“Are you going to blog about it?” I was asked, last week, about the fall of Kabul.
“I don’t think so,” I replied.
It’s not that I don’t think the return of the Taliban to power Afghanistan is not noteworthy. On the contrary, I’m sure it will be one of the 21st Century’s historical milestones. It is just that it is clearly the product of a hundred different factors, ranging from the geopolitical to the local, that I probably don’t understand. It seems to me that any piece of writing that seeks to say “we should have done things differently” must start a couple of centuries ago. And even with the understanding of how we got here, I’ve not seen or read anything that presents a plausible plan to make things better.
Best to turn past the images of geurillla fighting, and read instead about the pandemic, the wildfires, the ‘point of no returns’ climate warnings, and the incel massacre in Plymouth.
But one very particular aspect does, I think, warrant a very particular comment, and that is our failure to support those Afghans who have supported British military and diplomatic efforts in the country.
It’s obvious that we should be offering them asylum in the U.K. First, because it is simply the kind and decent thing to do, when their lives have been threatened because of their work with the British.
It is also the pragmatic and patriotic policy. As the former British army officer turned journalist Dominic Nicolls said on Sky News last week, we’re “sowing the seeds” of defeat in future conflicts by not doing right by the Afghans who helped us with this one.
Even notoriously anti-immigrant newspapers like the Daily Mail recognise this.
What is most astonishing about this scandal, however, is that it is a repeat of an earlier failure towards similar people who helped the British in Iraq. One of the first blogger-led campaigns I was aware of was led by the former soldier Dan Hardie, on obligations to Iraqi interpreters.
This reveals just how rotten the home office must be. They’ve been burned by this before. Either they are so incompetent that they did not predict the entirely predictable outrage at this policy gap; or their internal culture is so anti-immigrant that they hoped they could simply ‘get away with it,’ so to speak.
Either explanation is a source of deep shame.
A Word on ‘Patriotism’
This news story prompts a repetition of the thought expressed in my previous post, about the nature of patriotism.
Our obligations to the Afghan employees of the British state are obvious, and our failure to meet those obligations has been rightly criticised.
To complain about this is not ‘doing Britain down.’ To express anger is not anti-Britain. Everyone — even the Daily Mail — is doing it.
We express dismay precisely because we love Britain, and we believe it stands for something.
We are angry because our country has failed to live up to the ideal that we profess.
Drawing attention to this failure certainly makes Britain look bad. Our stature is certainly diminished in the eyes of the world, and the criticism from within the U.K. certainly contributes to damaging the ‘brand.’
But such complaints are not ‘anti-British.’ On the contrary, complaining in this situation is a profoundly patriotic act. We draw attention to British failure in the hope that doing so will inspire future British success.
This is not so different from drawing attention to past moral failings and atrocities committed by the British — whether they are the evils of slavery, the brutality and injustices of colonialism, or more modern war crimes committed by British troops in places like, yes, Afghanistan. Yet most of the time, such criticisms are painted as anti-British and something to shut up about.
I disagree. The true our failures and our crimes from the roof tops.