Nayan Chanda Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley
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What is the role and responsibility of an international journalist confronting this kind of dynamic in today's world? What is the special responsibility that you have in telling the story and clarifying the issues?
This is exactly that. I think we need to make people aware of the hopes, desires, fears, ambitions of people. I think the knowledge about different countries, cultures, history, is critical in understanding why a conflict emerges and what can be done, perhaps even to prevent it from coming to a critical situation when it cannot be stopped anymore. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, a decade has gone by where the world hasn't really tried, and developed countries haven't tried to understand what is ticking, what is causing all this ethnic nationalism, linguistic nationalism, what is pushing these people to do what they're doing. They're being treated as symptoms. Symptoms are being treated -- you douse fire somewhere and go home, and another fire starts. But there is no long-term thinking as to what could be the reason why all the small fires are breaking out here and there.
I read in your descriptions that, in some way, the chickens come home to roost in a lot of these [great power interventions], because what a great power may do one day may come back to haunt it the next day, as in the case of Afghanistan.
Absolutely. Because even the Taliban, even the Mujahedeen, their victory on the Russians, one of the elements that people say was critical was the supply of Stinger missiles. Ninety Stingers never came back. And some of those Stingers are, perhaps, still operational and pose a deadly threat to the navigation.
One final question. What would be your advice to students as they prepare for the future, maybe for journalism, but also to help them understand the world that they're going to confront?
I think area studies is absolutely very important. Understanding people, their history, because a lot of people may not read the history of their own country, but they carry on memories transmitted by previous generations. They're trying to achieve something, [they] have their mission and anger -- all this is fed by past experience of history. Without understanding a country's history, you are not going to understand what to do.
You're also suggesting your own country's history, because that becomes critical in understanding the history of other peoples.
Well, Nayan, thank you very much for joining us for this conversation with history. And thank you very much for being with us.
Thank you, Harry.
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