January 2, 2013

"Alexander the Great arrived in the area of Afghanistan in 330 BC after defeating Darius III of Persia a year earlier at the Battle of Gaugamela."

"His army faced very strong resistance in the Afghan tribal areas where he is said to have commented that Afghanistan is 'easy to march into, hard to march out of.'"

"Afghanistan was conquered by the Maurya Empire, which was led by Chandragupta Maurya from Magadha... [A]s he was going to war with the generals of Alexander, a wild elephant of great bulk presented itself before him of its own accord, and, as if tamed down to gentleness, took him on its back, and became his guide in the war, and conspicuous in fields of battle."

"Arab armies carrying the banner of Islam came out of the west to defeat the Sasanians in 642 CE and then they marched with confidence to the east. On the western periphery of the Afghan area the princes of Herat and Seistan gave way to rule by Arab governors but in the east, in the mountains, cities submitted only to rise in revolt and the hastily converted returned to their old beliefs once the armies passed."

"From the 16th century to the early 18th century, Afghanistan was divided in to three major areas.... The Kandahar region in the south served as a buffer zone between the powerful Mughals and Safavids, and the native Afghans often switched support from one side to the other."

"King Amanullah Khan moved to end his country's traditional isolation in the years following the Third Anglo-Afghan war. He established diplomatic relations with most major countries and, following a 1927 tour of Europe and Turkey (during which he noted the modernization and secularization advanced by Atatürk), introduced several reforms intended to modernize Afghanistan."

"Amid charges of corruption and malfeasance against the royal family and poor economic conditions created by the severe 1971–72 drought, former Prime Minister Mohammad Sardar Daoud Khan seized power in a non-violent coup on July 17, 1973, while Zahir Shah was receiving treatment for eye problems and therapy for lumbago in Italy."

"In response to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the Carter administration and Reagan administration in the U.S. began arming the Mujahideen.... The 10-year Soviet occupation resulted in the killings of between 600,000 and two million Afghans, mostly civilians."

"The Taliban started shelling Kabul in early 1995 but were defeated by forces of the Islamic State government under Ahmad Shah Massoud... [W]hile trying to consolidate control over northern and western Afghanistan, [the Taliban] committed systematic massacres against civilians.... Bin Laden's so-called 055 Brigade was responsible for mass-killings of Afghan civilians.... [E]yewitnesses in many villages describ[ed] Arab fighters carrying long knives used for slitting throats and skinning people.... Of roughly 45,000 Pakistani, Taliban and Al Qaeda soldiers fighting against the forces of Massoud only 14,000 were Afghans."

"In early 2001 Massoud addressed the European Parliament in Brussels asking the international community to provide humanitarian help to the people of Afghanistan. He stated that the Taliban and Al Qaeda had introduced 'a very wrong perception of Islam' and that without the support of Pakistan the Taliban would not be able to sustain their military campaign for up to a year. On this visit to Europe he also warned that his intelligence had gathered information about a large-scale attack on U.S. soil being imminent."

***

And so we continue to the 2d day of this 206 day project, reading the "History of..." Wikipedia page for the 206 countries of the world. Yesterday's country, like many of the countries we'll encounter (in alphabetical order), was Abkhazia, much more obscure to us than today's country, a place we've been hearing about continually for the past decade. And yet, how much do we really know about Afghanistan? I've extracted a handful of sentences, all from before this last decade, in an effort to create a faint sense how little we know.

108 comments:

ricpic said...

Al was the first multiculturalist. Which is kinda ironic given that he was only able to conquer the known world because the army he led was composed of Macedonians and only Macedonians, witness its cohesive effectiveness against the mongrel low morale armies of the Persians.

rhhardin said...

Warburon said that the elephant is the only animal with nothing ridiculous about it.

traditionalguy said...

Alexander of Macedonia would not stop until someone stopped him.

Winning beats losing. But Alexander's men wanted out of the Afghan mountains. They saw no reason to stop there and govern the people...for what?

So the Greeks went on over into India and then came back across the Saudi Arabian deserts...but unlike us they were not stupid enough to stay in Afghanistan.

alan markus said...

For years my fantasy is that if I win the lottery, I'm going to buy a ranch and populate it with working elephants - the kind that move trees, put up circus tents, etc.

Hagar said...

For several centuries after Alexander there were kingdoms in Afghanistan and what is now eastern Pakistan that issued Greek type coins with Greek lettering and headdresses, etc.

Nonapod said...

. The 10-year Soviet occupation resulted in the killings of between 600,000 and two million Afghans, mostly civilians.

It's kind of interesting that we've been in Afghanistan even longer than that and we still haven't racked up anywhere near those numbers.

Tank said...

Yes, the Russians are even better at killing civilians (and soldiers) than we are. But, we've been practicing.

Mitch H. said...

So the Greeks went on over into India and then came back across the Saudi Arabian deserts...but unlike us they were not stupid enough to stay in Afghanistan.

So, you've never heard of Bactria? The Greeks didn't just invade what eventually became Afghanistan, they colonized it extensively, with a string of explicitly hellenized cities, more Greek than Greece.

Hagar said...

If you can choose who to be attacked by, pick the Americans.

66 said...

I'm sorry, but reading ". . .to defeat the Sasanians in 642 CE" just distracted me from the whole post. CE is such a weird construct. "Common Era" is bizarre and meaningless. I suppose the idea is that dating things from the time of Christ is offensive. Or at least admitting that such dating takes place by using "AD" is offensive. But isn't CE still just dating things from the time of Christ without admitting it? The CE crowd should give it up and either use AD or date things from some other event.

I have devoted too much time to this (hopefully Ann won't consider me so off topic as to warrant deletion). But can you see why I was distracted?

rhhardin said...

Alexander the Great killed more diffent kinds of people than anybody ever has, according to Will Cuppy.

St. George said...

"[A]s he was going to war with the generals of Alexander, a wild elephant of great bulk presented itself before him of its own accord, and, as if tamed down to gentleness, took him on its back, and became his guide in the war, and conspicuous in fields of battle."

What a lot of bullshit.

Sounds like F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote it. Perhaps while writing as Jean de Brunhoff.

wyo sis said...

I'm not sure about Afghanistan, but the United States would be better off if everyone had heeded Alexander the Great's advice.

Rocketeer said...

Would it be pedantic of me to point out that "Kandahar" is actually named after Alexander?

Mitchell the Bat said...

Even if he had never won a single battle, Alexander would still deserve to be known as "the Great" for having invented the cocktail that bears his name.

Rocketeer said...

So, you've never heard of Bactria?

Shhhh. You're harshing the narrative.

Michael K said...

The phalanx that Alexander used was invincible until the Romans modified it to become more mobile as the Legion. The phalanx consisted of a long line of multiple ranks with spears and shields. The legion was the same arrangement but broken into squares of 100 men, commanded by a "centurion." This pattern for infantry persisted until the American Civil War when rifles made it obsolete

ad hoc said...

And therein lies ones of the prblems with history - it's not like we learn from it.

TosaGuy said...

"CE is such a weird construct. "Common Era" is bizarre and meaningless."

An easy fix....

C.E. = Christ exists

B.C.E. -- Before Christ existed

traditionalguy said...

Mitch H...Yes the Greeks tried their hand at ruling the conquered Afghan areas as colonies of vassal states but it was too costly and continually frustrating to be considered anything more than Alexander's Greatest Failure.

Michael said...

Alexander would have had no problem with the Afghans had he our firepower. The received opinion that they are unbeatable resides in the lack of ruthlessness of their modern attackers.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Yesterday's country, like many of the countries we'll encounter (in alphabetical order), was Abkhazia, much more obscure to us than today's country, a place we've been hearing about continually for the past decade.

So, many of the countries we'll encounter will be ... Abkhazia?

Michael said...

Alexander would have had no problem with the Afghans had he our firepower. The received opinion that they are unbeatable resides in the lack of ruthlessness of their modern attackers.

Balfegor said...

re: wyo sis:

I'm not sure about Afghanistan, but the United States would be better off if everyone had heeded Alexander the Great's advice.

I'm not sure that's "advice" so much as a comment to future conquerors that when you conquer Afghanistan, as of course you will (seeing as it's right in the sweet spot between the riches of India, Persia, and Samarkand), be prepared to reconquer them over and over even though they're a pushover the first go round. Something similar happened to Babur, the first Mughal Emperor, who conquered and reconquered Kabul at least three times in his career. I think his son Humayun had to do the same thing at least once.

Balfegor said...

So, many of the countries we'll encounter will be ... Abkhazia?

I look forward to the entries on Somaliland, Ossetia, and the Nagorno-Karabakh.

CWJ said...

Rocketeer,

Good one. Also, the common given name Sikander is the local corruption of Alexander. I dated a girl named Sikandra. - her Dad's feminization of Sinkander.

For a guy who effectively was just passing through, AtheG sure impressed the locals.

Balfegor said...

Re: Michael:

Alexander would have had no problem with the Afghans had he our firepower. The received opinion that they are unbeatable resides in the lack of ruthlessness of their modern attackers.

Yes, those Communists . . . so gentle, so merciful, so humanitarian!

On the other hand, I suppose they didn't just glass the country with nuclear fire, so there is that.

Alex said...

Alexander The Great is the only conqueror in history to have never suffered a single defeat. Only disease beat him.

Shouting Thomas said...

[E]yewitnesses in many villages describ[ed] Arab fighters carrying long knives used for slitting throats and skinning people....

You gotta admire that dramatic flair! The Arabs seem to want to kill people damned good and proper, and they seem to prefer to leave a well mutilated corpse for emphasis.

We Americans seem to prefer bureaucratic killing. We like to convince ourselves that we killed the bastards cleanly and from a distance.

Alex said...

Balfegor - if the Soviet Union wasn't constrained by world public opinion they would have glassed the place.

Michael said...

Balfegor. The Russians lacked both Alexander's resolve as well as his ferocity. Further, the Russian conscripts were not as committed shall we say to the task as A's would have been.

virgil xenophon said...

Time to rent The Man Who Would Be King again--a GREAT, perhaps unparalleled movie..

traditionalguy said...

Correct me if I can't see what winning a war in Afghanistan does for the winner.

1) The real estate is worthless and only holds the earth together.

2) The locals mountain tribes are the essence of trained guerillas dedicated to committing horrible murderers on all outsiders that come there.

3) Chasing Kites is not that entertaining, and

4) Nobody cares if you win against the ignorant and fire-powerless but everyone talks if you lose to them, and

6)Our actual enemies will be laughing at us while we bury the next 11 years of ambushed young American heroes we sent there for... well nothing.


Chuck Currie said...

The Scythian's tore up Alexander's vaunted phalanx. He consequently reconfigured his army accordingly.

If it wasn't for his mechanized javelin launchers, which scared off the Scythian horsemen, his campaign may have ended in northern Afghanistan.

Cheers

SteveR said...

Needless to say, there was a very good reason for us to go to Afghanistan in 2001 as there was a very good reason for Bin Laden to be there.

I suspect the list of 206 countries will not survive to be completely reviewed. On this very day some dude with an SUV is marking his territory.

Rusty said...

Alex said...
Balfegor - if the Soviet Union wasn't constrained by world public opinion they would have glassed the place.

Not too constrained. They did lay mines specifically designed to attract and kill/maim children.

Richard Dolan said...

If Ann had collected stamps as a kid, she wouldn't be so focused on this Wikipedia-led tour of the world. But it has its charms nonetheless. One of them is how it offers a twist on Ogier P.'s story, reading through the library books beginning with A. That didn't end so well for the Autodidact, of course, but Ann is likely to do better.

The Drill SGT said...

Althouse,

one can't talk about the History of A-stan without mentioning the Brits.. If not, you can't quote Kipling and that would be tragic or speak of the unspeakable. the Retreat from Kabul. Or the heroism of the Last Stand of the 44th, the distruction of Elphinstone's Army (16 thousand left Kabul. One brit made it down the pass. one...)

RazorSharpSundries said...

The Soviets didn't use nuclear weapons in Afghanistan for the same reason the U.S. didn't in Korea or Vietnam: Deterrence. The U.S.S.R. never gave a fig for world opinion.

edutcher said...

A-stan is one of those places nobody would know about if it wasn't on the road to someplace else a lot cooler.

Kind of like Trenton.

Michael K said...

"one can't talk about the History of A-stan without mentioning the Brits.."

I have read that the troops in A-stan are reading Churchill's The Story of the Malakand Field Force". In Iraq they read his "The River War." The names of the villages are even the same. I have them both.

Pettifogger said...

"The Afghan Campaign" by Stephen Pressfield is a great book. It is about Alexander's campaign there, not ours. One thing I took from it is how little has changed about Afghanistan since the time of Alexander.

Lem said...

There was also that picture of the girl from Afghanistan with the captivating eyes.

Later, looks like she hit a wall.

Balfegor said...

RE: Michael K:

I have read that the troops in A-stan are reading Churchill's The Story of the Malakand Field Force". In Iraq they read his "The River War." The names of the villages are even the same. I have them both.

But . . . the River War is about the Sudan, not Iraq. I can see how actions on the Northwest Frontier of the Raj parallel actions in Afghanistan today, since the NWFP and NE Afghanistan are all part of that same messy tribal area. And the key passes and villages and so on will be the same.

But I'm not sure how the reconquest of the Sudan gives particular insight into Iraq. Village names will also not be the same in the Sudan and Iraq other than by coincidence.

Old Dad said...

Don't forget Mahmud of Ghazni, the Sword of Islam. When he stormed through the Kush and let his sword loose on the Hindus, they never forgot. Ask the Pakis.

Nonapod said...

Along with all 206 countries you should also post about Micronations.

AllenS said...

"In response to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the Carter administration and Reagan administration in the U.S. began arming the Mujahideen

Stupid. This is a good example why we should have stayed the fuck out of the way. Let them go at it.

Mitchell the Bat said...

If Ann had collected stamps as a kid, . . .

MAGYAR POSTA!!!1!!!!!!1!!

Robert Cook said...

"The 10-year Soviet occupation resulted in the killings of between 600,000 and two million Afghans, mostly civilians.

"It's kind of interesting that we've been in Afghanistan even longer than that and we still haven't racked up anywhere near those numbers."


And yet the Russians still left in defeat. Shouldn't we face the fact we'd lost the moment we invaded?

mtrobertsattorney said...

I once read somewhere (I can't remember where) that before Alexander led his army back out of Afghanistan he ordered each one of his generals to marry a daughter of a local warlord. This supposedly took place in a mass marriage ceremony.

His thinking was that now that every one of his generals was a part of the family of some Afgan warlord, his retreating army would not be attacked or ambushed. And the plan worked.

Given our predicament over there, Alexander's idea migh be worth try.



Robert Cook said...

"'In response to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the Carter administration and Reagan administration in the U.S. began arming the Mujahideen'

"Stupid. This is a good example why we should have stayed the fuck out of the way. Let them go at it."


This has it backwards. We armed the mujahideen specifically to aid and encourage the insurgency in Afghanistan against their government, which had cooperative relations with the USSR. We wanted to draw the Soviets in to defend the Afghanistan government against the mujahideen in hopes they would get bogged down into their own "Viet Nam." The purpose was to drain the USSR's financial and military resources in an effort to undermine the Soviet State.

In other words, bin Laden and his ilk are our creations.

Rusty said...

AllenS said...
"In response to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the Carter administration and Reagan administration in the U.S. began arming the Mujahideen

Stupid. This is a good example why we should have stayed the fuck out of the way. Let them go at it.


I thought the idea was to engage the Taliban in their own back yard.

Balfegor said...

Re: Robert Cook:

And yet the Russians still left in defeat. Shouldn't we face the fact we'd lost the moment we invaded?

The Russians would be the last people to imagine that killing a couple million people is enough to win you a war. After all, it didn't work on them.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

As a kid I loved King of the Khyber Rifles, made the year I was born. For a couple of weeks I ran around pretending I was Tyrone Power. I still want a long-lever Martini-Henry in .577-450.

AllenS said...

Hey, fuck their back yard. I have absolutely nothing backwards. Stay out of the way, and led them kill each other.

Robert Cook said...
In other words, bin Laden and his ilk are our creations.

Again, and I can't express this enough. We should have never been involved in helping any of them.

Jose_K said...

Alexander s said to wept over the end of world to conquer.
The true is he had tow choices: the romans or India. And he never dared to face the romans. His uncle did after Alexander died . And Pirrus did too
Afghanistan? the land of the Old Man of the Mountains and the Assassins .
The Kyber pass is the door of the east.

Jose_K said...

BC? One caveat. Christ was born 4 or 8 years before Christ. Has been known for centuries. Benedict remembered it

pm317 said...

Read this article and look at the pictures to see what those savage Taliban have done to what was once a beautiful people and a peaceful country enjoying their life and freedom. Fuck the Pakistanis who brought Taliban into existence and Fuck Taliban.

pm317 said...

Oh, And fuck the Saudis who finance all these fuckers in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

pm317 said...

Funny, you don't have a tag for India. Afghanistan of Alexander's days was part of India. Who do you think was that Maurya king? Pakistan came later because of the partition of India.

Ann Althouse said...

"Funny, you don't have a tag for India."

I have an India tag. Just a little careless here.

The Drill SGT said...

he ordered each one of his generals to marry a daughter of a local warlord.

that was Persia, after Alexander beat Darius at the Battle of Gaugamela. Called the Wedding at Susa, 90 plus weddings occurred.

PS: Darius died in what is now A-stan, (e.g. Bactria) betrayed by a tribal leader...

pm317 said...

Many early (like the 30s-50s) Bollywood beauties were of Afghanistan origin.. Muslim women in Indian movies. Some had Hindu names for marketability and they fell in love with Hindu male actresses and married them (some remained spinsters because some Muslim relative of theirs disapproved).. Fascinating stories of these people. Afghanistan women were/are gorgeous. Indian film industry milked the history of Moghuls for a long time with blockbusters. Moghul e Azam was one such film and actress Madhubala's grandparents were originally from Afghanistan. Watch this Youtube from that movie if you like.

Chuck Currie said...

I believe the wedding at Susa was after Alexander returned from A-stan and India, and before he sent the Macedonians home. Alexander had already married an Afghan who gave birth to his son shortly after he died.

He also found Greeks living in A-stan who had once been prisoners, and or, slaves. He kill them.

Cheers

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Oh. So it's a "Conservatives Learn about the World around Them" teaching moment. How cute.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

And what does your husband think about the Median Kingdom?

Phil 3:14 said...

As alluded to early, Danny discovers he's a god( from "The Man who would be King").

Michael said...

How cute that our commenter who "likes to travel" weighs in with pointless snark and a paste from wiki. Perhaps we conservatives could hear a bit about the travels of our commenter who knows so very much about the world and how its citizens are so much better informed. And worldly.

Michael K said...

"But I'm not sure how the reconquest of the Sudan gives particular insight into Iraq. Village names will also not be the same in the Sudan and Iraq other than by coincidence. "

Both wars involved troops on both sides of the river that bisects the country. The river in both cases played an important role. Have you read the book ?

The village names apply only to Afghanistan.

SteveR said...

thread lasts until 7:06

good night everyone

wyo sis said...

SteveR
this

PeterJ said...

A few years ago there was an exhibit of Afghan artifacts from around 2nd century BC, showing mingled Greek and Buddhist influences. Seeing this -- beautiful serene images, like Buddha in the Parthenon -- I thought: that part of the world was much more advanced over 2000 years ago! A real disproof of the idea of inevitable human progress.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

I know what happens to empires that wade through the thick of Afghanistan, Michael.

Have you been there?

Sorry to somehow have ruined the mood of the teaching moment. Don't let me get in the way, though. Picking up on information is good. And the Wikipedia article should be freely available for as much of the foreseeable future as anyone wants to access it.

I'm proud of you guys!

Michael said...

So Ritmo, tell us where you have traveled. I think not much. I think not at all.

Kirk Parker said...

66,

"But isn't CE still just dating things from the time of Christ without admitting it?"


Sssshhhhhhhh!!!!!

O Ritmo Segundo said...

If you want to pretend we're on a date, Michael, then you're going to have to have the decency to pay for a fancy dinner. And I know your pockets are deep.

I'm not the type of cheap date you're used to.

Eric said...

You gotta admire that dramatic flair! The Arabs seem to want to kill people damned good and proper, and they seem to prefer to leave a well mutilated corpse for emphasis.

They're not Arabs. And they didn't necessarily wait for finished corpses - consider the last stanza of Kipling's The Young British Soldier:

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.

CWJ said...

Seriously, Ritmo, of all the clowns who post here both left and right, you are the biggest jerk of them all. But you already know that.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Well, I'm certainly not a slave to convention, CWJ. Or to anyone or anything else.

I give what I get. Plain and simple.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Anyway, what the hell was so bad about my comment tonight? Posting a blog entry quoting extended passages of Wiki articles on a country as part of a series is pretty unusual, certainly so for someone most captivated by law, politics and pop culture. If Althouse thinks that her audience could use that kind of edification, kudos. More power. I applaud that. Why feel so insecure about it? Trying to learn about the world is a good thing. Just because I'd not have expected it, doesn't mean it's bad.

Stop trying to impress me. Just be a good person, and a well-rounded one, and don't let any snarkiness in my comment turn you off.

Apologies if that's what did it.

CWJ said...

Ritmo, give what you get, huh. And who went after you on this thread that you felt compelled to come in and post your snotty conservatives learn about the world comment.

No one comes after you. You come looking for it.

What a small small pathetic gnome you must be.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Well, CWJ. No one "went after me"... tonight. Last night, though and in past weeks and months it was the nasty mongrel Jay. And even Shouting Thomas gets way too pissy when he's not in the mood for easy answers, which is more often than I'd like.

Anyway, stop being so darn Palestinian and learn to take yes for an answer. If someone apologizes to you, you don't castigate them for it. Unless you're as uncivil as you accuse others of being.

Snark happens. It's not always intended to demean. Sometimes I've taken jokes the wrong way too on this forum. But I'd never tell someone they were wrong for apologizing to me afterward if I did. Maybe that's something else you can learn from.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

What a small small pathetic gnome you must be.

No, actually that's what people who can't ever apologize or forgive are like.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Anyway, C., I'm off to watch a movie. I'll check back on ya later.

Shouting Thomas said...

Ritmo, sometimes, like tonight, you seem headed toward psychosis, unless you're just a demented teenager who enjoys getting some kind of hateful reaction.

Maybe you just don't know how to express yourself, or maybe you'd make some sense with the visual cues provided by face to face contact.

On nights like tonight, I just can't make out what the fuck it is you think you're doing. If I had to make a stab at it, I'd guess that you fancy yourself an original thinker. You're not.

Aaron said...

Some misconceptions in the comments:

"the army he led was composed of Macedonians and only Macedonians, "

No, he had Greek allies as well as various mercenaries and also used local forces as well.

And, of course, he recruited Persian troops to make new units, which angered some of the Macedonians.

Also, the claim that the sarissa in a phalanx was unstoppable is not true. It does well on open plains, not very well in hill areas where the phalanx breaks up.

Alexander used superb non-sarissa infantry and cavalry to win many of his battles, and he usually outwitted the opponents.

mikee said...

I forget who first pointed out that Americans learn their geography by invasion and conquest, but I think finding some war-mongering folk in, say, Aruba would be a welcome change for the military from the forsaken locations of the last 50 years.

Grenada excluded, of course.

wyo sis said...

Comparatively speaking America doesn't invade or conquer much. In the history of invasion and conquest America is a piker.

O Ritmo Segundo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
O Ritmo Segundo said...

Geez Shouty. Can't you talk down to your kids instead and leave your high-and-mighty crap away from me? Talk about unoriginal. You know what's unoriginal? Your holier-than-thou attitude. Taking out this strange need you have to feel respected, on anonymous commenters in cyberspace.

Anyway, the blog should all chip in for you to get a rocking chair. Seriously, it might help you relax and stop viewing all cyberspace as a giant lawn full of kids that you need to yell at and scare away.

Rusty said...

Shouting Thomas said...
Ritmo, sometimes, like tonight, you seem headed toward psychosis,

Our friend is manic and off his meds.If you have to work with people like that it can be very annoying.

Mitch H. said...

I forget who first pointed out that Americans learn their geography by invasion and conquest

"War is God's way of teaching Americans geography", attributed variously to Mark Twain and Ambrose Bierce. It sounds a little more like Bierce, but is somewhat off-key for someone who wrote of War in his Dictionary 'Let us have a little less of "hands across the sea," and a little more of that elemental distrust that is the security of nations.'

Bierce was famously Bitter, but like many cynics, his rage was born of betrayed idealism. And I think Bierce - who was a tactical cartographer whose service during the war apparently featured him riding out with cavalry or skirmisher escort and surveying military features under fire - would have had more respect for geography as an art than that.

Balfegor said...

re: wyo sis:

Comparatively speaking America doesn't invade or conquer much. In the history of invasion and conquest America is a piker.

On the contrary, we're somewhat exceptional in that we still have an awful lot of the territories we invaded and conquered. And of course, even though we acquired other vast tracts of land through purchases from various Western powers, it's not like there weren't, you know, people living there already. We're one of the most successful conquering powers in history (at the moment).

I guess we did have to give up the Philippines, though.

Most of our other wars haven't been wars of conquest, though, so much as defense of allies (South Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War I), or glorified punitive expeditions (Somalia, Balkans, Afghanistan, Gulf War II).

ken in sc said...

Kabul is also named after Alexander. It was originally Iskanderbul, and later shortened to Kabul.

RonF said...

I just tell people that C.E. stands for Christian Era and B.C.E. stands for Before Christian Era.

What is it with Pakistan, anyway? They constantly grapple with India over Kashmir, they constantly stir up issues with Afghanistan - WTF? What does all this profit them?

ken in sc said...

Alexandernople=Iskanderbul=Kabul

Drago said...

Traditionalguy: "Correct me if I can't see what winning a war in Afghanistan does for the winner."

For the Soviets, the idea was to move one step closer to the oil fields and warm water ports of Iran.

The Soviets needed a pacified Afghani populace in order to fulfill their "sphere of influence" objectives.

Our (the West's) objective was to deny the Soviets their "pacified" populace.

On that count alone the American tactic of arming the Mujahadeen for that strategic purpose was successful.

Drago said...

Robert Cook: "In other words, bin Laden and his ilk are our creations."

Even for Robert Cook, this is a remarkably ignorant (or just disingenuous) comment.

It's time Robert and his ilk bone up on Sayyid Qutb.

Not that they will of course.

Drago said...

RonF: "What does all this profit them?"

First of all, there is no unified "them".

There are different factions whose goals/objectives are different (often times in direct conflict) and they all have different and varying levels of support from different sources.

Ya gotta have a program if you're gonna follow the game...

Balfegor said...

Re: Drago:

Traditionalguy: "Correct me if I can't see what winning a war in Afghanistan does for the winner."

If you're attacking the riches of India from Persia or Central Asia, you have to go through Afghanistan. Similarly, at least in theory, if you're attacking the riches of Persia or Samarkand from Northern India, you have to go through Afghanistan (mostly it's just Persians and Turks invading/conquering India over and over, though). And if you're the Russians menacing the British Raj, you will probably want to attack through Afghanistan. And if you're the Viceroy of India concerned about a Russian attack, you probably want an allied buffer state in Afghanistan.

Our interest in Afghanistan, however, is primarily punitive. I don't know that we have significant long-term strategic interests there.

Balfegor said...

Re: Drago:

It's time Robert and his ilk bone up on Sayyid Qutb.

Come now, we created Sayyid Qutb too, you know. When he visited us, someone took him square dancing. How could he not hate us?

Mitch H. said...

What is it with Pakistan, anyway? They constantly grapple with India over Kashmir, they constantly stir up issues with Afghanistan - WTF? What does all this profit them?

They have "Second Front" syndrome. Pakistani grand strategy for the last generation and a half has been to preserve Afghanistan as "strategic depth" against India, to prevent the Indians from using Afghan raiders to destablize their northern and eastern provinces.

The one thing you have to understand about Pakistan is that India is the eternal Pakistani enemy, they're pretty simple that way. Because Pakistan has no real cohesive existential core, other than Islam. They're an empire, not a nation - a collection of peoples speaking different languages with no real national language. The Punjabis barely keep the other ethnicities in line through corruption, co-option, propaganda, and the ongoing, eternal war-in-being against India.

After repeatedly losing conventional wars against the Indians, as well as East Pakistan in 1971, the Kashmiri mess is the Pakistani solution to their dilemma "how do we fight a larger, stronger, more united, more militarily adept existential enemy?" Decades of vicious guerrilla war allows them to slow-bleed and distract the beast, while maintaining the fig-leaf of state non-involvement. And fortuitiously allow the Punjabis to keep the country barely united behind the ongoing war, without chewing up their military.

Well, that, and a ton of nukes.

Maggie said...

Traditional guy you are wrong about anyone stopping Alexander the Great. He died of natural causes at a very young age.

By that time the Macedonians had also conquered what is now Israel and then Jerusalem was dominated by the Greeks.

Crunchy Frog said...

The Battle of Gaugamela? Is that where the smurfs were conquered?

mtrobertsattorney said...

The consensus at the time was that Alexander was poisoned. There was even an ancient rumor that Aristotle was involved in the plot. (According to the story, Aristotle, a student of botany, was said to be the the only person who had the knowledge of the proper poison to use and where to find the plant that produced it.)

As to why he was poisoned (if he was), may have had something to do with the fact that he had declared himself to be a god.

Sabinal said...

I love how politically disposable Afghanistan is since W is gone from office. Need we be reminded WHY we went there? If you want out, I'm with you, but I will not accept whining if it becomes a stronger AQ stronghold and attacks us again.

I would love to see this generation react to Pearl Harbor.

By the way, Alexander exhausted his troops...they fought and conquered every stretch of land they were on. By the time they reached Afghanistan, they pretty much told AG to eff himself, they were pooped.

دردشة ومنتديات عراقنا said...

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Mughal Tents said...

Thnks for share this historical part on your blog..

Mughal Tent