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Saturday, 10 March 2007

The Afghan Campaign .... 1897

Winston Churchill's first work of non-fiction, The Story of the Malakand Field Force, published in 1897, vividly details the slaughter made possible by British breach-loading arms against the hostile tribes still armed with muzzle loaders. Although the asymetry in 2007 is of air power and armour against the RPGs and Toyotas of the tribes, little else has changed in 110 years. Churchill comments
Mobilise, it is urged, a nice field force, and operate at leisure in the frontier valleys, until they are as safe and civilised as Hyde Park. Nor need this course necessarily involve the extermination of the inhabitants. Military rule is the rule best suited to the character and comprehension of the tribesmen. They will soon recognise the futility of resistance, and will gradually welcome the increase of wealth and comfort that will follow a stable government. Besides this, we shall obtain a definite frontier almost immediately. Only one real objection has been advanced against this plan. But it is a crushing one, and it constitutes the most serious argument against the whole "Forward Policy." It is this: we have neither the troops nor the money to carry it out.
On the question of a 'hearts and minds' strategy he says
From a general survey of the people and the country, it would seem that silver makes a better weapon than steel. A system of subsidies must tend to improve our relations with the tribes, enlist their interests on the side of law and order, and by increasing their wealth, lessen their barbarism. In the matter of the supply of arms the Government would find it cheaper to enter the market as a purchaser, and have agents to outbid the tribesmen, rather than to employ soldiers. As water finds its own level, so the laws of economics will infallibly bring commodities to the highest bidder. Doubtless there are many other lessons which the present war will have taught. These may lighten a task which, though long and heavy, is not beyond the powers or pluck of the British people.
So for arms, perhaps for poppies?

It was, after all, the enlightenment of British rule established early in the 20th century that founded an unprecedented period of stability in Afghanistan that lasted until 1973. As a nation, we're rather good at this sort of thing - in the words of the BBC advert, 'it's what we do'. Or as Churchill said

...the influence of that mysterious Power which, directing the progress of our species, and regulating the rise and fall of Empires, has afforded that opportunity to a people, of whom at least it may be said, that they have added to the happiness, the learning and the liberties of mankind.
Right, off to the boat.


Anonymous said...

Hello. And Bye.

Anonymous said...

What words..