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Games without Rules: The Often-Interrupted History of Afghanistanby Tamim Ansary
Synopses & Reviews
Today, most people in the West still see the war in Afghanistan as a contest between Western democracies and Islamist terrorism. That war is real; its happening; 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 a reactionary impulse to retreat toward inward-looking localism. The American military effort is predicated on the assumption that the war in Afghanistan is with some defined enemy. This enemy has a name — the Taliban.” It has a hierarchy — we constantly hear of Taliban leaders of this or that rank being killed or captured. It has headquarters and bases: were constantly overrunning them. Seen in the framework of the ongoing internal struggle, however, the captured bases are Afghan villages, the Taliban are rural Afghans, and the schools, democracy, infrastructure and other benefits America is bringing to Afghanistan are just more of Kabul and its foreign sponsors beating down the countryside.
In Games without Rules Tamim Ansary draws on his Afghan background, Muslim roots, long study of the history in question, and Western and Afghan sources to explain Afghanistan's history from the inside out, and foreground that long, internal struggle that the outside world has never fully understood. He provides a straightforward account of the invasions, occupations, and interventions by foreign powers through the last two centuries; but unlike other writers, Ansary shows how they are interruptions of an ongoing Afghan story, one which began before the British arrived and will go on after the Americans leave. 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.
Focusing on key personalities and using the conversational, storytelling prose style that has delighted readers of Ansary's previous books, Games without Rules is a clear and compelling narrative, full of revelatory insight for general readers and experts alike, on a country and a subject now at the center of international and national political debates.
"In Games without Rules, Tamim Ansary has written the most engaging, accessible and insightful history of Afghanistan. With gifted prose and revealing details, Ansary gives us the oft-neglected Afghan perspective of the wars, foreign meddling and palace intrigue that has defined the past few centuries between the Indus and Oxus. This brilliant book should be required reading for anyone involved in the current war there — and anyone who wants to understand why Afghanistan will not be at peace anytime soon." Rajiv Chandrasekaran, author of Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan
"A breezy, accessible overview of centuries of messy Afghan history, including the present military quagmire....As a native of Kabul, Ansary lends precious insight into the makeup of the typical Afghan village, with its tidy, self-sufficient, patriarchal hierarchy and need to keep the nomads at bay....Lively instruction on how Afghanistan has coped, and continues to cope, with being a strategic flash point." Kirkus
By the author of Destiny Disrupted: an enlightening, accessible history of modern Afghanistan from the Afghan point of view, showing how Great Power conflicts have interrupted its ongoing, internal struggle to take form as a nation.
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.
About the Author
Tamim Ansary is the author of Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World through Islamic Eyes and West of Kabul, East of New York, among other books. For ten years he wrote a monthly column for Encarta.com, and has published essays and commentary in the San Francisco Chronicle, Salon, Alternet, TomPaine.com, Edutopia, Parade, Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere. Born in Afghanistan in 1948, he moved to the U.S. in 1964. He lives in San Francisco, where he is director of the San Francisco Writers Workshop.
Table of Contents
GAMES WITHOUT RULES
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1: The Seed that Became Afghanistan (1747 1839)
2: The First Anglo-Afghan War (1839-1842)
3: From Empire to Country (1843-1878)
4: The Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-1880)
5: The Iron Amir and His Legacy (1881-1918)
6: The Third Anglo-Afghan War (1918-1929)
7: Stumbling Toward Modernity (1929-1978)
8: The Anti-Soviet War (1978-1990)
9: The Countryside Triumphant (1990-2001)
10: The Anti-American War (2001-the present)
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