In Britains exhausting Boer War, a parallel for Afghanistan

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by Skynet, Jun 19, 2010.

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  1. In Britain's exhausting Boer War, a parallel for Afghanistan

    Sunday, June 20, 2010
    With every war, it seems, there's also a fight over the proper historical analogy. Is the war in Afghanistan like the Vietnam War, the conflict it has just surpassed as the longest in U.S. history? Or is it like the Soviet misadventure in the same land? What about post-surge Iraq?

    Peter W. Singer offers a different parallel, and it's a war America didn't even fight: Britain's Boer War, at the dawn of the 20th century. And the implications are grim.

    Speaking on a panel this month during the annual conference of the Center for a New American Security, Singer, a senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, was asked to name his biggest worry for the U.S. military going forward. He invoked Britain's battle from 1899 to 1902 against a South African militia that it vastly outnumbered. Though the Brits eventually prevailed, victory came at such a cost in blood and treasure and time that scholars often point to the war as the beginning of the end of the British Empire
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  2. Strange he makes no mention of the 1st,2nd,3rd, Anglo Afghan wars
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  3. I think he's paying more attention to the effects of the war on the major combatant power rather than on the fighting of it. If so, he's made quite an apt comparison, IMO. Afghanistan is sapping the US's reputation as much as their treasury, just as the Boer war did ours.
  4. the_boy_syrup

    the_boy_syrup LE Book Reviewer

    Sssshhhhh Obama will be along to blame us for it in a bit
  5. I think that the analogy centers upon Germany's reaction to the Anglo-Boer War. There are parallels today. China, Russia and untold other states, peoples and factions are looking at the USA and shaping their strategies accordingly. Signs of weakness will make them bold.

  6. A floundering big beast will always attract more agile predators.

    I recall an easily distracted great power that had been miserably tied down by second rate irregular opponents for half a decade being rather surprised by columns of T-72s charging towards a much courted potential ally, Tbilisi. Or hobbled by a bad choice of theater being unable to intimidate an uppity third world country like Iran that once feared it greatly.

    These can be politely called opportunity costs. It's what happens when you very publicly run up against the buffers of your power. We've flushed the useful illusion of a unipolar world down the pan. Too much lion and not enough fox.

    “A prince must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves. Those that wish to be only lions do not understand this..”
    Niccolo Machiavelli
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  7. Nice one. Personally, I found, "Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat" rather apt too.

    The US has been focussed on the Afghan war as an end in itself whereas others were looking at a longer game and saw this as just another fork in the road.
  8. Sixty

    Sixty LE Moderator Book Reviewer
    1. ARRSE Cyclists and Triathletes

    Did you fight in them too?
    • Funny Funny x 1
  9. Wounded in each and nearly snuffed it from his injuries in one of them! But he doesn't like to talk about those days. :wink:
  10. Wounded in each what?
  11. Two important points to bear in mind.
    1) We WON the Boer War.
    2) The lessons learned had significant benefits less than twenty years later when we went to war in Europe.

    The best points to bring away from this argument is that grotty little colonial wars can be won by conventional forces. The drawback is that the methods you are sometimes forced to adopt might not be very pleasant. Unless you really want to adopt a package of forced civilian deportation and concentration camps, you might not want to draw too many lessons from South Africa. Unless you really fancy a trip to the International War Crimes court.

    If you look at the improvements in force capability since say, 2001, then you have to say that the evolution of equipment, tactics and doctrine would make a US or UK mechanised or armoured unit enormously more competent and capable than a similar unit fielded ten years ago. There's kit in service now that was sheer science fiction then.

    Assuming the worst, lets say that the North Koreans or Iranians kick off. Their armies, huge as they are, haven't seen major combat in years. If reinforcements and logistics get in, I would suspect that any force that either could put into the field would be destroyed or disabled in fairly short order.
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