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After Afghanistan: Preaching What We Practise

David Lindsay

“A tribal problem.”

Thus did the Chief of the Defence Staff describe the “Taliban” on the Today programme, exactly as some of us have been saying throughout the war in Afghanistan, and as I have no doubt that people like him have been trying to convince grandstanding politicians throughout the period. Remember that “not a shot would be fired” in Afghanistan. John Reid told us so. Whatever happened to John Reid? Did he go off to fight in Afghanistan? Did either of his sons?

Donald Trump’s base is sending its offspring to be harvested in Afghanistan and Syria, so he is doing the right thing politically as well as morally, whatever relics of the failed foreign policy and military machine might think. He will not have to bother to appoint any of those to his second Administration. Against that moral and political good sense, there is nothing new or surprising about close ties between the glitterati and the Securitate.

What is new, but refreshing, is the openness with which Hollywood has made Jim Mattis its hero, and with which Mattis has welcomed that valorisation. Los Angeles limousine liberalism does not send its sons and daughters to be harvested pointlessly in Syria, Afghanistan or anywhere else, any more than neoconservative pseudo-academia on the other Coast has ever done so. Those sons and daughters come from Trump’s base, and to an extent from the base of black and Hispanic radicalism.

Cinema and television made in Los Angeles, as in New York or in London, are enough to make the viewer snowblind. But at least it does snow in New York and in London. In any event, though, such material bears no resemblance to the population of any such metropolis. And the Californian one is by far the most influential. Never call this out, though, in any of the three. You know what you will be called if you do.

Not unconnectedly, one of the many underreported features of neoconservatism has always been its strong hostility to the African-American movements after they called out the hypocrisy of the New York Liberal Establishment over integration at home and over settler colonialism You Know Where. You also know what was shrieked at the uppity black activists who disturbed the Liberal Establishment, just as it has been ever since, including in and around today’s British Labour Party.

Ah, yes, the British Labour Party, or at least the Parliamentary Labour Party, which is now barely the same thing at all. With the closure of The Weekly Standard, neoconservatism is lasting far longer in Britain, and especially in the Parliamentary Labour Party, than it has managed to the last in the United States, mirroring and echoing the unquestioned spooks on the opposite benches. When it comes to foreign affairs and to the architecture of the economy, then Britain does not have Government policy, subject to political change. Britain has State ideology that it is not permitted to question.

That is fiercely upheld by most Labour MPs and Peers, and it is upheld by all Conservatives in either House at least to some extent, with most of them downright hysterical at the expression of the slightest doubt about it. Across the media, the same is also true. Jeremy Corbyn might usefully award peerages to people, by no means only in his own or any other party, who would challenge both the geopolitics and the economics.

“Preach what your practise.” With those words did the President of Afghanistan silence a BBC interviewer, having pointed out that, “You brought your Irish parties into government, did you not?” The “Taliban” are coming into government, thereby rendering the entire war in Afghanistan completely and utterly pointless, because this is how these things always end. Yes, always. After the First World War, the Kaiser himself may have gone into exile, but Field Marshall von Hindenburg was elected President twice, beginning as soon as the electorate was given the opportunity to vote for him. He had stood only with the written permission of his exiled monarch.

After the Second World War, full denazification would have caused German society to have collapsed. Quite the reverse occurred, with West Germany, NATO and the EU all founded in no small part by former, meaning recent, Nazi officers. Over the Wall, one of the East German Bloc Parties, complete with reserved seats in the Volkskammer, was the NDPD, specifically for former Nazi Party members and supporters, although it was often observed that there were in fact more former Nazi Party members in the Communist Party than the entire membership of the NDPD.

In 1968, long after East Germany professed to have eradicated all trace of Nazism, the new Constitution still felt the need to commit it to doing so. No one in West Germany even pretended, not really. The fairly recent obituaries of Helmut Schmidt and Helmut Kohl have been as frank as they themselves always were. And then there was Austria. But speaking of East Germany, when the Soviet Bloc collapsed, then who do you think carried on running many things at national level, and almost everything at regional or local level? Who was qualified to do so? Attempts to do these things differently, such as the debaathification of Iraq, have been unmitigated disasters.

“You brought your Irish parties into government, did you not?” Indeed, we did. “Preach what you practise.” Indeed, we should. The “Taliban” are coming into government, because that is how these things always end. Yes, always. Thereby rendering the entire war in Afghanistan completely and utterly pointless.

Precisely as many of us in the country at large, but only few valiant souls in Parliament such as Corbyn, have argued from the very start, and precisely as we predicted from the afternoon of 11th September 2001 onwards. But precisely as most Labour MPs, Peers and commentators, and almost all of their Conservatives counterparts, will never, ever accept. Another hung Parliament is coming, however, and our people need to hold the balance of power in it.