Tall Tactics: England Affghanistan


Tall Tactics: England Affghanistan is a 50-page essay by an unidentified author on British foreign policy, particularly policy toward Afghanistan, published during the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–80). The war was initiated under the Conservative government of Benjamin Disraeli (Lord Beaconsfield), who was prime minister from February 1874 to April 1880. Disraeli was preceded by the Liberal William Gladstone (in office December 1868‒February 1874). Written from the Liberal point of view, the essay is an attack on Disraeli’s policies and a defense of those of Gladstone. It begins with a discussion of Anglo-Russian relations and the Eastern Question, i.e., the fate of the Ottoman Empire, noting that Conservative “policy towards Affghanistan has been guided by Tory wishes and watchings in Turkey in Europe.” The remainder of the pamphlet is devoted to a defense of British policy toward Afghanistan under Gladstone and to criticisms of that policy under Disraeli, which it claims needlessly alienated the amir of Afghanistan, Sher Ali (ruled 1863‒66 and 1868‒79), and ultimately culminated in a pointless and costly war. The arguments made are reflective of those that raged in the British press and parliament in the 1870s as the parties debated how to respond to Russian expansionism in Central Asia and whether Russian moves constituted a threat to British India through Afghanistan. The author accuses the Disraeli government of acting contrary to the unwritten English constitution by committing “the country to a new line of political action without consulting Parliament.” The essay concludes with calls for the reform of the British political system, which it argues are needed to ensure that foreign and domestic policy are conducted for the “general good of all the people” rather than for the benefit of private interests.

Last updated: August 25, 2016