, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 85-93
Date: 09 Nov 2012

Lessons from Afghanistan

This is an excerpt from the content

The Dark Defile: Britain’s Catastrophic Invasion of Afghanistan, 1838–1842 by Diana Preston Walker, 307 pp., $28.00

Diana Preston’s The Dark Defile describes the disastrous occupation of Afghanistan by Britain from 1839 to 1842. This is a well-known story—depicted in grand nineteenth-century canvases (Remnants of an Army), 1960s comedies (Flashman), and a flurry of books with Victorian titles, published or republished to coincide with our current Afghan mess: Signal CatastropheCrimson Snow, The Last ManRetreat and RetributionButcher and Bolt. Most of the books remind us that the British “Army of the Indus” swaggered into Kabul from India in 1839; that the general’s personal baggage had been loaded on 260 camels; that behind the lancers in their scarlet cloaks and plumed shakos trotted a pack of hounds, which had been led through the arid horrors of the Bolan Pass in order to hunt foxes in the Hindu Kush; and that the Afghans were soon watching ice-skating and giving advice to Brit ...

With the permission of the New York Review of Books.