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 Post subject: Reading ...
PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2009 3:52 pm 
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In an effort better to understand the broader sweep of events (or some of them), I have been reading some of the earlier accounts of the campaigns in the Northwest Frontier. This extract from "The Story of the Malakand Field Force", by Winston Churchill (1901), writing of the campaign in 1897, is irresistible:

View full article here

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 Post subject: Re: Reading ...
PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2009 4:40 pm 
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As I said yonks ago...History isn't read any more and thus we learn nothing.
In a saner world...okay okay okay...one would have thought that, apart from the ignored required reading of Sun-tzu & Clausewitz at West Point, Sandhurst et al, top brass & strategists considering getting involved in AFG would have scoured the world's libraries & archives better to inform themselves from the older 'been there, done that' brigade.
I have never subscribed to the theory that experience has to be personal in order to learn a truth...that is pure self-delusion. Only a complete fool sticks his hand in the fre to confirm that it's hot, but we are drowning in idiots who know better.
I would seriously doubt that any of the commanders involved in the present tragic & bloody farce has a soupçon of the knowledge of 'therewasblight' for example.

More good reading: John Masters...among whose books "Bugles & a Tiger" (I think) is a more modern version of the Churchillian experience.

Henry Ford is reputed as having said: "History is Bunk!"...well, as he is himself now part of it, what would his opinion be today? :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: Reading ...
PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2009 4:46 pm 

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Henry Ford is bunk!
History PDT_Armataz_01_18

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 Post subject: Re: Reading ...
PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2009 5:11 pm 
Couldn't agree more with Sir Winston's write up.

Regarding Henry Ford, History is bunk is only part of his statement. Most of history is bunk, that which deals with inventions, discoveries and other major events are the only things that are important the rest not so much - hence bunk. Mr. Ford was a very driven man who focused his talents and mental energy only on those things that had a direct impact on his life. Therefore, going on about poetry, art, and other "high minded" but ultimately uninteresting and non-earth shattering issues was a waste of time. He has some merit to that belief, what impacted the world more...Longfellow or Mr. Ford and the Model T or his assembly line; Nitzche or Albert Einstein; Kirkegard or Thomas Edison.


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 Post subject: Re: Reading ...
PostPosted: Fri Oct 23, 2009 12:25 am 
An interesting point of the passage is the reference to the European religious wars and the impact of rationalism and the concept of humanity. This was forty years (or so) before the religious movement that was the National Socialists took over Germany...
Avatistic sentiments lurk in those unlit plateaus of the soul. Beneath the surface of rational, human Europe lay a brooding madness.


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 Post subject: Re: Reading ...
PostPosted: Fri Oct 23, 2009 12:40 am 
I've been re-reading the "Malakand field force" but as part of the compendium " Frontier wars" that Churchill wrote. That war in Afghanistan could be characterised as part of a "Forward policy". In 1895, what was "forward" was clear enough. It is not so now.


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 Post subject: Re: Reading ...
PostPosted: Fri Oct 23, 2009 1:18 am 
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DP111 wrote:
I've been re-reading the "Malakand field force" but as part of the compendium " Frontier wars" that Churchill wrote. That war in Afghanistan could be characterised as part of a "Forward policy". In 1895, what was "forward" was clear enough. It is not so now.


The expedition in which Churchill took part was a response to the Pashtun uprising, itself a response to the "Forward Policy". In fact, that policy never really got off the ground because, as Churchill pointed out, there was neither money nor the troops fully to implement it. Instead, we had a bastardised policy which embodied the maintenance of some forward positions, back by occasional punitive expeditions, and more ambitious incursions to put down the occasional uprising - but we never subdued the region. When, in 1947, the Pakistanis took over, they reverted to the Frontier Policy, which held until the Soviet invasion when they actively supported the tribes, and in particular the Taleban factions.

Our several and unsuccessful attempts to occupy Afghanistan were a part of the Forward Policy and, in the grander scheme of things, that is what we are doing now ... only the objective is to keep al Qaeda rather than the Russians out of the area (to say nothing of restricting Chinese economic imperialism and to prevent India using Afghanistan as a means of destabilising Pakistan). However we frame it though, we are as much an occupying force now as we were then and, however much we dress it up, that is how it will be perceived and projected by the local Islamic leaders, who want neither progress nor our brand of "civilisation". Thus, we are fighting Pashtun nationalism and the self-interest of the Mullahs, the combination of which has never yet been defeated - only temporarily suppressed. The moment troop levels are reduced in any area, it will revert to type.

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 Post subject: Re: Reading ...
PostPosted: Fri Oct 23, 2009 10:09 am 

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Quote:
However we frame it though, we are as much an occupying force now as we were then and, however much we dress it up, that is how it will be perceived and projected by the local Islamic leaders, who want neither progress nor our brand of "civilisation". Thus, we are fighting Pashtun nationalism and the self-interest of the Mullahs, the combination of which has never yet been defeated - only temporarily suppressed. The moment troop levels are reduced in any area, it will revert to type.


That was spot on. Which is why we need a smarter strategy based on going after the bad guys not nation building, I think Rumsfeld was correct, but its this need to be liked that leads us up the wrong avenue. Personally I feel that the Taliban having an area to protect against us makes sense, then we will see the same sort of damage applied to them as we saw in the US attack that removed them from power, the Taliban were decimated at that point, our objective is to kill their soldiers until the people there see that joining them is a quick way to die. This hearts and minds concept in Afghanistan is plain wrong, however I don't mean do a Russian blow everything up type approach, I mean a proper western style be careful blow up the bad guys only as much as possible approach.

But then again my view is that we are at war with Islam, with them having declared war on us, so that means I would manage the conflict to keep it under control, but would not shy away from making strategic decisions based on understanding Islams war on us.


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 Post subject: Re: Reading ...
PostPosted: Fri Oct 23, 2009 10:55 pm 

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Written of course before Europeans descended into warlike savagery the likes of which no Mohammedan culture has ever surpassed and which few Europeans expected and many such as Churchill possibly thought they were beyond. Such was the pax Britannica.


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 Post subject: Re: Reading ...
PostPosted: Sat Oct 24, 2009 12:33 am 
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Andrew wrote:
Written of course before Europeans descended into warlike savagery the likes of which no Mohammedan culture has ever surpassed and which few Europeans expected and many such as Churchill possibly thought they were beyond. Such was the pax Britannica.


The veneer of civilisation is but thin ... and from that savagery we have yet to fully to recover. We are still paying the price, which makes us a very poor role model for the "religion of war". However, it is probably fair to say that the Mohammedans would follow suit if they could, except that they have never been able to get sufficiently organised. They thus practice their own brand of savagery on a very much smaller and personal scale.

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 Post subject: Re: Reading ...
PostPosted: Sat Oct 24, 2009 1:10 am 
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Andrew wrote:
Written of course before Europeans descended into warlike savagery the likes of which no Mohammedan culture has ever surpassed


PDT_Armataz_01_22 Try harder. I suggest the Mongols. Timur being one example.

Quote:
In 1383 Timur started the military conquest of Persia. He captured Herat, Khorasan and all eastern Persia by 1385 and captured almost all of Persia by 1387. These conquests were characterised by exceptional brutality. For example, when Isfahan surrendered to Timur in 1387, he initially treated it with relative mercy as he commonly did with cities that surrendered without resistance. However, after the city revolted against Timur's punitive taxes by killing the tax collectors and some of Timur's soldiers, Timur ordered the complete massacre of the city, killing a reported 70,000 citizens. An eye-witness counted more than 28 towers, each constructed of about 1,500 heads.[18]


There were plenty of historical instances when these basically nomadic Islamic tribes massacred whole cities in South Asia and China.

As Dr. North says, they just aren't that organised recently to do as much damage, presumably because nomads have been marginalised by the power of large urban states.

Terrorism like assassination can be thought of as an extension of the nomadic raiding psyche - Al Qaeda just have political rather than wealth booty in mind.

Still there is some modern organisation - the Ottomans managed the Armenian genocide and the ethnic-cleansing of Greeks from Asia minor.

The North Africans the Barbary slave raids, the Arabs slavery from Sub-Saharan Africa.

More recently we were entertained with 8 year olds running in front of tanks as human minesweepers during the Iran-Iraq war which killed about a million, although this might not have gone on so long if we hadn't armed both sides.

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 Post subject: Re: Reading ...
PostPosted: Sat Oct 24, 2009 1:26 pm 
The “Forward policy of the 1890’s was clear. It was to prevent Russian expansion as well as keeping Afghanistan from brewing trouble in the Frontier region. What is not clear is why this or some variant of the above, should be the policy now.

What is the objective of stopping Chinese or Indian “Forward” policy. It serves no purpose to our interest – quite the contrary, as both the above have an interest in stamping down on Islamic fanaticism. The one thing that does make sense is that we unsettle al Qaeda, as well as unsettle Pakistan, as we force it to attack its religious compatriots, and thus weaken Islam, and its war against the unbeliever. The objective we must bear in mind is that a “Forward” policy in the days of easy air travel must be to defend the Home front i.e., the West. Our Frontier in the West is unlimited, and is everywhere on this planet. The object of our “Forward” policy in Afghanistan I suggest is to make an impact on the Home Front. This must be so, and it cannot be acknowledged, as it would defeat the purpose.


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 Post subject: Re: Reading ...
PostPosted: Sat Oct 24, 2009 2:10 pm 
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DP111 wrote:
The “Forward policy of the 1890’s was clear. It was to prevent Russian expansion as well as keeping Afghanistan from brewing trouble in the Frontier region. What is not clear is why this or some variant of the above, should be the policy now.

What is the objective of stopping Chinese or Indian “Forward” policy. It serves no purpose to our interest – quite the contrary, as both the above have an interest in stamping down on Islamic fanaticism. The one thing that does make sense is that we unsettle al Qaeda, as well as unsettle Pakistan, as we force it to attack its religious compatriots, and thus weaken Islam, and its war against the unbeliever. The objective we must bear in mind is that a “Forward” policy in the days of easy air travel must be to defend the Home front i.e., the West. Our Frontier in the West is unlimited, and is everywhere on this planet. The object of our “Forward” policy in Afghanistan I suggest is to make an impact on the Home Front. This must be so, and it cannot be acknowledged, as it would defeat the purpose.


I think there was much more to the Forward Policy ... which encompassed holding grounnd within the tribal regions. Contrasted with the Frontier Policy, which was basically defence and the perimeter, it was felt that it is was insufficient simply to react to the the period sweeps of the hill tribes down onto the plains - it was thus better to move into the tribal regions and "civilise" the tribes. As far as I can ascertain - and I'm still on a learning curve - the Afghan invasions were to ensure that the Afghan government was "on-side" and would not fall under Russian influence, and thus present a danger to India.

Where I see a parallel is that, within Afghanistan, there now is a choice between the Frontier Policy (counter-terrorisim) and the Forward Policy (counter-insurgeny). The parallels are not necessarily strong, but I do see certain similarities. In other words, the tribal regions policy argument is being transferred to Afghanistan proper.

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 Post subject: Re: Reading ...
PostPosted: Sat Oct 24, 2009 3:12 pm 
RAENorth

As one reads Churchill's accounts, either "The River Wars" or "The Malakand Field Force", it is quite clear that despite his admiration of the tenacity of Islam's warriors, he has no liking for their culture. In The Malakand Field Force, he looks at the tribes that occupy the SWAT region, and it is clear that he is sad that a once peaceful and productive Buddhist people have been annihilated by the fierce Moslem warriors that invaded the SWAT. That position remains throughout the book. He laments that a beautiful region, SWAT, has lost all its productivity because of the present occupiers. The fruit trees are gone. The ready hospitality of the Buddhist people for a lone traveller, is now replaced by the murder of the traveller. Nowhere do I see Churchill or the Govt of India, imbued with a sense of mission to civilise the Frontier people. They accept the futility of this enterprise. As we have seen in the last 30 years, even the full force of Russian totalitarian policy was insufficient to quell the tribes. Our present much softer approach (specially Obama's) will be seen as a sign of weakness, warranting greater Jihad, just as Gladstone's liberal policy was seen as a sign of weakness. Gen Bindon Blood's policy if the tribes did did not SUBMIT to the sirkar, was total destruction of villages enmasse, despoliation of the farms, occupation of same so the farmers/warriors could not plant. In a region lacking of resources, cut off from the rest of the world, a food shortage, and therefore a famine, would have led to the annihilation of the tribes. It was the realisation of this that made the tribes submit. However, neither Blood, Churchill or the GoI was under any illusion that the tribes would stick to the treaty. They would stick to it only so long as the threat of Blood's policy was in force.

Our Frontier policy (global, in an age of easy air travel), is essentially the same, ie to safeguard the Home Front, and callibrated for nations that have large Muslim populations, and are also in the front line in Afghanistan.

PS: How do get the "quote" thingy to work?


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 Post subject: Re: Reading ...
PostPosted: Sat Oct 24, 2009 3:33 pm 
DP111 wrote:
PS: How do get the "quote" thingy to work?


Press the "quote" button" of the post you want to answer ... that will open up a new form, in which the text of that post in embedded.

On guest posts, the code is disabled, so the moderator goes in afterwards and enables it on each post after it has gone up.


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