Too little is known in the US about the history of Afghanistan. History is something Americans tend to ignore, often to our detriment. We forget our history and ignore the history of others. Precedence is, in the American mind, reserved only for the law and not to the shaping perceptions or forming public opinion. This is a defect in our approach to global affairs. Such is the case with Afghanistan, where we failed to grasp (and ignored sage advice on) the impact of history on modern events.
Enter The Great Game: Afghanistan, an epic 3-part play (nine hours total) from the UK's Tricycle Theatre, which explores the "culture and history of Afghanistan since Western involvement in 1842 to the present day." This play begins its US tour in Washington, DC, next month. It then goes to Minneapolis, San Francisco, and New York. (Why no Los Angeles date? SF does not count.) Interestingly, and perhaps not surprisingly, the US tour is sponsored by the British Council in an example of cultural diplomacy.
As part of the DC engagement, the British Council is supporting Experience Afghanistan, a "two-week long festival" of art exhibits and cultural exhibits. Also included is a discussion with Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools, and a symposium with Cynthia Schneider, Christina Lamb, Spozhmai Maiwandi, Azita Ranjbar, Mariam Atash Nawabi, and others.
Even without the recommendation of the UK's military commander, General Sir David Richards, Chief of the General Staff of the UK Ministry of Defence, that anyone in the Pentagon and working with Afghanistan see the play, I plan on attending. General Richard said,
I found The Great Game a fascinating, entertaining and historically accurate account of Britain's and latterly the wider International Community's involvement - good and bad - in Afghanistan since the 1840s. Nothing learnt in the classroom will have the same subliminal effect as this.
It is crucial that all of us who work out there, or have responsibility in any way for our nation's policies in the region, have a more nuanced understanding of the historical background that got us to this point. I am glad that when it has finished its current run in London, it will be touring America. I hope plenty of people in Washington take time to see it.
According to the British Council, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and General Stanley McChrystal were interviewed for the play. McChrystal was interviewed two days before he resigned.