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Empires of Mud: Wars and Warlords in Afghanistan Hardcover – November 9, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0231700801 ISBN-10: 0231700806
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Editorial Reviews

Review

The first book to provide a political sociology of warlordism in Afghanistan. In the words of Antonio Giustozzi, the purpose of this book is to understand in detail the expansion, disintegration, and operation of warlord polities. More specifically, what is warlordism? How and why did it take root in Afghanistan? What were its effects on the Afghan polity and society? How did warlordism change as a result of challenges first from the Taliban and then from international intervention in 2001? And finally, how does a fine-grained analysis of warlordism throw new light on current political and theoretical debates? This book will become required reading for those studying this phenomenon, especially the special case of Afghanistan.

(Jonathan Goodhand, School of Oriental and African Studies)

Review

Antonio Giustozzi's books and articles on Afghanistan are uniformly penetrating, and this work is no exception. The issue of warlordism in conflict is one of the most challenging that can be confronted in both conceptual and practical terms, and Giustozzi has contributed significantly on both fronts. Empires of Mud is an enlightening study, which in its detailed appraisal of two major Afghan cases adds valuably to the literature on developments in that country since the communist coup of April 1978-an event that sent Afghanistan into a tailspin from which it has yet to recover.

(William Maley, author of Rescuing Afghanistan)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (November 9, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231700806
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231700801
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,424,598 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By M. R. on April 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book is filled to the brim with names and dates that even to the experienced scholar can prove to be overwhelming. It's difficult to read, as it attempts to provide a complex history by showering as many proper nouns as possible onto the reader. For the casual reader wishing to learn more about Afghanistan, a more mainstream work like Ahmed Rashid's Descent into Chaos (or for the Mujahideen period, Steve Coll's Ghost Wars) may be a better choice.
At the same time, Guistozzi has done some really great research and provides a compilation of research that can help those wishing to delve deeper into Afghan history. He brings the useful insight of one who has really explored the spheres of the warlords with an academic eye, and he offers a wealth of new knowledge about their histories. For those wishing to really understand the warlord phenomenon and who have some time to work through this book, its a necessary read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Brad on January 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I disagree with the other reviewers. Giustozzi opens a fascinating dialogue of the role of warlords in the state building process and with it-clearly explains the errors the international community is making in Afghanistan and why after 10 years we still do not understand this complex (but simple at the same time) culture. Warlords are a true reality of Afghan society and they are often times barbaric. Despite this, they have legitimacy, and must be dealt with delicately, which is exactly what President Karzai has done over the past decade. Although the middle of the book is very academically written the first few chapters are so well written that I found interesting points in nearly every sentence. I highly recommend this book for the serious diplomat, soldier, or student of Afghanistan. A basic understanding of Poltiical Science, Intl Relations and state-building in history is likely a prerequisite to get something out of this book. 5 stars for the serious academic.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rob Blair on December 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Giustozzi has written a handful of interesting articles about Afghanistan, but his book is a disappointment throughout: the narrative is scatter-brained, the conceptual framework is insipid, the analysis is uninsightful, and the writing is nearly unintelligible. Far better treatments of Afghanistan (including the history of Afghan warlordism) are available: skip Giustozzi and go for Rubin's "The Fragmentation of Afghanistan" or (better yet) Barfield's "Afghanistan" instead.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Creative Loafer on April 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is difficult to read and provides little insight. The author skips back and forth from information from whole different time periods of the 1980's, 1990's, and 2000's. Since the subject is Afghan warlords, it matters a lot when they were -for example- opposing the government. The sections on General Dostum and Ismail Khan provide a certain amount of information but little analysis or other useful takeaway.
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