Wednesday, October 14, 2009

From an old imperialist: a warning on Afghanistan

From the shadows of costly colonial battles:

Rudyard Kipling on the "savage wars of peace"
A Master Storyteller "rings a bell" of caution

What has been, that will be;
what has been done, that will be done.
Nothing is new under the sun.
Even the thing of which we say, "See, this is new!"
has already existed in the ages that preceded us.

Rudyard Kipling:
His Poetry
Rudyard Kipling: Biography
Rudyard Kipling: The White Man's Burden, 1899
Rudyard Kipling: Ford O' Kabul River, Second Afghan War
Rudyard Kipling: Arithmetic of the Frontier, 1886
Rudyard Kipling: The Man Who Would Be King, 1888
(A short story on imperialism, set partly in Afghanistan, based on Josiah Harlan)
Josiah Harlan, the American Quaker who would be Afghan king, 1838
Frederic A. Moritz: More Troops to Afghanistan?
Frederic A. Moritz: Will Obama Follow the Advice of Lord Roberts?
Disastrous British retreat to Gandamuk, First Afghan War, 1842
Victorious British March to Kandahar, Second Afghan War, 1880
Martini-Henry, the rifle which won the Second Afghan War
Edward Girardet, The Great Pretend Game
David Rohde, "Held by the Taliban," NYT, Oct. 17, 2009
(Video on growing anti-Americanism)


But first, Mr. President, at the suggestion of my friend Frederic A. Moritz, may I include these words:

"Be Wise and Careful, for what benefit a man if he drown in the same river as those who came before."

And now, Mr. President, below may I commend to you a favorite poem I have penned: "Ford 'Ol Kabul River."

I have chosen each word carefully, for those such as yourself.



(River disaster of the 10th Hussars: 46 drowned)

Kabul town's by Kabul river --
Blow the bugle, draw the sword --
There I lef' my mate for ever,
Wet an' drippin' by the ford.
Ford, ford, ford o' Kabul river,
Ford o' Kabul river in the dark!
There's the river up and brimmin', an' there's 'arf a squadron swimmin'
'Cross the ford o' Kabul river in the dark....

Kabul town'll go to hell --
Blow the bugle, draw the sword --
'Fore I see him 'live an' well --
'Im the best beside the ford.
Ford, ford, ford o' Kabul river,
Ford o' Kabul river in the dark!
Gawd 'elp 'em if they blunder, for their boots'll pull 'em under,
By the ford o' Kabul river in the dark.



Arithmetic of the Frontier, 1886
(on the Second Afghan War)

...A scrimmage in a Border Station—
A canter down some dark defile—
Two thousand pounds of education
Drops to a ten-rupee jezail
The Crammer's boast, the Squadron's pride,
Shot like a rabbit in a ride!

No proposition Euclid wrote,
No formulae the text-books know,
Will turn the bullet from your coat,
Or ward the tulwar's downward blow
Strike hard who cares—shoot straight who can—
The odds are on the cheaper man.

One sword-knot stolen from the camp
Will pay for all the school expenses
Of any Kurrum Valley scamp
Who knows no word of moods and tenses,
But, being blessed with perfect sight,
Picks off our messmates left and right.

With home-bred hordes the hillsides teem,
The troop-ships bring us one by one,
At vast expense of time and steam,
To slay Afridis where they run.
The "captives of our bow and spear"
Are cheap—alas! as we are dear.


From The Naulahka:

"Now it is not good for the Christian's health to hustle the Aryan brown.

"For the Christian riles, and the Aryan smiles and he weareth the Christian down;

"And the end of the fight is a tombkstone white with the name of the late deceased.

"And the epitaph drear: 'A Fool lies here who tried to hustle the East.'"

So MR. PRESIDENT -- If onward you must go:

"Take up the White Man's burden--
The savage wars of peace--
Fill full the mouth of Famine,
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
(The end for others sought)
Watch sloth and heathen folly
Bring all your hope to nought."


f you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

"If you can dream -- and not make dreams your master;
If you can think -- and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools;

"If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

"If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings -- nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run --
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And -- which is more -- you'll be a Man, my son."


Britain won the Second Afghan war, but at great cost.
See a representation of Rudyard Kipling in this
video of "The Man Who Would Be King,"
a tragic allegory for Britain's involvement
in Afghanistan

Joshua Harlan, American "Quaker" --


Images of Afghan resistance to
British incursions, 1839 to 1919

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