Rory Stewart is Chairman of the Defence Committee of the House of Commons and the author of The Places in Between, among other books. He was previously the Ryan Professor of ­Human Rights at the Harvard Kennedy School.


Lessons from Afghanistan

The storming of Kabul Gate by the British in 1839; nineteenth-century English watercolor
Diana Preston’s The Dark Defile describes the disastrous occupation of Afghanistan by Britain from 1839 to 1842. This is a well-known story—depicted in grand nineteenth-century canvases (Remnants of an Army), 1960s comedies (Flashman), and a flurry of books with Victorian titles, published or republished to coincide with our current Afghan …

Walking with Chatwin

Bruce Chatwin

The publication of Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines in 1987 transformed English travel writing; it made it cool. For the previous half century, travel writing seemed to consist either of grim, extended journeys through desolate landscapes or jokes about foreigners. But Chatwin was as attractive as a person as he was as a writer. The New York Times review of The Songlines ran: “Nearly every writer of my generation in England has wanted, at some point, to be Bruce Chatwin, wanted to be talked about, as he is, with raucous envy; wanted, above all, to have written his books.” I was no exception. Aged twenty, I thought that even his untruths were immensely erudite.

Afghanistan: What Could Work

An Afghan woman at a Shiite cemetery in Kabul, 2001; photograph by Abbas from In Whose Name? The Islamic World After 9/11, a collection of his recent images from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and other countries, just published by Thames and Hudson
Cool poker-players, we are tempted to believe, only raise or fold: they only increase their bet or leave the game. Calling, making the minimum bet to stay, suggests that you can’t calculate the odds or face losing the pot, and that the other players are intimidating you. Calling is for …

The Queen of the Quagmire

When the British needed a senior political officer in Basra during World War I, they appointed a forty-six-year-old woman who, apart from a few months as a Red Cross volunteer in France, had never been employed. She was a wealthy Oxford-educated amateur with no academic training in international affairs and …

Iraq: The Question

Rory Stewart is chief executive of the Turquoise Mountain Foundation, a non-profit organization in Kabul devoted to social and urban redevelopment in Afghanistan. A former member of the British Foreign Office, he served, from 2003 to 2004, the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq as Deputy Governor of the southern provinces …