Monday, November 23, 2009

Comment on the Afghanistan-Tajikistan Comparison

Foreign Affairs has a recent article by George Gavrilis arguing for a "Tajikistan" solution to Afghanistan. Tajikistan's bloody post-Soviet civil war gradually wound down and, with the modest support of the international community, the country has now stabilized into a corrupt but peaceful autocracy, with the narco-trade being an important component of the economy. The key to acheiving something similar in Afghanistan, suggests Gavrilis, is a willingness to scale down expectations, turn a blind eye to non-democratic elements, and recognize the importance of basic order as the first goal. Development and democracy can come later.

This thought-provoking article misses one crucial disanalogy: the Soviets failed in Afghanistan, whereas they succeeded in Tajikistan over several decades. That is, Tajikistan had a centralized state structure, a largely secular population, and somewhat of a modernist ethic, notwithstanding its poverty. Afghanistan is a long, long way behind. Even if the parties could brought to the table and conclude an agreement, its likely to be more than just a couple decades before any Afghan government could exert the effective control of Rahmonov. Order, alas, is a precondition to development.

1 comment:

  1. You raise a good point, Tom. The differences outnumber the similarities for the reasons you suggest. The article raises a rather a central issue for L&D, though. Exactly what is meant by 'order'? Is order, however defined, a precondition for development, or is investing in development required to achieve order? While a negotiated peace must be the precondition for future aid, aid may only be successful in promoting local development to the extent it can reflect articulated needs. Does law and development have something to say about how to expand voices and choices in Afghanistan?