Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Man Who Would Be King


In John Huston's The Man Who Would Be King (1975, adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's 1888 short story), British optimists trick their way into power in northeastern Afghanistan. It works in the short run, but . . .

Which should remind us that in Afghanistan, tribal fighting and guerrilla warfare is the norm and effective nationhood a non sequitur.

Earlier today (local time) during Mujahadeen Day ceremonies, pro-Western Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his large party were attacked by insurgents. This was no irony, this was deliberate. Mujahadeen (alt. Mujahideen or Mujahedeen) Day celebrates the defeat of a Soviet allied government in 1992. Folks, that's only sixteen years ago. Prior to that, the Soviets had tried direct occupation, pacification, and buildup of their local allies (exactly as the US is now attempting to do in Iraq and, as part of NATO, in Afghanistan today). The Soviets lasted ten years, 1979 into 1989, had a maximum troop strength insufficient to the task (about 105,000), and eventually pulled out after suffering approximately 15,000 killed and 53,000 wounded. Soon thereafter, the Soviet Union collapsed and morphed into something like its present configuration.



Bottom line: beware of men who would be king. Beware even more so of those who claim they'll be greeted as liberators -- with flowers. The bloodletting will continue. If NATO wants to succeed, they're going to need more than the approximately 50,000 troops now in country. And even then, there's absolutely no guarantee of long-term success. Are the citizens of NATO countries willing to pay the price? Or perhaps more importantly, taking the Soviet example, will we be able to pay the price?


Where have all the flowers gone?

Today's Rune: Flow.

11 comments:

the walking man said...

Afghani history is 2000, yes two thousand years of continual war. Either internal tribal conflict or some government seeing an easy road to the sea.

If Karzai were to be effective in uniting the nation, he would be the first in 2 millenia.

Unfortunately we taught bin Laden everything he knows about modern guerrilla tactic, so unless NATO does a radical unexpected shift in that arena, he is nearly out of reach with Taliban and warlord support.

Afghanistan is a microcosm of the larger world, eh?

Peace

mark

Anonymous said...

The guy next door is from Pakistan. He has a masters degree in international politics from the University of Karachi in Pakistan. He manages a Seven Eleven. Put me on my ass in one-on-one soccer. Couldn't hold a candle to me in ice hockey, though.--Peachy

Anonymous said...

A masterpiece of a film. Caine, Connery, directed by John Huston and a story by Kipling. They didn't botch it. Whenever two leading men(Caine, Connery) combine forces it doubles the pleasure. The best example of this cinematic truth is the great duo(s) of Robert Redford and Paul Newman in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "The Sting."--Oscar Winner

Charles Gramlich said...

No one remembers history, but history remembers.

Anonymous said...

Wow is mom upside down.--Jack Kerouac

Beth said...

Great post.

Lana Gramlich said...

As Charles has said (in a different light,) "Anyone who wants to be in power should not be allowed to be."

Bubs said...

Great movie. Great points.

A friend of mine just left last weekend for a year in Afghanistan, serving as a trainer for the Afghan police. I can't wait for the year to be over.

Johnny Yen said...

Vietnam had thrown out various invaders over thousands of years, including China and the French. We were just the next in line. It appears that it may be that way in Afghanistan.

Adam Lenk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adam Lenk said...

Good read. NATO must commit more troops. Success in Afganistan would mean a return of a lot of lost political capital for the United States. Sadly, the question is, what do we or NATO mean by success?