Michael Steele has an unfortunate tendency frequently to insert one of his feet into his mouth. Recently, during a speech at a Connecticut fund raising event, he shoved a foot all the way up to his ankle and as a result has now come within a hair’s width of losing his job as the Chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Speaking of the war in Afghanistan and President Obama’s involvement in that struggle Steele let loose with this warning about U.S. Involvement in that strange and hostile region(I won’t call Afghanistan a country because this collection of fiercely independent tribal areas is anything but what qualifies as a nation state).
“Keep in mind again, federal candidates, this was a war of Obama’s choosing.”‘ Steele began. “This is not something the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.” He went on to observe that if Obama is “˜such a student of history, has he not understood that you know that’s the one thing you don’t do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan? All right, because everyone who has tried, over a thousand years of history, has failed. And there are reasons for that.”
Wildly inaccurate, screeched both G.O.P. And Democrat Party critics, one in particular, one of those so-called Democratic strategists Fox likes to keep on the payroll to provide their fair and balanced coverage, who charged that Steele was flat wrong when he claimed that “because everyone who has tried, over a thousand years of history, has failed.
Not so said Democratic strategist whose name I don’t recall. He went on to cite the British experience in 1842 when, he insisted, the UK had scored a success. Either the Democratic strategist is woefully ignorant of what happened to the Brits in that year or he was flat out lying. He should try to tell that whopper to the descendants of the 16,000 British and Indian troops who were cut to pieces by Afghani tribesmen at the beginning of 1842
According to a report in Boston’s North American Review article “The English in Afghanistan”" published in in July of that year “On the 6th of January, 1842, the Caboul [Kabul] forces commenced their retreat through the dismal pass, destined to be their grave. On the third day they were attacked by the mountaineers from all points, and a fearful slaughter ensued”¦
“The troops kept on, and awful scenes ensued. Without food, mangled and cut to pieces, each one caring only for himself, all subordination had fled; and the soldiers of the forty-fourth English regiment are reported to have knocked down their officers with the butts of their muskets.
“On the 13th of January, just seven days after the retreat commenced, one man, bloody and torn, mounted on a miserable pony, and pursued by horsemen, was seen riding furiously across the plains to Jellalabad. That was Dr. Brydon, the sole person to tell the tale of the passage of Khourd Caboul.
“More than 16,000 people had set out on the retreat from Kabul, and in the end only one man, Dr. William Brydon, a British Army surgeon, had made it alive to Jalalabad. The garrison there lit signal fires and sounded bugles to guide other British survivors to safety, but after several days they realized that Brydon would be the only one. It was believed the Afghans let him live so he could tell the grisly story.”
If that’s a success story I’d hate to read one dealing with failure.
Writing about Afghanistan, legendary British correspondent, poet and author Rudyard Kipling penned this doleful warning to Brit soldiers.
“When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains
And the women come out to cut up what remains
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier
Go, go, go like a soldier …” Rudyard Kipling “The Young British Soldier”
As I wrote in July 2009, Afghanistan is a collection of tribal areas, each insanely jealous of its independence from the rest of this geographical monstrosity. That’s not to say they won’t join together to oust any foreign entity foolish enough to meddle with their cherished eighth-century lifestyle. They like things as they are and will unite and fight the kind of guerrilla warfare in which they excel when anyone attempts to subdue them.
That’s best described in the 2006 book “Insurgents, Terrorists and Militias “” The Warriors of Contemporary Combat” Columbia University Press, by Richard H. Schultz Jr. And Andrea J. Dew.
The authors describe the pattern of warfare that evolved during the British occupation, noting that when the cities fell to the Brits, “the tribal warriors, often mounted on horseback, melted into the craggy landscape,” and their native hills where they were “unreachable and undefeatable.”
According to the authors, while the British envoy was “puffing up success in Kabul” for the folks back home, the British military “was locked in an unending struggle” with the tribes in the south “and in the terrain west of Kabul, Uzbeks and Baluchi warriors roamed unchecked.”
Michael Steele seems to know his history. Note he’s not calling for a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, just warning, as has General David Petraeus, that road ahead is twisted and full of deadly pot holes.
Phil Brennan is a veteran journalist. He is editor & publisher of Wednesday on the Web (http://WWW.pvbr.Com) and was Washington columnist for National Review magazine in the 1960s. He also served as a staff aide for the House Republican Policy Committee and helped handle the Washington public relations operation for the Alaska Statehood Committee which won statehood for Alaska. He is also a trustee of the Lincoln Heritage Institute and a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers.
Phil can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org