Nojumi's study is organized around the rise and fall of centralizing, mobilizing regimes. After a brief backward look at King Amanallah, a would-be modernizer who ruled from 1919 to 1929, the author moves through Afghanistan's tormented history, from the overthrow of the monarchy and the rise of the communists in the 1970s to the present. Both the communists and the Taliban, polar opposites in their politics, failed in their Stalinist effort to impose a centralized order on Afghanistan. Yet the period in between the two was marked by the doleful inability of the several different mujahideen groups to create a durable political order after having achieved Soviet withdrawal. This failure paved the way for the Taliban. Woven into this history of abortive state-building is the constant of multifaceted outside intervention, ably reviewed in the chapter titled "Afghanistan in the International System." Not surprisingly, Nojumi concludes that state-building, needed even more now, requires a third movement "different from the radical communists and fanatic Islamists."