Afghanistan: Medieval Warfare?

The savagery of medieval warfare is widely acknowledged and understood; yet the idea of chivalry as an important and influential force in the conflicts of the Middle Ages somehow lives on in seemingly comfortable juxtaposition with this awareness. In By Sword and Fire I show that such notions of incongruent compatibility do not reflect the reality of the times. As far as the practicalities of war are concerned, chivalry has been showered with too much attention. It represented but one small facet of medieval warfare; for non-combatants, it was so small a part of warfare as to be inconsequential.

I was reading this over dinner tonight and struck by the similarities between the various situations described and Afghanistan. Of course, this was one of the reasons I bought Sean McGlynn’s By Sword and Fire – an attempt to get some perspective on some of the more brutal things ‘the Taliban’ have done/are said to have done in recent years. It continues:

Although, […] chivalry remained (with notable exceptions, I would argue) practical and flexible for the nobility at war throughout the medieval period, for non-combatants it remained, as I hope to show, pretty much as irrelevant as it had always been. Chivalry was a cult and a code for a small elite; it was not designed for the masses in warfare, be they ordinary soldiers or non-combatants.

Now this just brings me back to people’s obsession with pashtunwali, which exists and continues in part, I think, because it’s something for commentators to hang on to in the confusion and murk that Afghanistan is these days.
I’ll write more about this over the coming weeks as I inch my way through, coupled hopefully with some present-day analogies from Afghanistan to go along with source material from medieval times.



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