President Obama’s surprise visit to Afghanistan — covered here and here — was widely seen as an effort to put some pressure on President Hamid Karzai, whose government has been riddled by charges of corruption and which has little legitimacy in the eyes of a large portion of the population. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Kabul two weeks earlier received less attention, but was hardly ignored. NPR lays out the basic problem here:
Master of the House: Stalin and His Inner Circle
By Oleg V. Khlevniuk, translated by Nora Seligman Favorov
Yale University Press, 2009
HC: 344 pages
$38.00 ($30.41 on Amazon, click here)
What the author set out to write was a detailed study from Soviet archives intended to refute a prior theory that Stalin’s rule in the 1930’s involved Stalin as a balance wheel between radical and moderate factions within the Stalinist clique at the top of the party – state apparatus. He makes an excellent case that this was not so. He shows personal alliances across the supposed moderate – radical fault line. He shows that supposed radicals and moderates changed their supposed ideology as they changed positions within the overlapping spheres of state and party bodies governing the Soviet Union. He shows Stalin making a show of leadership by committee long after the internal archives show that no decision of any serious consequences could be made without him, much less in opposition to him. On all of this the author makes a quite convincing case but, as is often the case with archival research, even in far more open societies than Putin’s Russia one should be wary of accepting that any conclusion is truly final until far more decades of archival mining have taken place. All that one can truly say at this point is that the earlier analysis based on memoirs and similar less exacting sources needs new evidence from the archives to again be taken seriously.
Paul Bremer led the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq from 2003 to 2004. He previously served as chairman of the National Commission on Terrorism, ambassador-at-large for counterrorism, and ambassador to the Netherlands. He joins Bellum for an extended discussion on the war in Afghanistan, the clash of civilizations, and the future of the trans-Atlantic alliance.
1. Many policy experts, like Ralph Peters, Kori Schake, and others, are voicing grave concerns about continuing the project in Afghanistan. Some have called for a counterterrorism strategy—drones, special forces, etc.—instead of a counterinsurgency strategy—heavy footprint, long-term presence, etc. What are your views on this debate? On our prospects in Afghanistan? On President Obama’s Afghan policy thus far?
John Negroponte has held numerous positions throughout the federal government, serving as ambassador to Honduras, the United Nations, and Iraq, as well as the Director of National Intelligence and Deputy Secretary of State. He joins Bellum for some brief Q&A.
1. One of the hot issues in political science is the future of the nation-state, with many forecasting its passing in the coming century. As a retired diplomat who represented the most successful nation-state in history, what’s your take?
Some Christian farmers feel they are under threat, as Hausa-speaking Muslims come down from the north looking for pasture for their animals. But any disputes over access to land or power quickly take on a religious dimension. Jos, the state capital, is now divided into Christian and Muslim areas.
The obvious solution to many Westerners is secession: why don’t the Muslim north and the Christian south simply split? The reason is that African boundaries are not like European boundaries, which mostly make some sense–more so, after the ethnic cleansing at gunpoint we saw in the 1944-47 period. African boundaries are purely arbitrary, so once you open one to redrawing none are safe.