In this episode Phil Walter joins me to discuss some of the concepts laid out in his recent post on Blogs of War about ungoverned spaces and how they’re viewed from a national security perspective. His recent piece on Blogs of War challenges some of the lazy assumptions and imprecise thinking on the topic and we dig a little deeper, and explore the possible implications of it all, in this episode.
Phil has served in the military, the intelligence community, and the inter-agency. His written works are catalogued on Storify and archived at www.philwalter1058.com. I highly recommend them if you are at all interested in national security issues. You can follow him on Twitter @philwalter1058 and he is a member of the Military Writer’s Guild.The views expressed here are those of the participants alone and do not contain information of an official nature.
Regular Covert Contact listeners will recognize Francesca from episodes 9 and 17. This episode follows the same general format. We discussed the mood in Kabul, the emergence of ISIS and AQIS, and I asked her about the perception of both Iran and Russia (which has been particularly vocal about Afghanistan lately). We then move on to discuss her work supporting established and emerging artists in the country.
This was a particularly enlightening conversation for me because Francesca pushed back hard (appropriately I think) against my tendency to view work like hers in the context of international aid or counter-extremism efforts. There may be a place for art sponsored to support social or political agendas but Francesca’s work comes from a different place. She makes a very strong case for putting the art, and the artists, first. Afghanistan has a rich cultural heritage spanning thousands of years and talented artists working today. We should be able to appreciate the work without forcing it into the context of the current conflict.
In this episode I catch up with Francesca Recchia to get an update on life in Kabul, Afghanistan where, mostly thanks to the weather, life has been even more difficult than usual. But the conversation also shifts quickly to the subject of art, and artists, in the country. Francesca is working hard to develop cultural programs there and she explains how local artists view and approach their work in a conservative environment.
Episode nine focuses on the unusual work of Francesca Recchia. Francesca is an independent researcher and writer who has worked in many challenging places including Iraq, Pakistan, and Palestine. She is currently in Kabul and this episode features several daily updates that I asked her to record shortly after I started this project. Francesca’s work is the kind of activity that so often gets overlooked in the process of rebuilding a nation that has experienced significant conflict but cultural and intellectual pursuits are a direct reflection on the society in which they take place and, in the best of times, have enough influence to transform their environment. In creating a space where art and ideas can be pursued we are giving the best parts of humanity a foothold.