Foreign Policy Blogs

Afghanistan: Making distinctions, exposing clichés

Notes from the blogosphere:
count 'em: 4In April, I collected four posts from three blogs that take apart conventional metaphors and assumptions, either in a large way or small.  These phrases have taken on the ring of tired, unhappy, and uninteresting truth–but may not be true.  Their constant repetition has led to hopelessness and apathy.  Yet the issues these generalities embody are among the most vital issues of our day.

Spin that Product!Spin may be cynical, but at least it notices this apathy and tries to fight it.  Nevertheless, in the  quest for a new, appropriate metaphor, one cliché frequently gets traded for another.  These four posts give readers something far better than a new way to "package" a political stance: they give us a window into analyzing them for ourselves.  I think the alternative views presented in this round-up will stimulate new thought, new interest, and new politicking from all sides–just by looking beyond platitudes.

1. The War on Terror:
My colleague Gregory Johnsen wrote in the FPA Middle East blog that in the Global War on Terror, one cannot fight a war against a tactic, or at least, " not if one expects to win."  He goes on to document why the UK does not use the phrase, and ends with some brief reading recommendations.

2. The coming Spring offensive:
In the last paragraph of an entry about Turkey's role in ISAF, Joshua Foust at noted that it is past time to talk about a "coming Spring offensive".  Spring has sprung, an extremely apt point: as long as we think the offense is coming, but not yet here, we don't have to check out the disposition of the war too closely.

3. That Pre-Taliban anarchy:
C. over at Afghanistanica wrote a great piece that suggests our notion of pre-Taliban anarchy comes from Taliban propaganda and sloppy reporting.  C. writes that this sloppy reportage comes not just from media, but from government sources and advocacy groups that had an axe to grind.  This is an extremely important article that can be applied to other situations in Afghanistan and out.  I highly recommend this article.  C. continues this line of reasoning with:

4. The U.S. abandoned Afghanistan after the Soviet-Afghanistan War
This is a nice post that picks apart what could and could not have accomplished had the US maintained lively interest in Afghanistan's affairs.  Again, C. deals with received views that deserve to be examined in Afghanistan (and elsewhere), and should help us refine our view of U.S power in the world.

Last of all, the Vocabula Review has a useful quote:

Metaphors hamper our understanding as often as they may help it. They interfere with our understanding not only when we use them singly but also, and especially, when we use them simultaneously, that is, when we use them together, metaphor on metaphor. Frequently incongruous, these metaphors disfigure any sentence in which they are found.

When we listen to the radio or to our leaders, watch television, and read our most trusted newspapers, issue-oriented books and web sites, we are more than mere recipients of news and information.  We are the news stories’ best interpreters.  These posts are a timely reminder that we get the media we deserve.

Illustration: KMSstores;