Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Anthropologists say it's complicated. Less trivially, they say it's even more anarchic than it appears.
Western soldiers meet with village councils, or shuras, and work to strike deals with local elders; and the methods of counterinsurgency may well give them a greater capacity to do so. But what if the shura is largely ceremonial, with real power exercised behind the scenes? And what if the elders are not all they seem? What if they exaggerate their own authority, or seek to establish that authority through prominent meetings with easily impressed outsiders? What if the elders, like everyone else, are anxiously hoarding their power, refusing to take risks, and preparing for an unpredictable future in which it’s equally plausible that mullahs, militias or Kabul bureaucrats might each gain more power?


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