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For those unfamiliar with the original painting, it depicts the lone, half-dead, English survivor of the First Anglo-Afghan War finally reaching safety. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Brydon.
George MacDonald Frasier has written an engrossing and historically accurate account in the first of his Flashman novels, “Flashman”. One of Frasier’s ancestors, Alexander Burns, tried to prevent the disaster and wound up deserted and butchered in Kabul for his pains.
Greedy empires don’t do very well in Afghanistan but evidently that lesson has to be relearned every few generations.
“His wife, Colina Maxwell Brydon, published a memoir of the siege.”
Can anyone find this memoir? Sounds interesting.
It’s title is “The Lucknow Siege Diary of Mrs. C.M. Brydon”. But it is apparently very rare. A library in Calgary has a copy. Project Gutenberg and The Internet Archive do not.
There are a lot of memoirs of the Siege of Lucknow–see here in OpenLibrary.com.
The siege went on for a long time, Lucknow was full of literate memsahibs, and the event was iconic. For a long time, in England the expression hearing “the pipes at Lucknow” meant the same kind of thing as “The US Cavalry coming over the hill” meant in America.
Perhaps our sponsor was showing us that the retreat from Kabul in 2021 was not the first?
A Study in Scarlet!
“Flashman” and “Flashman in the Great Game” are a great introduction to the region…as is Kipling..
“When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains, and the women come out to cut up what remains, jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains and go to your gawd like a soldier.”
Another gem, with a description of a campaign against the Pashtun, the people who make up the majority of today’s Taliban, is John Masters’ ” Bugles and a Tiger”, the autobiography of a young British officer with a Gurkha regiment in the late 1930’s.
Masters was a junior officer with the 4th Prince of Wales Own Gurkha Rifles. He was a career officer in the British Indian, not British, Army. He later served in Burma, first with the Chindits and then with the 19th Infantry division. After the war he emigrated to the United States, becoming a successful novelist.
“Bugles and a Tiger” is a great read. I’m not certain, but I may have found it on one of Greg’s book suggestion lists.
Masters also wrote “The Road Past Mandalay”, about his experiences in the Burma campaign. Another great read.
Indeed. And in the second volume of Masters’ memoirs, when he is a brigadier with the Chindits in Burma, there’s a passage where he’s pinned down by superior numbers of Japanese. The Gurkha NCO he’s with reassures him “if these were Pashtun we’d be in real trouble now”
I came across “Bugles …” at a friend’s many years ago. Having read that I then proceeded to read everything else Masters’ had written, both the two additional autobiographies and the novels. This would on the order of 30 years ago now. The power
of the reread may be overcoming me ….
The response to the catastrophe of the lost army was interesting. A punitive expedition invaded Afghanistan, beat the place up, and then got out. Which was, I seem to remember, the claimed point of the original American/NATO invasion. The Second Anglo-Afghan War was also a beat-’em-up invasion. The third was a war to expel the Afghans who had invaded India.
Mind you people seem to believe strange things about Afghanistan. “They beat Alexander the Great” I read. That’s not my memory of the history book I read. Alexander passed through Afghanistan successfully but got stuck when his troops refused to cross the Indus and press further into India.
Anyway, nobody expects Americans to learn any lessons from history but it was inexcusable for Britain to join in the silly bloody enterprise. But then the PM was Toni Blair, a man proud of his ignorance of history, and vain, and dim, and greedy.
Alexander had a tough time with the Sogdians, whose lands encompassed northern Afghanistan and whose descendants probably include the Tajiks and maybe some of the Pashtuns. But he still eventually defeated them despite his iron age Greek forces having mainly organizational rather than technological superiority and being at the far end of one of the longest logistical and communications lines of the pre-industrial world.
The Mongols seemed to have no meaningful problem conquering the entire region and subjugating it thoroughly. Ditto the Timurids, who owned the place so completely they could make cities there the basis for various late Timurid successor states and launch a campaign of conquest against India from there.
Not that I think for a second that these methods would be appropriate for the US/West- there’s not enough at stake for us to warrant all that.
” A punitive expedition invaded Afghanistan, beat the place up, and then got out”
As the Romans did as response to Arminius’ victory over them. Although they claimed losses from bad weather forced them to retreat.
When half the population marry their first cousins things turn out differently from cafe society expectations
That also happens under every other scenario.
He should have stopped at the first six words.
Afghanistan, he didn’t think about any more.
The thing to ask before invading mountainous regions is, “What is the GOAL of the invasion?” (Well really, that’s the thing to do before any action, but military actions especially, and difficult terrain regions even more so.)
If all you want to do is HURT them, the invader has a reasonable chance of success. Just make sure your commander isn’t an Elphinstone.
If what you want to do is RULE them, you have very little chance of success. Population is thin on the ground, there’s lots of routes for evasion and escape, and the locals know the area while the invaders don’t. To conquer, you have to cut down the mobility of the locals, and the number of troops to do this with is ridiculously high. Likely not worth it.
If you want to exterminate or enslave ALL of them, though, you’ve got a shot. It will still be quite expensive, but if you kill, or enslave & remove everyone you get your hands on, burn down all the villages, devastate the ecology (especially the food supply), you just might leave them with the choice of submission or starvation. Worked for the U.S. Army against the western Injuns, seems to have worked for the Ottomans for some centuries.
Naturally, the idiots in DC tried none of these options, thus dooming their effort.
Now that the opium business is shutdown, where will the CIA get money for its off-the-books black ops.
I’ve never seen any indication that actually happened.
And neither have you.
Well I have. Allegations of CIA drug trafficking https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allegations_of_CIA_drug_trafficking
It flat out happened in Nicaragua to fund the the Contras, the other reported cases are sketchy.
Just an amazing piece of history that should not be forgotten. The CIA prioritizing the war on communism over the war on drugs in Latin America. It happened but it I seriously doubt this craziness was repeated in any other place or since the fall of Russian communism which happened in 1992. It’s hard enough to believe that a US government agency coordinated a “guns in, drugs out” operation at any time in our past much less all over the place. Too many ex CIA planes crashed loaded with drugs, too many people talking, too much hard evidence to deny it happened.
The head of the DEA said, in public, that the CIA were trafficking drugs.
There is an astonishing amount of publicly available information, including Hollywood movies, on this topic. It’s not much of a secret.
How often it happens and where the money goes we don’t know.
So you can supply the quote. do so.
Which means neither of you have been to Afghanistan? Me either.
The Taliban were the cat’s paw of Pakistan. Having nignored that for 20 years, nothing should be a surprise.
Pakistan has supported them. wanna bet on just how obedient they will be?
With heavy Chinese influence which is looking like a possibility?
Probably very obedient (under that scenario).
Mark Steyn: “As Horowitz and Greenfield come very close to saying, if the Pentagon were working for the enemy, what would they have done differently?”
I dare say it’s an old sally. But why restrict it to the Pentagon?
OK, I give up. Who’s head is that?
You lying dog-faced pony soldier.
By the way, here’s some kewl stuff about Afghanistan in the 00s (extracts from Surprise, Kill, Vanish, by Annie Jacobsen)
A perfect candidate for democracy if I ever saw one.
The good news is that Afghanistan’s adult literacy rate is now a healthy 43 per cent (as per World Bank Data). That man’s village probably has at least three or four people who know how to read by now.
Just FYI, I thought Surprise, Kill, Vanish sounded interesting, so I did some research and found reviews in the New York Times and the Washington Post. Both called the book total rubbish.
Unlucky! Although I have seen certain things (like Afghanis not knowing how to count) repeated elsewhere.
I once came across the proposition that the seven Liberal Arts encompassed the skills that the general of an army in classical times would need.
Grammar: to write his reports and instructions
Logic: to determine his strategy
Rhetoric: to persuade and encourage his troops
Geometry: to plan the dispositions of his troops
Arithmetic: for calculations involving troops, food, and logistics
Astronomy: for navigation
Music: for the use of signals using trumpets and whatnot.
So, what are the Cochranian views of China on this matter?
Are the Chinese capable of educating the muslims of Afghanistan and make them more civilised?
Does our host agree with me “Islam is the biggest treat to Human Sapiens”.
Biggest threat? Of course not.
Islam is the biggest treat…
Threat, I presume.
One can live under the radar with Islam. Modern Wokeness will have us monitored 24/7. I suppose the two will combine and have us in a North Korean prison copying the Koran over and over for eternity.
Invading Afghanistan is easy. Alexander the Great did it without modern logistics. Obviously the Muslims did it too, and their culture stuck.
The British won their wars with Afghanistan. They never had any plans to annex it. They eventually lost India for totally unrelated reasons.
The Soviets and Americans lost for the same reason; from 10,000ft they’re the same type of country.
Somewhat unrelated but I am not sure where else I can post that, and I’d really appreciate your opinion on this paper by the Coop lab apparently explaining the poor portability of PRS across populations https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.09.10.459833v1
To me it seems like only one of the potential explanations but I am not really that well versed in popgen to know
Which city was described as having excellent relations between Moslems, Hindus, Christians, and Jews, with each walking in each other’s funeral processions and attending each other’s weddings; a colourful, prosperous place famously attractive to visitors? The year was 1833.
Kabul. (I learnt that only today. I am still shaking my head at it.)
Sarajevo was described back during the late years of the Cold War as being the very model of a peaceful multicultural society.
Beirut was happily multi-cultural too, until it wasn’t.