Saturday, January 17, 2009

Churchill on Afghanistan

There was a tip in the comments section recently to read Winston Churchill's account of Afghanistan from 1898. PBS Frontline had an excerpt from Chapter 1, which makes me want to get the whole book. (excerpt)

Every influence, every motive, that provokes the spirit of murder among men, impels these mountaineers to deeds of treachery and violence. The strong aboriginal propensity to kill, inherit in all human beings, has in these valleys been preserved in unexampled strength and vigour. That religion, which above all others was founded and propagated by the sword -- the tenets and principles of which are instinct with incentives to slaughter and which in three continents has produced fighting breeds of men -- stimulates a wild and merciless fanaticism. The love of plunder, always a characteristic of hill tribes, is fostered by the spectacle of opulence and luxury which, to their eyes, the cities and plains of the south display. A code of honour not less punctilious than that of old Spain, is supported by vendettas as implacable as those of Corsica.

It's a little naive to expect nation building and democracy to work there. I was open minded about it at first, but it's been almost eight years now and it hasn't miraculously turned into a western style peaceful democracy. Time to be realistic and start downgrading expectations.

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