Missionaries of Modernity: Advisory Missions and the Struggle for Hegemony in Afghanistan and Beyond.

Author:Motani, Nizar A.
Position:GENERAL STUDIES - Book review
 
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Giustozzi, Antonio and Artemy, Kalinovsky. Missionaries of Modernity: Advisory Missions and the Struggle for Hegemony in Afghanistan and Beyond. London: Hurst, 2016.

Missionaries of Modernity: Advisory Missions and the Struggle for Hegemony in Afghanistan and Beyond, a survey of civilian and military advisory and mentoring missions since the 1940s, covers a range of case studies beginning with a discussion of US advisory missions to Nationalist Chinas Kuomintang government and ending with an analysis of events in contemporary Iraq. Nevertheless, the primary focus of the study is Afghanistan, especially during the Soviet (1979-1989) and the United States (since 2001) periods of occupation. The sections on Afghanistan are based on new research, while the sections covering the other case studies are culled, for the most part, from the existing literature.

Antonio Giustozzi, a Visiting Professor at London's King's College, and Artemy Kalinovsky, an Assistant Professor of East European Studies at the University of Amsterdam, contend that the roles of advisers and mentors are often overlapping and confusing. They argue that in the "real world there is often much confusion between the two" (21). In an attempt to delineate between the two groups, Guistozzi and Kalinovsky explain that "mentors practice a form of on-the-job training and focus on developing the skills of the individuals," whereas advisors are "focused on the organization within which individuals operate" (21).

The authors highlight how large-scale missions have been particularly problematic, causing friction with the hosts and sometimes even undermining their legitimacy. Small missions, staffed by more carefully selected cadres, appear instead to have produced better results. Nevertheless, whether the missions are staffed by advisers or mentors, large or small, their failure to accomplish their tasks is frequently due to the lack of proper knowledge of the host country's history and culture. Western expatriates in Afghanistan were isolated in their fortified compounds and insulated from the realities of the people they had come to assist. The Afghan leaders took advantage of rivalries among donor countries and often got the same aid from multiple...

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