"If you want to read a blog to get a sense of what is going on in Hong Kong these days or a blog that would tell you what life was like living in colonial Hong Kong, this blog, WALTER'S BLOG, fits the bill." Hong Kong Blog Review
"There is no getting over the fact that the standing of the West has taken a significant hit."
Most of the time, the tectonic plates of geopolitics creep slowly. Then, now and again, the plates jolt, convulsing, thrusting upon us dramatic swings in power that rock everything. That just happened.
At the hands of the Taliban, the disorderly retreat of the West has changed the world order. When a U.S. president talks up a medieval murderous religious cult to secure their cooperation, you know things aren't going well. When the U.K.'s foreign secretary, the hapless and hopeless Dominic Raab, seeks out help from China and Russia, the game has changed.
When images of the Taliban brandishing U.S. M4 rifles, wearing U.S. uniforms, while adorned with other U.S. military supplies, you know something went seriously wrong.
Also, kids standing waist-deep in sewage awaiting clearance to enter Kabul airport is an unforgettable picture of failure. Then, as tired and overwhelmed young soldiers do their best, Biden skulks away from a press conference, refusing to answer questions. Alas, when Biden announced 'America is back', I didn't realise that meant he'd be showing his back.
Many are now questioning his ability to lead. Following the shameful deception of G7 cooperation, that is understandable. Boris Johnson chairmanship of the G7 counted for nothing because Biden made it clear he had no desire to consider the opinions of so-called allies.
Biden's policy on Afghanistan suffers the same fundamental flaw that led to the misadventure in Vietnam. It is rooted in the demands of U.S. domestic politics rather than a realistic assessment of the interests and conditions of the Afghan people. It was in American interests to invade, and that's what driven the departure — the often proclaimed 'human rights' and 'state building' a fig leaf for these ventures.
Granted, the frontline operators believe their mandate is to bring democracy, a fudge their political masters are willing to sustain. Graham Greene in 'The Quiet American' summed it up with his C.I.A. character Alden Pyle, “I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused … impregnably armoured by his good intentions and his ignorance.” A tad harsh, but the ring of truth.
This latest demonstration of U.S. rationale raises questions in the U.K. and Europe, 'Do we have a common purpose with the U.S., and how can our interests be met?'.
At the same time, vice-president Harris is running around Asia seeking to shore up confidence for the undertakings given to this region. For Harris, that's a tough gig when actions speak louder than words. Are Japan, Taiwan and the rest naive enough to swallow her distracting rhetoric of "China is intimidating everyone"? Indeed, Vietnam wasn't prepared to consent. The others gave Harris a polite hearing but no strong statements of unanimity.
Plus, how long before China and Russia are running the evacuation from Kabul because Biden has cut and run? It's possible. Both will retain embassies in Kabul, as China is working on cutting an investment deal with the Taliban.
With the end of August deadline fast approaching, the recrimination game is gathering pace. It remains baffling that the political leaders in the West believed the Afghan army would stand. Instead, a few guys in pickup trucks with A.K. 47s show up, and the entire Afghan military does a runner.
Tony Blair -- the turd that won't flush — had the cheek to criticise Biden's action. Of all the people least morally qualified to comment, Blair tops any list. I do wish he'd curl up under a slime-covered rock to remain silent.
In May this year, Noam Chomsky, philosopher and social critic, predicted such an outcome. With tongue firmly in cheek, Chomsky claims he benefited from 'not having any intelligence assessments'. Yet, he did have an understanding of history and hubris.
Chomsky's point about intelligence assessments, although made in jest, hints at a serious matter. Remember the failures of intelligence over 9/11, the W.M.D. saga and Soviet nuclear missile lead that didn't exist. And that's far from an exhaustive list.
Putting all ideology aside, there is no getting over the fact that the standing of the West has taken a significant hit. A U.S. president demonstrated scant regard for the views of supposed allies, while the U.K. and Europe proved incapable of acting without American military support. There is a reason the British army goes by the name 'The Borrowers'.
Meanwhile, the U.K. Ministry of Defence P.R. machine is working overtime circulating pictures of soldiers helping kids, giving out water while sheltering them from the heat. So naturally, the B.B.C. and Sky are once again happy to fall in line, giving these heart-tugging pictures the maximum coverage. Much as they uncritically cheered on the invasion twenty years ago.
At least the coverage on Aljazeera is more honest. It shows the Taliban firmly in control, maintaining order and controlling airport access — albeit by harsh methods. Hence Biden's genuflecting to them. After all, if the Taliban wish they could overrun the airport without firing a shot by allowing refugees to stream in.
And not to miss an opportunity, Chinese media is running the 'graveyard of empires' narrative.
Conversely, some in the U.K. appear more concerned about dogs and cats left behind in Kabul. So, in a revealing gesture, they've raised enough cash to hire a Boeing 737 to bring out these strays. So what does that tell us about sentiments towards the fate of the Afghans?
From monitoring FlightRadar 24, it is possible to watch the pace of the evacuations flights in and out of Afghanistan. For much of early August, only the Turks had a regular shuttle service running from Kabul to Islamabad in Pakistan.
Then the planes of the U.S.A., the U.K., New Zealand, Spain and others started crossing into Afghan airspace. An assortment of Globemaster IIIs and Hercules C130s doing the lifting, while American KC 135 Stratotankers back them up with fuel.
The awful news that ISIS are back in action with suicide bombs killing U.S. Marines and Afghan civilians underline the dangers of this retreat. ISIS may now have a regained territory from which to operate, threatening us all. And thanks to the shambolic withdrawal, they have plenty of military supplies.
Biden has hit back against ISIS with a supposed drone strike allegedly killing a so-called mid-level ISIS planner. There is no evidence to suggest the target is connected to the airport bombing. Call me cynical, but the scenario indicates that Grandad Biden looked weak and useless, so he had to hit something as a distraction for his manifest failings.
Giving Biden the benefit of the doubt to assume he hit the right people, lashing out in this manner won't help except as a distraction. Moreover, it's worth remembering that random attacks on the enemy validate their random attacks on you, as the moral high ground is forfeit. That's the ideological price to pay.
Let's be clear; I've no qualms about killing terrorists if that is what it takes to get the job done. However, it's the piecemeal efforts conducted for cosmetic purposes, adding fuel to the fire without a clear overarching objective, that earns my derision.
It's often argued that the Suez crisis of 1956 is the moment that laid bare Britain's imperial impotence. So is it premature to portray the shambolic retreat from Kabul as the American equal?
Only time will tell.
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.