So I am a bit late on posting this, but I would like to also put in my two cents about the panel on Tuesday night. Overall, I thought it was very rewarding and very educational. The contrast between "state-building" and "nation-building" was very interesting, especially in the context of Afghanistan and its history. I thought "state-building" made even more sense when presented with anthropological evidence of how Afghans behaved in the past. Many people, including myself, did not know that the complexities between local and state rules, and Afghanistan's intricate foreign policy.
Now I understand that, in Afghanistan, the phrase "all politics is local" really goes home. The traditional way Afghanistan was governed was by locality and the tribal or village head, not a national figure. This would have been good for U.S. diplomats to know when helping form the new more-centralized government of Karzai. Though the west and other societies are used to a federal or semi-centralized nature of a state, that was totally opposite in Afghanistan. The Afghans have their own way of decision-making. This local concept provides a challenge to "nation-building" but not necessarily to "state-building". One can build a strong state, through infrastructure and technology, but not necessarily a strong nation. A nation is a more abstract concept. However, I do feel that the U.S. should take this into account (if they haven't already) and provide more aid locally to promote a higher quality of life in these villages. If "all politics is local", then it is smart politics to stay local.
In addition, I enjoyed the panelists discussion on the power vacuum that would be opened if/when the U.S. leaves. It was interesting to hear that India would step up and take charge. An emerging power, India has been overshadowed by China. However, this would be India's chance to make a stand in world politics, though lets see if it actually happens.
Though I enjoyed the discussion, I feel that Professor Commins should have moderated more, as a majority of the time the speakers spoke for a very long time on one question. I did enjoy hearing their thoughts, but I feel the panel could have hit on more issues as well as more time for questions.
On the questions issue, I personally feel the Clarke Forum should have allotted more time for them. Though 2 of the 3 questions were interesting I thought the 3rd one (something about troop presence) was from someone who didn't completely understand the issues (not to be mean, but really?). There were many people, including myself, which had questions and I am sure understood the situation more.
I did benefit a lot from the speakers, and now I have a more in depth view on a very complex situation.