Parallax Views w/ J.G. Michael

Is Afghanistan Really Just the ”Graveyard of Empire”? w/ Alexander Hainy-Khaleeli

September 22, 2021



On this edition of Parallax Views, it's become a truism that Afghanistan is the "Graveyard of Empire" over the past few decades. It's an idea that's entered the common parlance and the foreign policy lexicon. Even President Joe Biden has mentioned the "Graveyard of Empires" tropes in light of the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan this year. The British Empire and the Soviet Unions failed interventions in Afghanistan are used as examples to support the trope and now the U.S.'s 20 year war ending in withdrawal is being used to further the "Graveyard of Empires" narrative. However, Alexander Hainy-Khaleeli of the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at University of Exeter recently pushed back on this trope in his Ajam Media Collective article "Why we need to stop calling Afghanistan 'The Graveyard of Empires'". This was recorded 9/2/21. There are some audio drop-outs but they do not disrupt the ability to understand the conversation.

We also discuss the leadership of the Taliban vs. its rank and file, the Calpihate vs. the Emirate, the potential theological differences between Islamic State and the Taliban, Deobandi Islam vs. Salafi Islam, Biden's comments about the Taliban facing an "existential crisis", Afghanistan's history before the 20th century and its importance to Empires, racism and the "Graveyard of Empires" narrative, does the "Graveyard of Empires" narrative allow for foreign policy interventionists and the U.S. a get out of jail free card for the occupation of Afghanistan?, oversimplifications of history like "ancient hatred" keeping us from asking real questions about sectarian conflicts and geopolitical issues, the Western bubble, Thomas Friedman's "The Lexus and the Oliver Tree" and the Golden Arches Theory of Conflict/War, bad Middle East takes, the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and the role of Cold War machinations by the West in that history, the way the Afghanistan war has been explained and interpreted in the West, the deaths of Afghan civilians and the bombing of Afghanistan, why the Taliban has gained some popular support, the Pashtuns, globalization, the homogenization of Central Asia in the Western mind, the "good guys" vs. "bad guys" narrative of geopolitics, has Afghanistan never been conquered in history?, is Afghanistan ungovernable?, the history of the "Graveyard of Empires" trope, the significance of the year 2010 in the mainstreaming of the "Graveyard of Empires" trope, cartoons referencing the "Graveyard of Empires" trope, Alexander the Great and Afghanistan, the Empire of the Mongols, Greeks, and the Arabs and Afghanistan, the rich culture of Afghanistan in ancient times vs. the image of Afghanistan as backwards throughout history, the strategic importance of Afghanistan historically, Afghanistan as the "cradle of empire" in ancient times, the province of Balkh, Rambo III and Afghanistan, the "stinger effect" in the Afghan/Soviet conflict,

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