Another Imperial ‘East of Aden’ Moment

We may not be devotees of their brand of liberty, nor are we prepared to emulate their peculiar ways, but their unconquerable spirit is something that in these dark and oppressive days we can all admire.

With unnerving rapidity, imperial contraction, much talked about over the recent years, now has palpably and visibly taken place in Afghanistan. The chain of events leading to it was lightning quick, and it is unlikely to leave anyone across the length and breadth of this earth unimpressed or unmoved. Future travellers from the antique land of Afghanistan surely will have tales to tell of the shattered visage of the new Ozymandias, the hubristic “king of kings” upon whose works “the Mighty” have indeed until quite recently looked with awe and despair, or will they? It is a sentiment that after the humbling scenes just witnessed by the global village, in real time and from the sands of Afghanistan, is turning rapidly into contempt and ridicule.

Those with a bit of historical memory, as well as aptitude for connecting dots and drawing parallels, will recall the topic that in the mid-1960s preoccupied the geostrategists of the decaying and moribund British empire. It was how to save what with shrinking imperial resources could still be controlled by drawing a line, also in desert sand as it turned out, and abandoning everything that lay “east of Aden.” The idea was to reconfigure what possessions and prestige were still intact, yielding where retrenchment was obviously inevitable, and recomposing the still manageable fragments of the imploding empire to make the decline less chaotic and at least slightly more elegant, if unpreventable. The frenzied scenes at Kabul airport surely make any pretense of elegance quite risible this time around. What Shelley’s artistic sensitivity presciently anticipated, disguising poetic premonitions of his own country’s future with inoffensive images drawn from the ancient past, is once more coming to pass. The new Ozymandias’ trunkless legs of stone are again protruding, this time from Afghan sands, “frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command” all there, still vainly menacing the occasional passer-by with attempted arrogance, but rather pathetically devoid of its intimidatory substance of yore.

There is undoubtedly an element of historiosophical regularity (закономерность as they would call it in Russian) in this latest imperial crash, but there is also more than just that. Like a cancer patient, every empire also is bound to die prematurely, but when and how are nevertheless highly individual matters. The process may be drawn out or accelerated depending on the particularities of every imperial system. But when, as Tucker Carlson has cogently argued, “we are led by buffoons and everything they touch turns to chaos” the chances of a Rome- or Ottoman-style prolonged agony are diminished, in favor of an expedited demise.

The confused, nonsensical, contradictory, and constantly shifting rationales guiding imperial policy in Afghanistan are solid evidence of precisely the buffoonery to which Carlson has drawn attention. Nancy Pelosi’s demand sternly issued to the victorious party, known to champion what by contemporary Western standards is a radically misogynist world-view, “to ‘[have] women at the table’ when a political solution is hammered out, warning the group that ‘the world is watching,’” is a regaling example of not just unpardonable buffoonery, but of appalling ignorance as well, laced with a large dose of idiocy.

Predictably, who and how “lost Afghanistan” (a rehashing of the old “China question” of seventy years ago) is currently one of the hottest topics. But what the defeated conqueror actually lost is humanity and honour. Thousands of wretched local collaborators, as usual, have been left high and dry. They, of course, merit as much sympathy as those who joined the Wehrmacht in 1945. Politically clueless former members of the defeated armies are venting frustration over friends senselessly blown up and the general humiliation and glaring stupidity of how it all ended. Brainwashed and politically illiterate, the empire’s home population, neglected and driven to misery and despair, living on occasional “stimulus” handouts from their masters, are not even bright enough to inquire about the two thousand million, or perhaps trillion, or quadrillion, quid flown over on pallets to Afghanistan during the last twenty years to corruptively finance the nation-building chimera. So far it has not occurred to any of the bamboozled imperial zombies to ask why is it that only they were left out of the “nation-building” free money distribution bonanza.

Some of those funds, as we have learned, were commandeered by the fleeing puppet “president” who presented himself at the airport with several carloads of cash, some of which had to be abandoned on the tarmac for lack of space in the getaway plane. A nice retirement fund for the fleeing dedicated public servant, to be sure. Hopefully some Afghan mendicants untouched by the occupation’s benefits were alert enough to help themselves to the abandoned loot that, by dint of force majeure, could not be stolen.

So now all the empty talk of “nation building” and “liberating downtrodden women” lies shattered in the desert of Afghanistan. By sheer perseverance, the natives have reclaimed their liberty, overthrowing and shaming the mighty tyrant whose traces in their land, unlike the previous conquerors’, will simply dissolve, very likely not leaving even trunkless legs of stone to protrude in the desert to mark his unwelcome, ephemeral presence in a land piously devoted to its eccentric brand of liberty and fiercely attached to its own peculiar ways.

We may not be devotees of their brand of liberty, nor are we prepared to emulate their peculiar ways, but their unconquerable spirit is something that in these dark and oppressive days we can all admire. We are all Afghans now.

By Stephen Karganovic Via