Film Commentary 05: Afghanistan – The Great Game

The Great Game was a manifestation of the rivalry and contestation of control between the large empires of the British and the Russian. This all began in the 19th century, continuing for 7 years, where Britain pushed to control much of Asia in order to buffer British India. Of course, Russia sought to expand territory and expand its empire. When Britain gained solid hold of India, Russia took over central asian khanates in the southern borders. Basically, the big picture is that the two empires front lines find its way to meet through Afghanistan.

Von Clausewitz rational theory on war is very evident as to how the superpower empires perceived the situation in their battle for control and leverage over each other. Britain sought to make sure of its hold on India, while Russia sought to make sure of its trade opportunities. Both were acting based on a rational behavior. The theory holds war to be taken based on the most vital interests of the states. And this idea can clearly be seen with regard to the dispositions of both Russia and Britain on the matter. British Lord Ellenborough initiated this game on January 1830 by establishing a trade route that hindered Russian operations. In this new trade route,Turkey, Persia, and Afghanistan would be used to get to and from India and Bukhara. However, on a side note, this was to plot how russia will be prevented and hindered from accessing ports on the Persian gulf. Hence, jeopardizing the other empire’s personal interests as a nation. On Russia’s end, they simply wanted to establish a neutral zone so that their trade routes will not be placed in a threatened position.

Britain’s rational stance on the matter resulted in a very unfavorable manner for their empire given their consecutive losses against the Russians. The wars resulted were very unsuccessful for Britain to be able to fully control Afghanistan, Bukhara, and Turkey. The Anglo-Saxon War, the First Anglo-Sikh War, the Second Anglo-Sikh War, and Anglo-Afghan War all resulted in favor of Russia which allowed its empire to take hold of Khanates. Nevertheless, despite Britain’s clear and embarrassing loss to obtain Afghanistan, the nation still served as a separation for Russia not to be able to take hold of India.

Overall, the great game is a perfect manifestation of nationalism in the theories of war. Multiple theories argue that wars result because of men’s allegiance to the nation which forms an intimate and deep connection. The theory shows how nationalism is a form of ideology that pushes the nation to be connected to the state, and for the country to act in a way that would favor its interests and advantageous goals. Hence, recognizing the concept of “national self determination” that links that nation and the state. In the great game, the empires involved were acting in ways that would prevent jeopardizing or putting their nations and its operations/interests in a position that would be very compromising. They were in pursuit of certain areas that would prevent others from undermining their ground of control. On a another note, Russians would also yearn for neutral zones so that their trade matters won’t be affected. As a whole, the wars that emerged between both empires were motivated and inspired by their rational goals in order to place themselves in a position in which their predetermined plans, courses of actions, and long term goals are not compromised.

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