Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Imperial Grunts in Injun Country

"The suggestion that there is an analogy between the American Indian wars and the global role of the United States today is striking, and so is the comparison between those wars and the construction of the British Raj. In each case the resemblance is tenuous or nonexistent. The British presence in India involved many savage conflicts such as those surrounding the Indian Mutiny—which posed a serious threat to British rule in the mid-nineteenth century—and the Raj was always tainted by racism. Even so, throughout most of the colonial period a few thousand British officers were able to rule the continent without the large-scale use of military force. The primary goal of the Raj was to exploit India's resources, and so long as this process was uninterrupted the local population and its rulers were left largely to their own devices. In contrast, the goal of the American Indian wars was the expulsion of indigenous peoples from their lands, which in some cases resulted in the destruction of their way of life. Whether or not this can be described as genocide (as some have claimed) it was conquest of a different order from that imposed by the British on India". John Gray, in a critique of Robert Kaplan

All the grimmer in the light of increased role being required by the US of Nato (or a depleted coalition-of-the-willing part therefore: Brits but maybe not the Dutch) in SE Afghanistan. An analyst from Kings College, speaking on The World Tonight last night, was excessively diplomatic on the likely dangers of this development.

1 comment:

Caspar Henderson said...

The last time British troops were in Helmand was during the second Anglo-Afghan war in 1880, and it was a disaster. The Afghans sent the British packing after a bloodbath at the battle of Maiwand, halfway along the perilous present-day road between Lashkar Gah and Kandahar. Writing from his sick bed afterwards, one embittered officer blamed the boardroom generals commanding the operation from faraway India. "Playing chess by telegraph may succeed, but making war and planning a campaign on the Helmand from the cool shades of breezy Simla is an experiment which will not, I hope, be repeated," he said.

The Wild Frontier, Declan Walsh, 31 Jan,,1698587,00.html