Posted in Guest posts · Master's blog

On Friday 17th October 2014, Fitzwilliam was treated to a lively discussion, provoked by the visit of Ahmed Rashid (English and SPS 1968) to take part in one of our series “In Conversation with the Master”. Undergraduate Grace Carroll (PPS 2011, MST 2014) here gives her response to the event:

Famous for his books on the politics and affairs of Central Asia – with special focus on Pakistan and Afghanistan – Ahmed Rashid spent much of his introductory talk looking at the repeated failure of modernisation and democratisation in that part of the world. He explored the role of Western states such as the US and the UK in accentuating the challenges faced by various countries in creating strong democratic institutions or modern economic structures. As a student whose subject focus has been war, revolution and imperialism, I found such a commanding yet accessible summary of events and issues facing the region very insightful.

Ahmed Rashid and the Master, Nicky Padfield

Ahmed Rashid and the Master, Nicky Padfield

The Middle East is currently dominating international news due to the activities of ISIS, in what many have seen as rather sudden rise to prominence. However, Rashid commented that these events are best seen as the cumulative result of years of chaotic, short-sighted foreign policy towards the Middle East by the West, frequently failing to take into account the particularities of a country’s political culture and recurrently pulling campaigns out too early, leaving a power vacuum. Citing the US’s haphazard policy in Afghanistan, Rashid described how the US granted local warlords the power to run the country whilst the Pentagon focused attention on the Iraq campaign – resulting in a chaotic political situation that was an incubator of tribalism and extremism.

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Nicola Padfield

About Nicola Padfield

Nicola Padfield MA, Dip Crim, DES became Master of Fitzwilliam College in October 2013. She is a Reader in Criminal and Penal Justice at the Law Faculty, University of Cambridge, and has been a Fellow of Fitzwilliam College since 1991.