Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Boer War and 2011 America

Reading biography of prolific thriller writer Edgar Wallace, I came across this description of the Boer War that is incredibly relevant for America and Americans facing two wars in the Middle East today. Britain poured nearly half a million servicemen into Africa during the conflict, suffering staggering losses against the ingenious attacks of a Boer army of less than 90,000. It was the largest British force that had ever been mounted against an enemy, and after the enormous disparity, combined with the British incapability to kill their way to a peace, the people in the streets back home began to resent their proxy presence on the veld:

Popular feeling in England with regard to the war had already passed through several distinctive phases. Jingo exuberance had marked the outbreak, speedily followed by dismay and anxiety when it became apparent that the Boers were by no means a body of rebels to be taught a sharp lesson, but a hard and skillful enemy who was costing Britain dear in money and lives...Only one newspaper, the Daily Chronicle, had had the courage to voice the Liberal view of the war as an unethical act of aggression and annexation, and its capable and firm-principled editor, Mr H. W. Massingham, had been ignominiously forced to resign by the proprietors, who had presumably noticed a dwindling in circulation. The foreign press, with scarcely an exception, were shrill in their denunciations of Britain's policy and made no attempt to disguise their delight at the Boer successes. Undignified caricatures of Queen Victoria in French and German newspapers stung the colonial secretary to the point of public protest, but to little avail; the other European Powers, not being themselves at the moment engaged in colony-snatching, were universally of the opinion (pure wish fulfilment as it turned out) that the power of the British Empire was finally cracking...

Now, in the closing weeks of 1900, public enthusiasm showed uneasy signs of flagging. The war had been going on for more than a year; England had poured into the field the biggest army she had ever been called on to provide; the long and bitter struggle had been crowned by victories which at the time had been thought decisive-and yet the war dragged on. Organized Boer resistance had disappeared, and in its place had come dangerous little handfuls of men who invaded Cape Colony and were difficult to catch, and did damage out of all proportion to their size...The public at home was sick of the war and becoming vaguely dissatisfied. The fervid enthusiasm of '99 had dwindled to grumbling doggedness in the second year of struggle.
Replace words and years as you see fit: find spots for US, Taliban, Afghanistan, President Bush, et cetera. Besides numerals and proper nouns, the text could almost stand unaltered to describe our contemporary situation in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Look to see where South Africa is today, and one can see how much equality and freedom we can truly expect to rise in one, five, ten, or one hundred years in these shredded nations.

Just sayin'.

Quote from Edgar Wallace: The Biography of a Phenomenon by Margaret Lane.

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