Thursday, August 05, 2010

Rule One - Always Get Involved In a Land War In Asia

(Yet more Afghanistan stuff, I'm afraid. I'd stop shovelling this horseshit if there were more stablehands and/or less IBS-stricken ponies).

Here's an undeniable, straightforward proposition for you - it is perfectly acceptable to use the argument "(x) is horrible, but (y)" where x is "Something horrible" and y is "something idiotic". In fact, I'd say there's a positive duty on people to use this argument when dealing with people who are prone to demanding idiotic things.

Examples - The Mafia are horrible, but let's not drop nuclear warheads on Sicily. Mel Gibson is horrible, but there's probably no need to lop off his legs with a chainsaw. Piles are horrible, but I don't think that shoving a live hand grenade up your arse is the cure.

Similarly, we have "Mutilating women is horrible but let's not allow a shower of mendacious bullshitters to browbeat us into supporting an unwinnable war".

Which is the point that Priyamvada Gopal is making in this article, directed at Time magazine's decision to run a picture of a horrendously mutilated Afghan woman under the headline "What Happens If We Leave Afghanistan".

Naturally, the piece has prompted paroxysms of howling outrage amongst the nation's premier fantasists. Specifically, the use of the phrase "bedtime story" in relation to the Taliban's horrific behaviour towards women is causing explosions of priapic, self-righteous rage.

"There is no aspect of this article that is not morally and politically corrupt..." roars Aaro on Twitter. "Shameful. Really shameful". "...The most despicable piece of relativist horseshit", howls Faisal at the Spittoon. David Thompson unleashes the Sarcastosaurus Rex; Professor Norm, hilariously and with no detectable irony, waxes wroth upon those awful lefties who refuse to acknowledge Afghan realities. Former Islamist idiot turned anti-Islamist idiot Shiraz Maher freaks the fuck out, while the Shiraz Socialist mob go predictably apeshit.1

All goo
d clean fun, but every one of them is forced to tilt at windmills by the simple truth of the situation. Put bluntly, it's been apparent for a long time that the Taliban are just dug too deeply into the ground of southern Afghanistan to be removed without devastating the entire warzone. The war is unwinnable. Aaro himself recently told his readers in the Times that victory "may be impossible" before following that with the sucker punch - but we must stay anyway!

I'm sorry to bore readers with this point yet again, but if the war can't be won, it can't be won. Further, if it can't be won, there's no point in jamming atrocities down people's necks, because it is beyond Britain's powers to prevent these atrocities.

When Gopal compares the plight of Afghan women to a "be
dtime story", she's saying that the central propaganda plank of our ongoing war effort - we will free the womens once the Taliban are defeated - is not going to happen. Even if the former were achievable militarily, Afghanistan is not New York. It's still going to be an extremely reactionary backwater where the government - the government that we give our full support! - tries to legalise rape. We absolutely cannot change this situation... Ergo, the women/freedom part is a bedtime story!2

When she says that mutilated women "fill a symbolic void where there should be ideas for real change", she means this void -

Step One: We must defeat the Taliban and install liberal democracy in Afghanistan.

Step Two: (Huge, howling,
desolate emptiness into which men, munitions and money vanish in vast quantities, bridged with a worryingly weak-looking plank of rhetorical plywood marked "The Taliban are evil and we must fight until victory!")

Step Three: We have
defeated the Taliban and installed liberal democracy in Afghanistan.

Make these points - ask how, exactly, the Taliban are to be defeated, for instance - and you get the nation's worst Risk players melting down and making like Donald Duck and his nephews spazzing out at a recalcitrant cartoon goat. Fundamentally, they do not want to have that conversation.

Thus, we're treated to the spectacle of these jokers laying into the Guardian with bullshit like Walter Sobchak with his tire iron. Do you SEE what happens, Larry? (Shoves photos of mutilated Afghans into your face) Do you see what happens when you fail to offer unconditional support for an interminable and ultraviolent war conducted in a state of absolute denial? This is what happens, Larry. THIS is what happens!

Hell, this is before we even get onto Time's rank
dishonesty in publishing that cover in the first place - how would the rah-rah crowd feel about a few photos of the hundreds of exploded victims of allied fuck-ups that our armed forces kill every year, under the headline "What Happens If We Stop Bombing The Shit Out Of Afghanistan And Obliterating School Buses And Weddings?". 3

Well, I can guess. All this, from self-
declared enlightenment rationalists! It's been years since I studied 'em, but I don't imagine that yer Kants and Voltaires used to sit around, shitting themselves with rage while inventing new ways to argue against things that their political opponents don't say.

You're killing your father, Larry.

Up
date!: Following Shuggy's comment, I think it needs pointing out that the Sex & The City references in Gopal's article are based on the recent movie's typically crass treatment of women in Abu dhabi. Basically, the film makes out that inside every burka-clad Muslim woman of the middle east is a tottering, entitled, jewellery-draped Paris Hilton, which is primarily objectionable on the level that it suggests that being a high-maintenance, vaccuous socialite is the pinnacle of feminine achievement.

Gopal's article is clearly channelling "Burkas and Burkins" - you can tell because the titles are virtually identical - Lindy West's excellent review of S&TC2. Notice how West finishes her article with the following...

...If this is what modern womanhood means, then just fucking veil me and sew up all my holes. Good night.

Note to those burbling about relativism - I
don't think that West literally means that she'd rather live in a woman-hating theocracy than in Hollywood's Manhattan. I strongly advise reading Gopal's article with the S&TC movie in mind, and this summation in particular.

Update 2!: I endorse Magistra's comment -

Let's rephrase Gopal's last paragraph more succinctly, so we can see the essential truth of it. "Western governments who don't care about improving the position of women in their own countries aren't going to be really concerned about improving the position of women in foreign countries".

Gopal wants a political system that treats women equally, but what she's seeing in the West is the dominance of a view that social justice and women's rights are old-fashioned hippy, socialist rubbish. I don't think her writing is very clear: she's using 'modernity' to mean 'contemporary politics' when it's usually used for developments in the last 200 years, but it requires a certain wilful misunderstanding to say she doesn't want to improve the position of Afghan women.



1. Interestingly, the only person who's attempte
d a serious answer to the question "How can we win in Afghanistan" is Shiraz Socialist's Jim Denham. His advice was that as political types,we shouldn't even ask and should instead focus on bickering over whether we should've invaded in the first place.

2. I'm sorry about this, because I don't like the fact that we can't defeat the Taliban any more than you do. I'm just the messenger here.

3. This point needs to be reiterated, again and again - our armed forces are killing civilians left right and centre; our political class accepts this as an unavoidable part of our war effort, but is intent on continuing with that policy. Again, it's difficult to liberate people by dropping high explosives on their houses. When pro-war types tell you that we have no choice but to continue this strategy, think of that scene in Fight Club... Ed Norton suddenly realises that he is a terrifyingly dangerous lunatic whose split personality alter ego Brad Pitt is intent on bombing and mayhem... And his imaginary friend Brad says "We need to talk about how this affects our goals".

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