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This was meant to be the last entry in my 2019 time capsule series, looking at current world issues and how they might develop over the next 10 years, but I think I will add an extra posting tomorrow, and then I’m done. Today I look at some of the after-effects from the Bush era wars.

Iraq

iraq-warIn 2003, George Bush and Tony Blair marched into Iraq on a wing and a prayer. It was arguably one of the greatest and most avoidable foreign policy blunders in decades. Iraq was a tinder box under the rule of Saddam Hussein, and the first year of occupation was an object lesson in how not to invade a country. By 2005, the “coalition of the willing” were stuck in the middle of a vicious civil war between Sunnis and Shias. Now in 2009, the US is starting to think about pulling its troops out and leaving the region for good. The big question is whether Iraq will manage on its own once the Americans have left, or whether the warring tribes will pick up where they left off. My bet is that it will do just fine. Ten years should tell a lot.

Afghanistan.

talibanIn 2009, Afghanistan is as close as you will get to witnessing hell on Earth. Afghanistan is the archetypal failed state. Divided up by tribal leaders, it resembles the world as it was back in the 14th Century. It took a bunch of religious madmen – the Taliban – to create a semblance of order in the place until they backed the wrong horse and got ousted by NATO after the 9/11 attacks. Now they are on the resurgence, fed by hordes of uneducated boys crossing over from Pakistan, and whole areas are now back under Taliban control. It is likely that a very large troop increase will be required to establish any sort of security in the country. My guess is that Afghanistan, like Somalia and the Sudan, is a generational problem, and that the militaries of many nations will be based there for decades to come. Reinvigorating failed states could well be one of the most important political and economic challenges of the century.

This is a wonderful read. It’s got everything – friendship, betrayal, shame, honour, bravery, hatred, grief and redemption – the whole gamut of human experience.

The Kite RunnerThe story revolves around the central character’s two most important relationships – his father and his best friend, set against the backdrop of the troubles in Afghanistan. Saying any more about the plot might lessen your enjoyment of the book, so I will refrain from doing so!

Parts of the book are painful to read. It’s not a story for those who want an easy time from their novels. The author does not spare his readers from the more disturbing aspects of human life particularly in the context of war and unheaval – the casual cruelty, the killing of innocence, the sickness of fanaticism.

However, for readers looking for depth and complexity in their characters, you cannot easily find a better example. Although a grotesque villain is brought to life in the novel in the guise of Assef, betrayal and cowardice are present in the book’s central figures. In fact, it’s this betrayal and cowardice that forms a central theme in the book, making it such a fascinating read.

A strong emotional bond with Afghanistan is painted in the book. Afghan people are portrayed as proud, generous, talkative but sometimes hypocritical and stubborn. I noted strong parallels with the Irish way of life, or at least a way of life that used to exist in Ireland, but now, perhaps, is in rapid decline.

When all is said, there is a gripping story to tell here. The denouements in the text are wonderful – I frequently found myself gasping as the plot twisted, sometimes in the most surprising of ways.

I absolutely loved the book and would gladly recommend others to read it.

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