Under scrutiny, the connection proves facile. Yes, many of the players in Afghanistan, Western and Eastern, are the same as they were 200 years ago. Yes, Afghanistan’s bickering tribes and brutal geography make the nation unsuited to foreign domination. But George W. Bush was readying the United States to invade Afghanistan little more than a week after al-Qaeda’s Sept. 11 attacks. Would he have behaved differently had his administration focused on how dismally Britain failed to return Shuja ul-Mulk, an exiled shah, to power in the 1840s in response to a nonexistent Russian invasion of Kabul? For that matter, did colonial lessons give the Soviet Union pause before it invaded Afghanistan in 1979?