Themes

by Joshua Foust on 5/14/2008

These are some themes I’ve been tracking the last several weeks. The gist of it is that there is probably a concerted strategic communications campaign coming out of the government about the progress in Afghanistan, RC-East in particular, and this is being abetted by gullible journalists and analysts. Alongside this theme is a growing record of absolutely shoddy scholarship and reporting on the area, in particular over matters relating to the Pashtuns. I thought it might be useful to collect these in one post, and keep a running tally of them as these themes are developed.

The Roads Campaign. This boils down to the assumption that paved roads equal improved security. In most of these posts, I make it a point to state that roads, even improved but still unpaved roads, have enormous value outside of security. But the idea of selling road construction as a security strategy simply stretches credibility.

Propagandistic reporting. Several journalists have written what can only be called propaganda for the ways they portray events and long-term trends in Afghanistan. These pieces are noteworthy for the one-sided repetition of military or state department official statements, and the lack of critical analysis or even contrasting opinion. In some cases specific companies or organizations and their employees were specifically called out, yet were not given a chance to respond. This is the most insipid type of reporting, for it masquerades as honest.

Lazy scholarship. Several scholars of Afghanistan have written simply appalling articles recently on Afghanistan, and in particular matters relating to the Pashtuns. This is a difficult theme to track, because the field is rather large, and deconstructing questionable arguments is difficult and time consuming. But it is growing in importance as opportunistic people try to make their names on the backs of Afghans.


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– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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