This is an extraordinary article in the Guardian. In reality – it is not ‘extraordinary’; it is simply offering the obvious explanation for why the Taliban was able to defeat the Afghan National army with such ease. The explanation is that the Taliban are a faith-based movement and the US funded army was simply a set of people drawing pay checks, with no motivation beyond that. (Some Afghans may have liked the freedom to wear what they liked, listen to pop music etc. but I doubt many really cared about ‘democracy’ as a value worth dying for). Of course this valueless and artificially created army collapsed when put to the test. The extraordinary thing is that this article has appeared in the Guardian. It is, basically, a correct analysis. It stands out in a sea of narrative journalism – the kind where the preferred narrative of the journalist/editor is superimposed on reality. The clue to this rare level of truth may be that the writer is a science writer and she has consulted serious academics for the article.
The academics mentioned in the article are clearly on the right tracks. You cannot export and impose democracy on tribal societies. Western governments continue with their folly because electoral pressures mean they (any one government) may be reluctant to admit that a mistake has been made. Not everyone around the world wants democracy. It is doubtful as to whether democracy is even clearly understood in the West.
The frightening phrase in this article is the one offered by an Oxford academic whose research forms part of the basis for the article: “It’s strange, we keep being invited [to meetings at high levels of government] yet it all seems to go in one ear and out the other”. In one ear and out the other. One explanation may be that they are paralysed by the pressures of the financial and military forces which surround them. They hear – but they can’t stand up and make independent decisions. The paralysis may be accentuated by the problem that politicians are simply self-interested careerists. I can’t speak about the US but I do observe the UK and it seems to me there isn’t a statesman among them. Not one of them is actually interested in policy or affairs of state. They are just not bothered. They receive the reports, (worst case scenarios from the military), and the lobbying from various sources including arms manufacturers and the military. In a ‘democracy’ politicians always have a compulsive need to be seen to be doing something. With this in mind they look at how their decision will play out in tomorrow morning’s papers. What headlines will this course of action generate? And that is as far as their thinking goes. This is why any serious analysis goes in one ear and out the other.