Robert Kaplan, Afghan Expert Extraordinaire

by Joshua Foust on 3/26/2009 · 4 comments

Christian Bleuer has broken his usual abstinence from criticizing the rampant idiocy in American punditry to talk about Robert Kaplan’s latest article on Afghanistan. It defies excerption, so go read his post. I’ll reference Tom Bissell and say it is Klassic Kaplan©. But don’t let that stop Jules Crittenden from declaring Afghanistan “easy” as a result, or the good people at SWJ linking to both like they’re evidence of informed thinking.

A previous discussion of Kaplan’s sad excuse for analysis can be found here, and here.

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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 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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Chris Mewett March 26, 2009 at 4:13 pm

Glad you guys are on this — now I can stop scrambling for your email address.

I read the piece yesterday, thinking all the while 1) “why the hell is SWJ linking to this?” and 2) “there’s a lot to criticize about this, but Christian and/or Joshua will do a hell of a lot better job of it.”

Christian March 26, 2009 at 5:37 pm

After checking Bissell’s review I must give credit to Kaplan’s work on the Uzbeks. This line will stand as one of the greatest worst quotes ever regarding Central Asia: “Could these be pre-Byzantine Turks?”

Nathan March 26, 2009 at 8:46 pm

Christian, I bought that damned book just to savor how truly bad that whole section is. Kaplan is terrible. He describes the fantasy world in his head and names it fact. (Is it any surprise that a guy whose whole career is based on a prediction of ABSOLUTE ANARCHY, I MEAN I’M SERIOUS, IT’S GONNA BE THE GODDAMNED THUNDERDOME UP IN HERE!!!11!!!!1!1!! sees seething ethnic warfare about to break out everywhere?) Its depressing that the bookstore for the school where we work has a whole shelf of his garbage. And with this article, I don’t even know why he bothered going to Afghanistan to write it. I guess having the Kandahar byline communicates “not necessarily just another ‘hey the author read the source docs for the wikipedia entry’ column.”

By the way, I will always think highly of Tom for that review of Kaplan. Really, go buy Tom’s books as a gesture of thanks.

Chris, SWJ linked to it because a lot of what they do is link to crap.

Nathan March 27, 2009 at 8:33 am

Because occasionally arguing about Kaplan is good for the soul, it continues here.

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