The tragedy unfolding in Afghanistan is unsettling on so many fronds.
We grieve for the women, children, Christians and other minorities left behind, all of whom now face an uncertain but certainly repressive future.
We wait for news that the thousands of Western citizens and military personnel trapped behind enemy lines have made it home safely.
We marvel at the symbolism—both in the person of Joe Biden and the capture of Kabul—of an old, weary and fading American empire.
We hold our breath at what may rush into the power vacuum, aware that the Taliban is far from the only political force in the region eager to capitalise on the chaos.
We also shake our heads at the inane response of the Woke Industrial Complex.
“I think you have to be very careful using the word enemy,” admonished General Sir Nick Carter, Chief of the UK Defence Staff this week, evidently hoping to win the Taliban over with flowery words. After all, they “want an Afghanistan that is inclusive for all.” Excuse me?
“The whole world is watching,” New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern warned the Taliban, as though pious-sounding words might make a skerrick of a difference. “We would implore them to allow people to leave safely … What we want to see is women and girls being able to access work and education.”
A United States State Department spokesman likewise declared during a singularly uninspired speech that “the UN Security Council issued a joint press statement earlier today, calling for a new government that is united, inclusive and representative, including with the full and meaningful participation of women.”
Observant commentators noted a downgrade in expectations here: from inclusion for 63 genders to just the two usual ones. I guess they’ll take what they can get now that the rainbow flag no longer flies from the US Embassy in Kabul.
The deference to Strongly Worded Statements was something of a theme this week. “We have expressed in no uncertain terms,” explained another UN spokesperson, “through a very strongly worded press statement … that we expect the Taliban to respect human rights”.
Two decades of Western military involvement couldn’t convince a band of terrorists to reform their ways, but not to worry: a stern lecture or two should remedy that.
The logic is almost as vacuous as that of a British model and social media influencer Lily Cole who sported a burqa on Instagram (or “Taliban chic” as Spiked put it) with the words ‘Let’s embrace diversity on every level,’ even as bullets rained down on Kabul. At least Lily set aside the costume and later apologised for her folly.
The Taliban are one of the most ruthless terrorist outfits in modern history. They’ve massacred numberless Afghans, denied UN food aid to 160,000 starving civilians, and kept generations of women from education and work. The well wishes of Westerners and even the wokest of feelings won’t change that anytime soon.
There could be no more iconic a reminder of this than a photo that made the rounds on social media this week. It showed a Taliban fighter holding women and children at gunpoint against a giant UN Sustainable Development Goals billboard.
A leopard doesn’t quickly change its spots. Do we need reminders of this? The same day the Taliban vowed to honour women’s rights, they killed a woman in the street for venturing out in public without her burqa. And in response to a barrage of Strongly Worded Statements, a Taliban Commander vowed to a CNN reporter that jihad will continue against the whole world until kingdom come:
It’s our belief that one day, mujaheddin will have victory, and Islamic law will come not to just Afghanistan, but all over the world. We are not in a hurry. We believe it will come one day. Jihad will not end until the last day.
And kudos to this incredibly brave female reporter who interviewed the Taliban before the fall of Afghanistan about their views on women in society and the democratic vote. (The original footage comes from a VICE documentary which appeared in March.) That the warriors couldn’t so much as keep a straight face tells you all you need to know:
There is nothing wrong with being optimistic. And absolutely, we should expect human rights to be upheld universally and not patronise certain cultures by holding them to lower standards.
But we have lost so much moral capital in the West that we have forgotten where our conception of human rights come from: they are predominantly an outgrowth of Christianity.
Not only have we grown to despise the faith that inspired us; we have even learnt to declare evil the civilisation it built. As renowned Australian journalist Greg Sheridan has quipped, “the academic fashion is to attack Western civilisation, not study it.”
Not so with the Taliban. They are certain of what they believe and why. They relate more to the Communists in The Year of Living Dangerously, who told Western protagonist Guy Hamilton, “We will win, because we know what we believe and you believe in nothing but your pleasures.”
Wokeness is the weakest of substitutes for what we have lost in the West. If we want good to advance in this world—for women, children, education, democracy, and more—we need to re-ground our moral sentiments in the convictions from which they sprang. We need to believe in ourselves again.
Let’s begin by being honest with ourselves about one thing.
Despite our faults, the West is emphatically not an evil and “systemically racist” civilisation. If it were, we would be demanding that Afghan refugees be sent elsewhere.