Once the sun never set on the British empire. But after the Blair years and the invasion of Iraq, that once-great nation developed a reputation as little more than the newest empire’s toady.
Now, in Britain’s leftist Guardian, Simon Jenkins urges a new foreign policy: independence from America, withdrawal from Afghanistan, a return to realism.
For progress to be made down this messy road, the gung-ho militarism of Petraeus and the British army must be countered. The hyping of British casualties is wrong, as it suggests any withdrawal will be defeat. The Canadians, who have suffered terrible losses, have shown their sovereignty by signalling their intention to leave in 2011. Why not Britain?
The denouement will come only from negotiation. For British generals and politicians to talk of fighting in Helmand “for decades” is absurd, not least as neither the British public nor the Taliban believe it. Like the Canadians, they should give a date for withdrawal, to stop wasting British lives and to isolate Obama in his wrong-headed policy.
Andrew Sullivan might stick to his utopian fantasies of an Obama reign, but foreigners are not really as dumb as we think they are. They seem to realize more and more that with an Obama administration only the battlefield has changed, while the killing goes on just as before.
Last summer I went, as part of a college program, to the NATO headquarters in Brussels. There, an American “expert” in Afghani affairs told us that the NATO mission there would end not with the violence, but rather only when Afghani women had full equality, when all their roads were paved, when voting became habitual, etc. etc. The most surprising thing about this line of reasoning is not the backlash it tends to engender or the revulsion it sparks in people like Jenkins. It’s that it has taken so long for people to see what utopian gibberish it really is.Published in