I consult the ghost of Raffles on Afghanistan

Blog:  “Previously I talked to Xenophon on our troubles in Afghanistan.  His advice was perhaps a little bit anachronistic.  Today we are a bit too civilized for such drastic measures.”

Raffles: “Troubles?”

“A war, we are losing.  In the Hindu Kush.”

“Ah, yes, the Hindu Kush was a problem in my day.  You should leave it alone.  Dreadful climate, barren land, no gold or valuable materials, full of men with nothing of value except guns, guns that they are very good at using.”

“Unfortunately, some people from the area raided us.”

It seems that little has changed:  Well, there are three alternatives.

  1. Put up with it.
  2. Eliminate the tribes that caused the most trouble.
  3. Rule the hostile lands.

Unless it has changed a lot since my day, ruling it is likely to be impractical.  Obviously, your course of action depends on how costly the raiding is. Have there been any new raids since you started the war? What you have done already might well suffice.”

“Eliminate the Pashtun tribes?  Even Xenophon did not go quite that far.”

“I don’t mean kill them all.  Just tell them to get out, go some place else.  Dispersed, strangers amongst tribes that caused you less trouble, they cannot get together to do bad things far from home.”

“But what of those who will not or cannot go?”

“Below my pay grade.  The officer tells the sergeant, clear these people out, the sergeant tells the private. And if there is too much mess, well I am sure the tribes that attacked you also attacked other tribes who have not attacked you.  The natives of the Hindu Kush attack everyone, especially each other. You ally with local victims of the enemy tribes, and have your native auxiliaries do the potentially unpleasant work.”

“But even in your day, did that not create a certain amount of public concern?”

“You rule those parts that are easier and more profitable to rule, or influence local allies that are friendly, to uplift and civilize your native auxiliaries, and everyone forgets to ask about those people that are not around any more.  For example I abolished slavery.  Of course, had I actually abolished slavery all at once, there would have been a lot of ex slaves lazing around all day and stealing stuff all night, so I retained an arrangement where debtors could be forced to work for creditors,  and the creditors kept the books as to how much debt remained, and I made sure that potential trouble makers and lazy good-for-nothings were well supervised by creditors.  You should try it.  Abolishing slavery creates a great deal of favorable comment, sufficient that people overlook what happened in areas that, after all, you do not rule, so cannot be wholly blamed for what happened there.”

“Unfortunately we abolished slavery already.”

“Well I am sure there is something else to abolish.  Opium, perhaps, and doubtless the natives of the Hindu Kush mistreat women to this day.”

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