Jewish World Review August 2, 2013/ 26 Menachem-Av, 5773
How to be an emir
By Paul Greenberg
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | The year was 1898. He was a 23-year-old subaltern fresh out of Sandhurst serving the British raj on the Northwest Frontier of the Indian subcontinent. Always restless and eager for action, and bored playing polo back at base, he volunteered with the cavalry when the Pashtun tribes grew restive near the Hindu Kush, long a pressure point in the Great Game that empires had been playing in that part of the world going back to the Mongols. And even Alexander. A deadly serious game that goes on to this day.
The eager young officer of the Queen's Own Hussars was soon "mentioned in despatches," and even wrote his own memoir of that campaign: The Story of the Malakand Field Force. It turned out to be a best-seller, full of high drama and swashbuckling adventure -- not to mention a lot of close calls that might have deprived the Empire of the figure who would one day take command at its most imperiled and, as it turned out, finest moment. His first book would turn out be only a harbinger of the many best-sellers he would write in what would prove a long and varied career. His name was
That first book even included a bonus -- some free advice to the greybeards in Her Majesty's foreign service about how to conduct the Great Game in those distant parts now known as
The first course he summed up as that of "bad and nervous sailors" skittishly trying to steer clear of any danger till they grow disgusted and abandon the whole enterprise altogether, the Devil take the consequences. Which is pretty much what Old Ned will do at his first opportunity, creating even more havoc than he found, and inevitably drawing the great power back into the bloody maelstrom once again.
Today we call this policy withdrawal, which seems to be the preferred "strategy" of our current commander-in-chief. With predictable consequences.
The second alternative that young Churchill examined, and also found wanting, has been tried in those distant parts, too. He called it Full Steam Ahead -- a massive military intervention that would overwhelm the region and pacify it by sheer force, leaving it "as safe and civilized as
The first alternative course of action -- today it's called bugging out -- may only delay our return, not prevent it. It's likely that this second vision of how to achieve Peace in Our Time in those exotic parts will fail, too, for it requires an open-ended expenditure of time, money, resources and blood that not even a great power may long accept.
A massive show of fear-and-awe and a long campaign to go with it may look simple enough to a secretary of defense like
Our form of government has its roots deep in our own past, going back to centuries of colonial rule. It cannot be easily duplicated, exported and imposed on a people with an even longer history of their own that goes even deeper into a different past. Why would we expect them to desert their customary institutions and traditions, and -- just like that -- adopt ours? Talk about form without substance.
Nor do most of us know very much about how the successful empires of the past -- the Romans, the British, even the Ottomans -- played the Great Game. They make us look like the amateurs at it that we are. We not only don't know much about that part of the world, we don't even know we don't know much about it. And we've paid dearly for our ignorance -- and presumption.
In short, a strategy that included the indispensable component of the Surge that David Petraeus, our most successful and innovative general in
We may not be interested in the
We may yet learn to act like just another emir -- warlord, if you like -- who knows enough never to abandon his allies or leave his enemies to prosper. And nothing more. No grand millennial vision imposed on others from above, but no retreat into the mirage called isolationism, either. If we adopted that middle course, we'd be just another player in the Great Game with modest goals, but no compromising them. And our eyes would stay open.
Yes, conceded the young author of "The Story of the Malakand Field Force," such a third course between two opposite extremes might be "undignified," but it has the great advantage of demonstrating what so often has been lacking in our foreign policy: a constancy of purpose underlying a flexibility of means.
Even back then, at the turn of an earlier century,
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