The Victorian theory that women were angels, therefore no coercion was needed against naturally saintly women, only against demonic males who make saintly women do bad things, led to an intolerable flood of bastards and women giving birth in the rain in dark alleys, which in turn led to “Oliver Twist” and “Les Miserables”, which brought us the welfare state, and the replacement of the nuclear family with child support. As people in the eighteenth century were aware, people need marriage in order to reproduce, and marriage needs coercion to make it stick, and the primary victims of this coercion need to be women, otherwise they will have sex with one man, then sex with another, making it difficult and unpleasant to father children.
Similarly, “White Man’s Burden”, and “la haute mission civilisatrice” was the death of colonialism.
It led the British general who was invading Afghanistan to believe he was doing Afghans a favor, and if he was sufficiently nice to them they would throw flowers at his troops. So he forbade his troops to take necessary measures for self defense, and, as a result, he and his troops died.
The white man’s burden was profoundly counterproductive to social cohesion, because it led to them sacrificing near (British officers and troops) for far (afghan officers and troops)
If it is a burden, then you proceed to conspicuously display your holiness by burden carrying which is apt to mean making your troops carry burdens.
Before the British intervened in Afghanistan, the most recent news that most people had of it was records of Alexander’s army passing through two millenia ago.
The empire of the East India company was expanding, and the empire of the Russias was expanding, and it was inevitable that the two would meet. And so it came to pass that the Kings of Afghanistan encountered both, and played each against the other.
When the British became aware of Afghanistan, they interpreted its inhabitants as predominantly white or whitish as descendants of Alexander’s troops and camp followers and/or descendants of Jews converted to Islam at swordpoint.
Afghanistan was, and arguably still is, a elective monarchy, and the fractious electors tended to fight each other and elect weak kings who could scarcely control their followers, and so it has been ever since Alexander’s troops lost Alexander.
Mister Mountstuart Elphinstone, in his account of is mission to Kabul in 1809, says he once urged upon a very intelligent old man of the tribe of Meankheile, the superiority of a quiet life under a powerful monarch, over the state of chaotic anarchy that so frequently prevailed.
The reply was “We are content with alarms, we are content with discord, we are content with blood, but we will never be content with a master!”
As Machiavelli observed, such places are easy to conquer, but hard to hold, and so it proved.
To conquer and hold such places, one must massacre, castrate, or enslave all of the ruling elite that seems fractious, which is pretty much all of them, and replace them with your own people, speaking your own language, and practicing your own customs, as the Normans did in England, and the French did in Algeria, starting 1830. The British of 1840, however, had no stomach for French methods, and were already starting to fall short of the population growth necessary for such methods.
So what the British could have done is paid the occasional visit to kill any king that they found obnoxious, kill his friends, family, his children, and leading supporters, install a replacement king, and leave. The replacement king would have found his throne shaky, because Afghan Kings have usually found their thrones shaky, but the British did not need to view that as their problem, knowing the solution to that problem to be drastic and extreme. If the throne has been shaky for two thousand years, it is apt to be difficult to stop it from rocking.
After a long period of disorderly violence, where brother savagely tortured brother to death, and all sorts of utterly horrifying crimes were committed, King Dost Mahomed Khan took power in Kabul in 1826, and proceeded to rule well, creating order, peace, and prosperity, and receiving near universal support from the fractious and quarreling clans of Afghanistan.
The only tax under his rule was a tariff of one fortieth on goods entering and leaving the country. This and the Jizya poll tax are the only taxes allowed by the Koran, at least as Islamic law is interpreted in this rebellious country which has historically been disinclined to pay taxes, and because this tax was actually paid, it brought him unprecedented revenues. On paying this tax “the merchant may travel without guard or protection from one border to the other, an unheard of circumstance”
However he did not rule Herat, which was controlled by one of his enemies, who been King before and had ambitions to be King again. He therefore offered Herat to the Shah of Persia in return for the Shah’s support against another of his enemies, Runjeet Singh. He was probably scarcely aware that Runjeet Singh was allied to the British, and the Shah was allied to the Tsar of all the Russias.
Notice that this deal was remarkably tight fisted, as was infamously typical of deals made by Dost Mahomed Khan. He would give the Persians that which he did not possess, in return for them taking care of one of his enemies and helping him against another.
The British East India Company, however, saw this as Afghanistan moving into Russian empire, though I am pretty sure that neither the Shah of Persia nor the King of Aghanistan thought they were part of anyone’s empire.
So Russia and the East India Company sent ambassadors to the King of Afghanistan, who held a bidding contest asking which of them could best protect him against Runjeet Singh. He then duplicitously accepted both bids from both empires, which was a little too clever by half, though absolutely typical of the deals he made with his neighbors.
Dost Mahomed Khan was a very clever king, but double crossing the East India Company was never very clever at all. No one ever got ahead double crossing the East India Company. It is like borrowing money from the Mafia and forgetting to pay them back.
Russia and England then agreed to not get overly agitated over the doings of unreliable and duplicitous proxies that they could scarcely control which agreement the East India Company took as permission to hold a gun to the head of the Shah of Persia. The East India company seized control of the Persian Gulf, an implicit threat to invade if the Shah intervened in Afghanistan to protect Dost Mahomed Khan. It then let Runjeet Singh off the leash, and promised to support his invasion of Afghanistan.
So far, so sane. Someone double crosses you, then you make an horrible example of him, and no one will do it again. Then get out, and whoever rules in Afghanistan, if anyone does manage to rule, will refrain from pissing you off a second time.
The British decided to give a large part of Afghanistan to Runjeet Singh, and install Shah Shoudjah-ool-Moolk, a Kinglet with somewhat plausible pretensions to the Afghan throne, in place of Dost Mahomet Khan.
Up to this point everything the East India Company is doing is sane, honorable, competent, just, and wonderfully eighteenth century.
Unfortunately, it is the nineteenth century. And the nineteenth century is when the rot set in.
His Majesty Shah Shoudjah-ool-Moolk will enter Afghanistan, surrounded by his own troops, and will be supported against foreign interference, and factious opposition, by the British Army. The Governor-general confidently hopes, that the Shah will be speedily replaced on his throne by his own subjects and adherents, and that the independence and integrity of Afghanistan established, the British army will be withdrawn. The Governor-general has been led to these acts by the duty which is imposed upon him, of providing for the security of the possessions of the British crown, but he rejoices, that, in the discharge of this duty, he will be enabled to assist in restoring the union and prosperity of the Afghan people.
So: The English tell themselves and each other: We not smacking Afghans against a wall to teach them not to play games with the East India Company. On the contrary, we are doing them a favor. A really big favor. Because we love everyone. We even love total strangers in far away places very different from ourselves. We are defending the independence of Afghanistan by removing the strongest King it has had in centuries and installing our puppet, and defending its integrity by arranging for invasion, conquest, rape and pillage by its ancient enemies the Sikhs, in particular Runjeet Singh. Because we love far away strangers who speak a language different from our own and live in places we cannot find on the map. We just love them to pieces. And when we invade, we will doubtless be greeted by people throwing flowers at us.
You might ask who would believe such guff? Obviously not the Afghans, who are being smacked against the wall. Obviously not the Russians. Obviously not the Persians. Obviously not the British troops who are apt to notice they are not being pelted with flowers.
The answer is, the commanding officer believed this guff. And not long thereafter, he and his troops died of it, the first great defeat of British colonialism. And, of course, the same causes are today leading to our current defeat in Afghanistan.
The commanding officer of the British expedition made a long series of horrifyingly evil and stupid decisions, which decisions only made sense if he was doing the Afghans a big favor, if the Afghans were likely to appreciate the big favor he was doing them, and his troops were being pelted with flowers, or Afghans were likely to start pelting them with flowers real soon now. The East India company was no stranger to evil acts, being in the business of piracy, brigandry, conquest, and extortion, but people tend to forgive evil acts that lead to success, prosperity, good roads, safe roads, and strong government. These evil acts, the evil acts committed by the British expedition to Afghanistan, are long remembered because they led to failure, defeat, lawlessness, disorder, and weak government.
As a result, he, his men, and their camp followers, were all killed.
Progressives tend to judge people by their good intentions, and the intentions of the British Empire in invading Afghanistan were absolutely wonderful, but the man who does evil because insane is a worse problem than the man who does evil because he expects to profit. The rational profit seeking evildoer, you can pay off, or deter. You can surrender on terms that will probaby not be too bad. The irrational evildoer just has to be killed. Before 1840, the East India Company was sometimes deterred, frequently paid off, and frequently accepted surrender on reasonable terms. In 1841, just had to be killed.
This illustrates the importance of the rectification of names, of formalism. If you lie to yourself, you are deceived. I have been reading the Clinton emails, and one of the most striking features is that Clinton and company are deluded and deceived by self flattering lies, that despite having vast spy networks in far flung places, are seriously out of contact with reality, as their circle tells each other what they want to hear.
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle. Hillary and her advisers, and therefore I suppose the entire state department, know neither the enemy nor themselves. They dream grandiose delusions, in which they are the terribly smart and virtuous people, rather than a drunken old sow surrounded by lying flatterers.
The East India Company did not realize that it was about to be recast, or was recasting itself, from being a for profit company, empowered to make war and engage in acts of piracy and extortion for private profit, to being the British government’s instrument of holy do gooding, benevolently carrying the white man’s burden for the benefit of a bunch of strangely ungrateful foreigners. In place of a ruthless mafia with uniformed soldiers, the East India Company was about to become an NGO with uniformed nursemaids.
Yet strangely, the greater the good intentions, the more they were to be resented. [Sarcasm tag removed because it broke the quote submission] The East India Company seems to have been more popular when they were pirates and bandits than when they were pious do gooders. No one seemed to appreciate the East India Company doing good to them at gunpoint. The ridiculous part of the white man’s burden was the striking ingratitude of the supposed beneficiaries, resembling the striking ingratitude of Middle Easterner’s towards meddling by presidents Bush and Obama in the Middle East. Those @!^&$ Middle Easterners just somehow do not know what is good for them, unlike far away strangers, who, being terribly clever, know exactly what is good for the Middle East without ever having lived there.
If an elite attempt to rule distant places, they will rule them very badly, unless some of the children of the elite move to those places, and stay there to rule them. Carpetbaggers who come and go tend to leave horror and devastation in their wake, as for example the looting of Haiti by do gooder ngos after the earthquake. If you are not going to stick around, the incentive is to take everything and smash everything, which is what happened to Haiti when the US State Department ngos got coercive quasi governmental power. Haitians wound up eating dirt, sleeping in the rain, and got cholera. So, not going to rule well, unless you have a fertile elite, which needs more governmental and quasi governmental jobs for its excessively numerous offspring. In which case good rule will naturally follow from the desire of that elite to make a nice place for themselves and their descendants. This is necessarily going to be rough on the existing local elite, but an ideology of doing good to far away strangers does not result in doing good to far away strangers, but at best to famine, destruction of property, and disease, as recently demonstrated in Haiti.