The left believes that the pandemic has exposed the world’s “strong men’’. Trump’s dethronement, it suggests, confirms that the very qualities that help populists seduce masses prevent them from delivering compassionate governance needed to handle a once-in-a-century humanitarian crisis. That the nationalist’s vision has proved to be too inward-looking, too conceited, to allow for a unified global response required to defeat a scourge that respects no geographies and afflicts all.
The left insists that voters around the world are now more inclined to support only those leaders who are visibly dedicated to making democracy great again.
Woke folk may have no regard for Johnson, Modi, Bolsonaro, Morrison, Putin, and Duterte, but are they themselves demonstrating an unswerving commitment to the liberal ideal?
Not quite. And certainly not if among their omissions one were to include the case of Afghanistan. This blighted country that straddles geo-strategic fault lines at the crossroads of Asia is back in the throes of an existential crisis.
In the most callous tradition of realpolitik the liberal establishment has simply abandoned Afghanistan to the ministrations of some of the world’s most notorious actors. Indeed, Joe Biden, the great hope of the liberal creed, has resolved to complete America’s troop pullout from Afghanistan. Nato forces that were allied to the American cause of delivering an “enduring freedom” from dysfunction for Afghanistan will also undoubtedly follow suit.
The departure date is just a few weeks away. Once the withdrawal happens Afghanistan will fall into a bottomless caldera of ignominy: The country led by the worst persecutors of human rights, the country with the most internal refugees, the country with the most terror groups, the country with the greatest number of orphaned children. The scenarios are too horrendous to contemplate. But far-fetched they are certainly not.
For amongst the abominable who are primed to jump into the vacuum as soon as the Americans up sticks are the Taliban. They are the horsemen of a particularly degenerate nihilism that are currently waiting outside the gates of Kabul in a tactical limbo. The militia was bombed into the “stone ages” by Bush’s America for harbouring the self-styled caliph: Osama bin Laden. The Saudi sheikh spent years in the caves of Tora Bora under the Taliban’s aegis weaning the menace that was the al-Qaida. His twisted machinations brought down the World Trade Centre in New York, very nearly triggering a clash of civilisations.
But unlike bin Laden and some of his generals who were hunted down and killed, the Taliban in a cruel irony have had a second life. Like Frankenstein, this monster has been resurrected. And even though the Taliban shocked the world by carrying out mass public floggings of women and girls for as little as venturing out of their homes unchaperoned, it is now part of the “peace” process in Afghanistan.
Scandalously, the Taliban’s legitimisation has sanction – it has been promised a stake in Afghanistan through the instrument of a peace deal. The tragedy is that the Taliban has won a place on the Afghan peace talks high table without making any concessions. Not even on its medieval outlook.
The Chinese (the deprivations of its gulags in Xinjiang are barely hidden from the world) and the Pakistanis (arguably the headquarter of global terrorism) won’t mind the Taliban either, so long as they can work in the shadows and manipulate the presiding Afghan worthies into doing their bidding. Both Beijing and Islamabad fancy a stake in Afghanistan for the strategic depth it affords against neighbours, in particular local hegemon India.
The inevitability of Afghanistan being carved up by a nexus of illiberal regimes portends a profound betrayal of the democratic cause. A cause that liberals committed themselves to in an era before Trump and now after his exit.
In the heady but traumatic days after Trump fell from his perch atop what was deemed to be a tower of political piffle, the liberal consensus asked us to cherish November 2020. It was billed as a moment in time marking not the defeat of a candidate, but the victory of idealism: a renewed appreciation for the fact that “democracy is precious, it is fragile” and that it has “prevailed”.
So how are we to now square the idealism that accompanied the democratic transition in Washington with the impending surrender in Kabul to barbaric medieval theocrats? Why is the left that seeks to fashion a post-Trump world into a rules-based order now going to walk away from the chance to prove what is possible when the right choices are made?
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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