Article 78

Knowledge Being Absent, Differences Of Belief Are Resolved By Elections Or War.

In a Daily Telegraph article of 24/8/21, entitled ‘We must learn from our tragic “performance war” in Afghanistan, and subtitled ‘Instead of a serious effort to secure freedom, the West seemed to engage in a 20-year simulation’, Sherelle Jacobs more than adequately describes the shambles which it was, but she doesn’t identify the knowledge which we ought to learn from it. She opens her article by likening ‘the final scenes to the ending of a Hollywood film in observing that the cameras invite us to become engrossed in the biblical scenes of chaos while the broadcasters’ eyes rove over the desperate refugees as they board flights under the blazing sun’, then ‘cut to those waiting in purgatory outside the reception facilities, and flit back to the west where an overwhelmed Joe Biden shrugs as ghosts from the past spin their final threads to the media, while George Bush expresses his barbed “sadness” and a tortured Tony Blair lambasts Biden’s imbecilic political slogan about ending the forever wars’. She goes on to state that ‘the end scenes in the Afghanistan war are so wretched and chaotic that it is hard to step back and examine the bigger picture’; but that ‘is exactly what we must do, if we are not to overlook perhaps the biggest political lesson of our age, the one which Blair is desperate to ignore’: viz. ‘the dangers of an open-ended conflict against a phenomenon like terror, or Islamic fundamentalism, which is impossible to truly control’.

She then states that ‘one can endlessly analyse the mistakes of the withdrawal and the inadequacies of Biden’; but that ‘the big error was made by Bush and Blair towards the start’; that ‘their failure to engage in the risks and complexities of an ill-defined mission ultimately resulted in a protracted and futile conflict’; that ‘it also led to what (she) describes as an obscene 20-year performance by our political leaders as they sent young men and women to die on our behalf’; that ‘a mission boldly framed in Manichean language about freedom versus the forces of evil was frustrated by a dire lack of resources and planning- indeed any sort of realistic planning for achieving its eventual ends’; that ‘after the initial aim of over-throwing the Taliban was achieved, what followed was a grotesque simulation of an attempt to achieve something, rather than an authentic endeavour to achieve a specified result’. She then recognises that ‘this may seem an extreme position to take, given the blood sweat and treasure (thus) sacrificed’; but that ‘nonetheless there is plenty of evidence to suggest that ‘the American leadership never took the fight for freedom in Afghanistan seriously’. In support of these assertions, she notes that ‘Washington’s indulgence of Pakistan, whose borders have functioned as a revolving back door for the Taliban since it was founded in a Pakistani madrassa, was an absurdity’; that ‘perhaps this was by the by’; that ‘after all, by Bush’s own admission, Afghanistan was merely “the opening act” in the War on Terror’; that ‘it became deprived of resources as attention shifted to Iraq’; that ‘for the first three years of the Afghan occupation, the US military was openly hostile to nation-building viewing it as a distraction from its primary task of waging war on the Taliban’; that ‘it was only once the latter launched a bloody counter-insurgency three years in that Washington finally acknowledged the importance of stable government and basic public services when nation-building became a central part of the mission’; but that ‘beneath the shimmer of development promises and donor conferences, the effort bordered on farcical’; that ‘by some calculations most of the money was not spent inside the country’; that ‘donors, keen to bypass the Afghan government which they believed to be corrupt and to “lack capacity”, squandered millions on contracting bureaucracies managed by Western firms outside the country’; that ‘there was not much sober thinking about how to build a sustainable economy in a war-torn country that has lacked fiscal viability since 1747, when it was part of the Durrani empire and relied on raids into India to support itself’; that ‘we (now) leave a country where a quarter of the people still lack access to clean water, and opium is one of its few credible industries’; and that ‘the money that has found its way to the right places has done little more than reinforce Afghanistan’s status as an aid-based rentier state’.

Sherelle Jacobs then states that ‘given all of this and the speed with which the Taliban have taken back control, one is left wondering what we have witnessed over the last twenty years has been more spectacle than substance- a pseudo-western in which modernity battles with barbarism in the windswept wilderness’; that ‘if politicians seeded the story, the media helped write the script’; that ‘American cable television treated the war as a given before a single bomb had been dropped’; that ‘John Simpson’s euphoric declaration in November 2001 that the BBC had “liberated”Kabul after arriving in the abandoned city before Northern Alliance troops’; that ‘the failure of the war was not just logistical but also intellectual’; that ‘the neoconservatism that had inspired both Bush and Blair was based on decent but vague Enlightenment ideals about human rights and democracy’; that ‘although the academic school had spent years advocating America’s unique role in advancing these ideals across the world prior to 9/11, it had made few attempts to interrogate the specific conditions in which they flourish’; that ‘perhaps that is because the neoconservative movement was as visceral as it was intellectual’; that ‘perhaps that is because its faith in America’s heroic purpose was partly a revolt against modern liberal society with its vapid nihilism and refusal to take sides’; that ‘while nothing was wrong with that impulse, the camp struggled to move beyond a self-confidence that bordered on the spiritual’; and that ‘it remains in denial about how catastrophically its lofty theories collided with gritty reality in Afghanistan’. However, I say that this is simply an example of beliefs being refuted by what could already have been known of reality

In conclusion, Sherelle Jacob recalls that ‘the West shifts from one war to another, or rather from one simulation to another’; that ‘the war on terror may be drawing to a close but there is no end in sight to the war on coronavirus’; that ‘there are differences: this new epic has a sci-fi flavour and a fresh heroic quest- absolute safety has relegated absolute freedom from cause to victim’; that ‘still, much is familiar- the Manichean rhetoric peddled by world leaders and amplified by broadcast media’; that ‘open-ended war on a global phenomenon risks doing more harm than good’; that ‘an ever-mutating threat must be not merely minimised, but eliminated;’ that ‘one can only hope that we are not here again in 20 years once the Covid era has passed, afraid to ask ourselves what it was all about’.

My response to all belief/counter-belief issues and to all belief-only response-policies is that these must be converted to knowledge-only issues and policies before action is implemented whether voted on or not; that the implementation of belief-only policies should be discontinued as far as possible, whether we can vote on them or not; and that violence is always likely when conclusive knowledge is unavailable to either side and when neither side is willing to agree to differ and to go their respective ways until conclusive knowledge is acquired one way or the other. 9/9/21

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