” The eminent historian Max Hastings and I have not always seen eye to eye. (Example:
I have spent a lifetime resisting my father’s prejudice, that men who affect beards should be regarded with the gravest suspicion. Yet every time I read the rantings of Mark Steyn about what he perceives as decadent European hostility towards the US, I have to fight down an ignoble sensation that daddy was right.
He didn’t fight it down that hard.)
Be that as it may, Sir Max is spot on in this poignant opening:
All over the world, from Vimy Ridge and El Alamein to Rangoon and Rorke’s Drift, stand memorials to British war dead, most of them places of pilgrimage for descendants and tourists.
Future travellers, however, will find no such proud relic at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan. When the Army lowered the Union flag there on Sunday, our memorial — etched with hundreds of names of the fallen — had been dismantled and flown home.
Had it remained in war-torn Helmand province, it seemed certain to face desecration and destruction. There could be no more vivid manifestation of the failure of Britain’s Afghan mission.
In my new book, The [Un]documented Mark Steyn, there is a section called “September 12th”. Beginning with my first sight of “Ground Zero”, it’s a series of snapshots that chart over the years the remorseless evaporation of western will, descending bumpily in its latter stretch through our reliance on drones, the disgrace of Benghazi, and some thoughts from me on the man at the Trebil border crossing between Jordan and Iraq – contrasting the US soldier who glanced at my Canadian passport when I crossed a few weeks after the fall of Saddam with the Islamic State goon who occupies the post today. That’s a profound image of total defeat. But so too are those last soldiers dismantling the British war memorial. As I wrote two-and-a-half years ago:
In the last couple of months, two prominent politicians of different nations visiting their troops on the ground have used the same image to me for Western military bases: crusader forts. Behind the fortifications, a mini-West has been built in a cheerless land: There are Coke machines and Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Safely back within the gates, a man can climb out of the full RoboCop and stop pretending he enjoys three cups of tea with the duplicitous warlords, drug barons, and pederasts who pass for Afghanistan’s ruling class. The visiting Western dignitary is cautiously shuttled through outer and inner perimeters, and reminded that even here there are areas he would be ill-advised to venture unaccompanied, and tries to banish memories of his first tour all those years ago when aides still twittered optimistically about the possibility of a photo op at a girls’ schoolroom in Jalalabad or an Internet start-up in Kabul. “
As usual , this is Saturday’s Must Read post …