(16) Afghanistan - Government
GOVERNMENT. Afghanistan, is now, and has been before, under one prince, but it is hardly a monarchy as we are used to understand the term. It is rather the government of a dictator for life over a military aristocracy, and within this a congeries of small democracies. Elphinstone compares it with Scotland in the middle ages; some things suggest a comparison with Poland, in spite of difference of physical geography; but in neither was there the democratic constitution of the Afghan ulus. The sirdars govern in their respective districts, each after his own fashion; jealous, ambitious, turbulent, the sovereign can restrain them only by their divisions. There is no unity nor permanence; everything depends on the pleasure of a number of chiefs bound by no law, always at variance, and always ready to revolt when they have the slightest interest in doing so -- almost always ready to plunge into strife with a wild delight in it for its own sake. In war, as in peace, chiefs and soldiers are ready to pass from one service to another without scruple. It is a matter of speculation, and no disgrace.
The spirit of Afghan character and institutions was tersely expressed by an old man to Elphinstone, who had urged the advantages of quiet and security under a strong king: "We are content with discord, we are content with alarms, we are content with blood; but we will never be content with a master."
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Afghanistan - Table of Contents