so fully centers what Afghans have made of the world rather than what the world has made of Afghanistan. Ideas I'll continue to gnaw on: Afghanistan as the first post-national state (launched straight into post-industi A conversational and essential history of modern Afghanistan and the follies of foreign interventionism. That I've gone so long without knowing much about a country the United States has occupied for the majority of my life is an embarrassment, and I'm grateful for an account that so fully centers what Afghans have made of the world rather than what the world has made of Afghanistan. Ideas I'll continue to gnaw on: Afghanistan as the first post-national state (launched straight into post-industialization by private multinational investment), the utter stupidity of shoving Western jurisprudence on a legal culture rooted in the shari'a, that progress has historically been and will continue to be contingent on Afghan self-determination and an Islamic, not secular frame.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    A comprehensive history of Afghanistan from founding to present day, related in a unique storytelling style. Ansary provides a sweeping account of the country and people and shares personal accounts from his family and Afghan roots.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Bryana Joy

    If you're feeling an urge (or a moral obligation) to get better acquainted with the history of Afghanistan and Western involvement in that region, this book is a wonderful starting-place. It is highly readable and engaging, and I really can't recommend it enough. If you're feeling an urge (or a moral obligation) to get better acquainted with the history of Afghanistan and Western involvement in that region, this book is a wonderful starting-place. It is highly readable and engaging, and I really can't recommend it enough.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    Tamim Ansary has become one of my favorite authors. Like his other fantastic book, “Destiny Disrupted,” “Games without Rules” is an intelligent but accessible, saddening but energizing, enthralling and thoughtful treatment of his subject—the last 200 years of Afghan history. Well worth a read.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    easy to read overview of the complex history Afghanistan.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Chandan

    Listening to the audio book narrated by author Tamin Ansary is a big bonus especially where local names, words, terms are used. Well researched, with sufficient history to explain the current situation. The mention of rare earth metals is especially foreboding as it implies a repeat of the past where Afghanistan was the prized jewel as a bridge between Middle East and Asia. A fascinating read even if one is not a history fan.

  28. 4 out of 5

    SA Smith

    A brilliant, entertaining dive into the history of Afghanistan, its characters, occupants, political, cultural and religious forces. Modern Afghanistan is a tale of cities, and their "modern", West-sympathising elite, and the rural more conservative masses, whose lives of religious faith have been continuously disrupted by invaders promising "democracy" and "a better life". If you want to understand what shapes the Afghanistan we see today, and why the West has continually tried and failed to con A brilliant, entertaining dive into the history of Afghanistan, its characters, occupants, political, cultural and religious forces. Modern Afghanistan is a tale of cities, and their "modern", West-sympathising elite, and the rural more conservative masses, whose lives of religious faith have been continuously disrupted by invaders promising "democracy" and "a better life". If you want to understand what shapes the Afghanistan we see today, and why the West has continually tried and failed to control it, this is the book. More than anything, the book vibrantly presents the cultural clashes and misunderstandings which have befuddled invaders time and again, proving that only Afghans can determine the future of their country.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Oshun Jones

    Great writing to provide an overview of the Palestinian historical context to the ongoing wars in the Middle East. Detailed enough for history related facts and figures yet personable & eloquent storytelling to lighten any rough terse and boring history lecture. I have a better sense of the reason (or lack of one unifying reason) behind the Afghanistan wars for centuries! What's sad is the utter shame fullness of the wests imperialism and gall to dictate the culture/government/borders for other Great writing to provide an overview of the Palestinian historical context to the ongoing wars in the Middle East. Detailed enough for history related facts and figures yet personable & eloquent storytelling to lighten any rough terse and boring history lecture. I have a better sense of the reason (or lack of one unifying reason) behind the Afghanistan wars for centuries! What's sad is the utter shame fullness of the wests imperialism and gall to dictate the culture/government/borders for other lands/countries/people. That said, the present is today, and milk is spilt. What this book has given me is a sense of hope for this side of the world that starts with technology and communication with the broader world. Even here in US those stuck in the rural areas, even with modernity easily accessible, tend to have a warped sense of society/culture. -yes, that's a broad stroke and offensive to some, I admit. But all around the world, in general, those in rural areas..raised & always been in rural areas - tend to exhibit a strong resistance to change, whether cultural, social, technical, spiritual norms, etc. Afganistan may be in just the place where more people decide to move along with change and not take up violence to keep change from taking hold. Technology is providing the medium for introducing ideas and encouraging innovation from those who can help themselves. Only Afghans can form their nation in this new modern world...and resisting the change or accepting and working with change is the decision to be made.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Joelle

    This was the best book I have read this year. The author is Afghani and was able to provide a unique perspective to the history by relating different events to where his own family was at the time. Some of my favorite quotes: An Afghan villager who had recently crossed the border was sitting next to me, staring at the TV in awe: 'Who were these great generals?' He asked. 'They weren't generals', I told him. 'They were regular soldiers.' He was puzzled. 'In my village, people are killed every day, This was the best book I have read this year. The author is Afghani and was able to provide a unique perspective to the history by relating different events to where his own family was at the time. Some of my favorite quotes: An Afghan villager who had recently crossed the border was sitting next to me, staring at the TV in awe: 'Who were these great generals?' He asked. 'They weren't generals', I told him. 'They were regular soldiers.' He was puzzled. 'In my village, people are killed every day, sometimes ten or twenty in a single day, and it is never on the news. You must be wrong. These men must have been very important'. The expenses of a wedding may be one person's road to ruin, but they're another persons road to wealth, for this industry has opened up numerous jobs for Afghan women... We stopped to change a tire, and we'd scarcely loosened the nuts before a grizzled old local from a village we couldn't even see came moseying by to invite us home for tea. In the city that deep sense of unhurried calm had given way to a frenzied hubbub ignited by the money and technology screaming down upon Afghanistan-yet this was just another of the Afghan character rising to the surface, for paradoxically enough this has always also been a society of freewheeling deal makers, networking relentlessly as they scope out angles to plain in a jungle gym of personal relationships.

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