Gone are the days of paying British blood for our special relationship with America – .

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Gone are the days of paying British blood for our special relationship with America – .


When it emerged a few months ago that Boris Johnson had told Joe Biden of his aversion to the term “special relationship”, it was as if the Prime Minister had committed an act of diplomatic blasphemy.

Some critics have claimed that the comments are proof of the “rift” between him and the US president.

Others have presented it as proof of Britain’s global isolation after Brexit. The consensus was that he characteristically played with the historic alliance forged by Churchill and Roosevelt in the furnace of World War II.

This morning we can see that the consensus was wrong. Boris simply recognized and accepted a new reality. Gone are the days when George Bush and Tony Blair could recklessly roam the world like modern-day Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. And no matter how hard they and their cheerleaders try to capitalize on last week’s final chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, they are not coming back.

“We didn’t need to do it,” Blair rages, angrily denouncing those who had the temerity to put an end to his two-decade Afghan adventure.

It was Iraq that ushered in the isolationism adopted by Republican and Democratic candidates in last year’s presidential election. And it was this isolationism that gave Britain no choice but to mount our own desperate race for the Afghan exit.

“We chose to do it. We did it in obedience to a foolish political slogan about ending “Eternal Wars”. ‘

But we needed to do it. And one of the reasons we had to do it was because of Tony Blair himself.

Our withdrawal from Kabul was not – as was falsely asserted in last week’s inquiry by the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs – the “biggest foreign policy failure since Suez”. This dubious distinction goes to Blair’s own catastrophic invasion of Iraq.

It is Iraq that has turned public and political opinion in the United States and beyond decisively against any further sustained foreign intervention. It was Iraq that ushered in the isolationism adopted by Republican and Democratic candidates in last year’s presidential election. And it is this isolationism that has given Britain no choice but to mount our own desperate race for an exit from Afghanistan.

This truth did not prevent a furious reaction left and right against the Prime Minister and his Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dominic Raab. And, as always, much of this fury has been fueled by hypocrisy, hindsight, and opportunism.

They have been criticized for failing to accurately predict the sudden implosion of the Afghan military – even though the main intelligence estimate was that it would take between three and six months from the conclusion of a US withdrawal for that to happen. the Taliban take full control of the country.

When it emerged a few months ago that Boris Johnson had told Joe Biden of his aversion to the term “special relationship”, it was as if the Prime Minister had committed an act of diplomatic blasphemy.

They have been criticized for going on vacation before a crisis they couldn’t foresee, leaving the government without a rudder – even though the prime minister was only given four days off this summer.

It is true that a risk assessment by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned of the possibility of a “fall of the cities, of a collapse of the security forces”. But a lot is possible. Policies are in fact taken on the basis of what is probable. And the point is, once President Biden confirmed his decision to step down, there were only two viable options left on the table.

One was what a Whitehall insider called a “conditions-based withdrawal.” In this scenario, the Taliban would have been required to give specific guarantees before the departure of US and other forces.

But as the official explained: “We rejected this option because the judgment was that the Taliban would simply not meet any of the requirements. They would not be ready to compromise. And then if we didn’t pull out, they would have started stepping up their attacks on us. That would have forced us to redeploy more forces.

That left only the choice of a specific withdrawal based on a date. With the results the world has seen.

There was of course another solution. Don’t withdraw at all.

“Although immensely fragile, there have been real gains over the past 20 years,” said Tony Blair, “and for anyone who disputes it, read the heartbreaking laments from every section of Afghan society on this. that they fear losing now. Gains in living standards, education especially for girls, gains in freedom. ‘

But that was not the mission. We were not in Afghanistan for a school run.

We invaded for a specific reason: to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden and destroy his terrorist network. And we succeeded.

The actions we take must be part of a clear strategy, with well-defined goals and achievable objectives.  What are they here?

The actions we take must be part of a clear strategy, with well-defined goals and achievable objectives. What are they here?

So if people now want to change their mission, fine. But then they have to clearly define what the new is. Education? According to UNICEF, 4.2 million Afghan children are currently out of school, including 2.2 million girls. Gains in living standards? Ten million Afghan children need humanitarian aid just to survive. Gains in freedom? More than 430,000 Afghan women and children are internally displaced.

Are we just going to seek to maintain this status quo? Is this what “mission accomplished” looks like? And if not, and we want to make some extra “wins”, how much more blood and how much treasure are we willing to spend on top of that?

“Just because we can’t do everything doesn’t mean we don’t have to do anything?” »Claim critics of our Afghan retreat. And they are right.

But the actions we take must be part of a clear strategy, with well-defined goals and achievable objectives. What are they here?

“We owe a debt to the Afghan people” has become another popular rallying cry. Fine. But we also owe one to the Iraqi people. And Libya. And Syria – which we are also committed to defending until Barack Obama decides he will let Assad cross his red line on chemical weapons use after all. When do we expect to start repaying our debt to them?

Yes, the reviews of our retreat have been passionate and eloquent. Especially those who served – and saw others die – in the deserted mountains and dusty streets of Afghanistan. But this eloquence cannot rule out the difficult choices that had to be made. And it shouldn’t. Tom Tugendhat gave one of Commons’ great speeches. But his most quoted line was also the most dangerous. “Those who have never fought for the colors they wear must be careful not to criticize those who have,” he said.

But that’s not how it works. Those of us who do not carry weapons can scrutinize and, if necessary, criticize the men who do. This is what sets us apart from the Taliban.

In the United States, the people – and their elected leader – have made their decision. They want to withdraw. And not just from Afghanistan. There will be times in the future when America deems that its strategic interest compels it to act as the world’s policeman again. But he’s not going to act like the world’s social worker anymore.

Boris recognizes this reality, even if his detractors cannot. So Tony Blair can continue to dream of a world where democracy and justice are administered at the tip of a US Air Force drone.

Others may fantasize about a European army – presumably with Emmanuel Macron, Viktor Orban and Micheal Martin as joint command – valiantly charging into the Hindu Kush and sweeping the Taliban in the name of civil liberties.

But someone has to face the world as it really is. And away from the preschool policy of deckchairs and missed phone calls, Boris and Dominic Raab are at least trying to make it happen.

Which is just as good. Because despite the anguished reaction, soon our gaze, and that of the rest of the world, will be elsewhere.

In May, Isis-K terrorists detonated bombs outside a school in Kabul – 68 people were killed, most of them school girls between the ages of 11 and 13. There was no emergency debate in Parliament. There was no Twitter storm. There was no urgent demand to save the Afghan people from the clutches of the Taliban.

Gone are the days of paying – and being asked to pay – the “blood price” to maintain our special relationship with the United States.

And, as a result, Tony Blair’s Eternal War is finally over. Whether he likes it or not.

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