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How the Cold War Came to Afghanistan

Date and Time: 
Thursday, January 31, 2019. 04:45 PM - 06:15 PM
Meeting Location: 
Humanities Center Boardroom
Workshop: 
Cold War In Asia: Culture, Technology, History
Meeting Description: 

No country was as devastated by the Cold War as Afghanistan, yet the historical understanding of how the global conflict came to Kabul remains tentative, generally limited to studies that begin in the late 1970s.  Scholars have generally treated the American role in pre-invasion Afghanistan as minimal, or have seamlessly connected Kabul's half-turn toward Moscow in the mid-1950s with the 1979 invasion.  Extensive research, however, demonstrates the profound impact Americans had in mid-century Afghanistan.  Based on multinational research, this paper will explore how Americans helped to bring the Cold War to the mountain kingdom in the early 1950s.  While the Truman administration considered Afghanistan marginal and strategically indefensible, a fateful combination of local initiative, misperception, and ideology helped to add the kingdom to the roster of Cold War battlegrounds, where it would remain until the conflict's end.

Robert Rakove is a historian who studies U.S. foreign relations, focusing particularly on the Cold War era.  He is a lecturer in Stanford University's Program in International Relations, and has previously taught at Colgate University and Old Dominion University.  His first book, Kennedy, Johnson, and the Nonaligned World, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2012.  He is presently at work on a study of the U.S.-Afghan relationship and the Cold War in Afghanistan before the Soviet invasion.  He received his doctorate in history in 2008 from the University of Virginia, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Mershon Center for International Security Studies at Ohio State University, at the University of Sydney's United States Studies Centre, and at the Hoover Institution.

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