From Armed Forces Journal, Dan Greenon the Taliban’s political program; and can any nation cost-effectively battle jihadist networks in dozens of the most remote, austere and hazardous regions on Earth? Sucking up to dictators is harder than it looks: Simon Shuster goes inside the failed attempt to turn Turkmenistan, Central Asia's most insular regime. Lloyd Richardson reviews Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present by Christopher Beckwith. Sea slaves in Asia: Human traffickers kidnap men to work on fishing vessels. From Publishing Perspectives, an article on Turkmenistan’s tragicomic publishing revolution; and a short history of Turkmen literature. Reality-TV shows like Afghan Model are rewiring Afghan culture — for better and for worse. From Marx to Mohammed: A review of books on Central Asia. A look at how China is resetting the terms of engagement in Central Asia (and more). Riches in the near abroad: The West’s recession spurs China’s hunt for energy supplies in its own backyard. An interview with Kanat Saudabayev, Kazakhstan's foreign minister, on his country's unlikely new role as Europe's democracy watchdog. A review of In The Graveyard of Empires: America's War in Afghanistan by Seth G. Jones. Pattern and process among pastoralists: A review of books on early Eurasia. In Karakalpakstan, an obscure corner of central Asia where the waters of the Aral Sea have turned to desert, Jack Shenker finds a nation fleeing ecological disaster and authoritarian rule. Dictator-lit: Historically spurious and spiritually confused, Emomalii Rahmon's presidential history of Tajikistan plays fast and loose with notions of national identity.