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Reviewed by:
  • Missionaries of Modernity: Advisory Missions and the Struggle for Hegemony in Afghanistan and Beyond by Antonio Giustozzi, Artemy Kalinovsky, and: A State Built on Sand: How Opium Undermined Afghanistan by David Mansfield
  • Robert Nichols (bio)
Missionaries of Modernity: Advisory Missions and the Struggle for Hegemony in Afghanistan and Beyond, by Antonio Giustozzi and Artemy Kalinovsky. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. 496pages. $80.
A State Built on Sand: How Opium Undermined Afghanistan, by David Mansfield. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. 382pages. $35 paper.

Those working within 21st century institutional contexts — whether corporate, academic, nongovernmental, or international — have faced new burdens of reporting as the evolving rubrics of “assessment” have demanded new collections of program documentation and explanation. Yet historically, at the best of times, great international powers and their important ministries have had leadership attention more focused on larger strategies and immediate crises. Over decades, institution-building has often taken priority over administrative reckoning and even basic accountability.1 Today, after 15 years of international involvement in Afghanistan, numerous books and studies have begun to emerge tracing personal, organizational, national, and international narratives and early assessments of emergency response, high intention, and ultimately unrealized outcomes. Diplomats, soldiers, analysts, advisers, contractors, and activists have published their stories. Almost all have included various critiques of why after September 2001 particular missions to Afghanistan succeeded only partially, struggled, were compromised, or failed.

By late 2016 Afghanistan continued to struggle. The state-building project had reached numerous limits. Transnational ideologies and drug trading continued to disrupt neighboring countries and global security. What explains the inability to create a self-sustaining sovereign state and economy after 15 years of the deployment of thousands of political and economic advisers, hundreds of thousands of military personnel, and many tens of billions of international investments in security, development, and nation-building? International Relations studies have focused upon external actors and foreign state meddling. Security related studies continue to chase the ghosts and incarnations of “terrorism.” Two new books, written from long-term perspectives and personal engagement with the region, offer additional assessment of recent international efforts to stabilize and transform Afghan state structures and local societies, while refusing to impose ultimate levels of coercion long identified with imperial and Cold War interventions.

Missionaries of Modernity places the post-2001 international intervention in Afghanistan within the context of a century of political, military, economic, imperial, and ideological advisory missions typically deployed by modern, industrialized states to foreign lands in a continuum of light to domineering imperial and ideological work. Antonio Giustozzi and Artemy Kalinovsky discuss numerous advisory and training missions, especially from the 1940s, and analyze them within a scholarly discussion of soft power, soft and hard hegemony, patronage (“clientelism”), coercion, and empire. Over many decades and countries, advisers, uninformed about host country culture and history, often lamented how efficiency and merit lost out to “corruption,” even as host rulers valued patronage distribution and political appointments as essential state-building tools. As Afghan president Hamid Karzai appointed and maintained loyalists in Afghanistan he would be critiqued by foreign advisers in patterns familiar across generations and continents.2 [End Page 309]

In A State Built on Sand, David Mans-field presents, from 20 years of fieldwork, empirical findings to help explain the complex and often disappointing outcomes of immense political and financial investments in antidrug policies in Afghanistan since 2001. He analyzes his data in conversation with the arguments of scholarly state-building and rural livelihoods literatures, as he also closely examines international drug control policies and initiatives. Mansfield studies in detail how the anti-poppy mission, one of the most complex and multinational advisory efforts in history, foundered as competing international, national, subnational, and local interests formed only temporary coalitions able to limit poppy production. In each of four case studies, the coalitions would ultimately fragment under various pressures, but especially from little understood dynamics of local and regional political economy grounded in issues of food security and the need for sustainable livelihoods.

Read together, the books offer deep assessment of and historical perspective upon recent Afghanistan advisory efforts. For policy-makers, the lessons available to be learned include how haphazardly trained and loosely integrated...


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pp. 309-312
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