We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Very interesting on-the-ground report from Kabul

Very interesting chat between CNN’s international correspondent Clarissa Ward in Afghanistan and Freddie Sayers of Unherd. This is great stuff and why independent media is so valuable.

Samizdata quote of the day

The Taliban is getting its message out on social media, too, giving live updates on its seizure of power. A man claiming to be an official representative has had an active account on Twitter since 2017 and has over 280,000 followers. He has had a lot to tweet about in recent days.

This might seem unusual, considering how censorious Twitter usually is. It has punished people for stepping out of line on numerous issues from transgenderism to Covid-19. Most infamously, it banned the sitting US president, Donald Trump, earlier this year. Even more extraordinarily, the ban largely related to Trump’s behaviour off the platform. Many months on, as the Taliban tweets freely about its progress, Trump is still banned.

Paddy Hannam

Samizdata quote of the day

This was always the West’s problem in Afghanistan: it lacked faith in the very values it claimed to be delivering to that benighted country. We will liberate women from life under the burqa, Western officials said. But isn’t it ‘Islamophobic’ to criticise the burqa, or any other Islamic practice for that matter? Our elites have insisted for years that it is. We will replace your intolerant Islamist system with a civil society fashioned by clever professors, the West promised. But isn’t it judgemental and possibly a tad racist – certainly an offence against the ideology of multiculturalism – to imply that Western democracy is superior to Islamist theocracy? As one British think-tank says, in its definition of the term ‘Islamophobia’, it is wrong to suggest that Islam is in any way ‘inferior to the West’. The West’s post-9/11 bluster was continually undermined by the West’s broader descent into moral relativism. How can you assert the civilisational authority of Western values when your entire educational and university system is devoted to questioning and demeaning Western civilisation? You cannot partake in a clash of civilisations if you loathe your own civilisation.

Brendan O’Neill

Why the Taliban won in one image

I was in favour of the initial post-9/11 campaign and frankly do not regret that. But as I and quite a few others said back in the day, the time for declaring victory and getting out came many years ago. The objective should never have been ‘nation building’, and this was not ‘for the Afghan people’, but rather a reprisal for the 9/11 attacks; a punitive mission rather than a forever war on ‘terrorism’. That should have been it. Make the point then let the perpetual civil war resume with a salutary reminder to keep the fight local. Oh well. As with Iraq, I vastly overestimated the ability of the ruling class in the USA to actually focus on what mattered (not that the UK version is any better, it is just the consequences of our own clown-class are rather less global than when their American counterparts screw the pooch for decades).

And so, the political masters of the now laughably mis-named ‘free world’ fly absurd flags, fretting about people being mis-gendered whilst the USA loses its longest war ever to a bunch of goat botherers with a good command of practical chemistry. Communo-fascist China must be wetting themselves with laughter. It is like a snuff movie set to a Benny Hill soundtrack.

Here we go again

BBC News 17:16 BST: Taliban take over Presidential Palace – reports

Conveniently, Afghanistan has had its own Samizdata tag for nearly twenty years. It is interesting, if depressing, to look at the old entries.

What inflation now looks like

I like those elongated cakes with raisins in them referred to on the package as “finger madeleines with raisins”. A few days ago I purchased another stash of them, from the Afghan-run corner shop nearest to me.

They looked like this:

Sorry about the strange blue reflections of something blue in the transparent but shiny packaging, but it is important that you realise that this is a photo of these finger madeleines before I opened them.

Same sized package. Same price. But, six empty spaces where there used to be six finger madeleines. Twenty four finger madeleines instead of thirty finger madeleines.

We are seeing quite a lot of this in the UK just now. Soon the packages and/or the prices will change, but meanwhile, the quickest way to adapt in the short run is just to reduce the amount in the package.

Brexit is not proving to be an economic catastrophe, and I remain very optimistic about it in the longer run, that being why I voted for it. But it is proving something of a dislocation in the short run, if only because the sort of people whose job it was to foresee it mostly did not foresee it. I don’t blame them for this. I did not foresee Brexit either. I merely voted for it.

The changing face of war in the air

Earlier this week, Brian Micklethwait of this parish gave an excellent talk about sport and how it sometimes has taken the place of military activity as far as -mostly- men are concerned. Brian will want to perhaps go into this issue in a lot more detail on his own but one question that came up is how such an issue relates to women. Well, a recent trend has been the rising involvement of women in front-line combat operations. They are not yet doing so in the UK infantry, although that could change soon, but in the Royal Air Force of the UK, that is now the case:

A woman who has become the first to command an RAF fast jet squadron is expected to lead bombing missions over Iraq this summer.

​Wing Commander Nikki Thomas​, who took charge of the newly reformed No 12 Squadron at RAF Marham in Norfolk​ ​yesterday (Fri)​, flew a daring low mission to help foil a deadly rocket attack on a UK base in Afghanistan.

​​The 36-year-old is a weapons system operator with extensive experience of combat operations, clocking up more than 35 missions in Afghanistan within three months alone.

This is a woman with a lot of guts. Consider the fact that she knows that, in the event of her aircraft being hit, she might have to eject over land run by Islamists who are not going to be amused at being bombed by Western, feisty women. But then women in the Kurdish regions have already been showing that when it comes to dealing with these thugs, there are no real differences between the sexes when it comes to courage and skill.

There is also a broader point. With professional, volunteer forces, there is a premium on young, fit, smart people who have the ability to do a challenging role. Flying a fighter plane is not the sort of thing anyone can do. Given the ruthless process of selecting for flight training, it is pretty clear that a person who can reach the rank of this RAF officer and do what she is doing must be top-class. The pool of talent is finite. So if a woman is good enough to do this, well fine by me.

And this has nothing to do with PC nonsense, by the way. There is no room for Political Correctness in flying a supersonic jet.

Arguments about drone-killing

I have been paying almost zero attention to President Obama’s campaign of robotised aerial execution, beyond noting that it has been happening. I didn’t know if this drone-killing was doing good, or harm, or what, besides the potential harm of causing governments maybe later to incline towards drone-killing or drone-harassing their domestic enemies, when foreign enemies have run out or have negotiated a truce. I still don’t know what I think about drone-killing, but recent Islamo-American dramas made me wonder slightly more than usual.

I was raised by an Anglo-Saxon trial lawyer (himself the son of another Anglo-Saxon trial lawyer) and by the daughter of yet another Anglo-Saxon trial lawyer. Barristers, we call these creatures over here. This was the mental and conversational equivalent of being raised by wolves. My father was eloquent enough to present very good arguments. My mother was eloquent enough to stop him ever pulling rank to win such arguments. We all had our turn.

Which may be why I understand things best by watching people argue about them. Only when there is disagreement do the experts feel the need to try to persuade the humans of their own rightness and of the other experts’ wrongness, and thus to speak in clear English rather than in very unclear Expert. And only then do I have much of a chance of getting a handle on things.

Today, the indispensable Instapundit pointed me towards just the sort of drone-killing arguments I had been keeping about a quarter of any eye out for.

Robert Wright, commenting on an article by Micah Zenko, concludes thus:

If this is a strategy for eliminating terrorists, what would a strategy for creating them look like?

This story, as Zenko and Wright tell it, reminds me of the classic counter-terrorism movie The Battle of Algiers. In this movie, the French soldiers spend almost the entire movie winning, by torturing and then killing all their enemies. And then in the final seconds of the movie, they lose. More enemies, enraged by the injustices suffered by their predecessors and clever enough to avoid suffering the same fate as them, have sprung forth out of nowhere. Hearts and minds are not, said this movie, won merely by the most hostile ones being blown to pieces. You have to win the argument.

The good news is that England did achieve total domination over Afghanistan, just two days ago. But, alas, this was only at twenty overs each way cricket.

LATER: Cricket? Sorry I mentioned it.

“Nothing can touch cricket as a force for good in Afghanistan …”

From a Cricinfo piece by George Dobell, about the one day cricket international between Afghanistan and Pakistan, played in the United Arab Emirates yesterday:

A spokesman for the Taliban contacted the Afghanistan Cricket Board on the morning of the game to wish the team well and assure them they would be remembered in their prayers.

Pakistan won at a canter, but the Afghans did not disgrace themselves, in their first ODI against a top ranked, Full Member, test playing nation.

Afghan minister of finance Dr Omar Zakhilwal:

“The event appears to have united the entire country. … There is nothing that can touch cricket in popularity or as a force for good in Afghanistan. There is absolutely nothing else that mobilises our society in the same way. Not politics, political events or reconstruction.”

Cricket, says Dobell, is booming in Afghanistan:

Not only is the international team now full time, but there are league teams in 28 of the 34 provinces …

However, Dobell goes on to report that:

… the sport will be made compulsory as part of the school curriculum.

And you get the definite feeling that Dobell thinks that’s good. I am a rabid cricket fan, but I say that nothing puts many people off a sport more completely than being made to play it against their will. For sport, read: anything.

I remember school contemporaries who would have preferred being in the Taliban to playing bloody cricket.

Samizdata quote of the day

This might be the only measurement you need to judge the Afghanistan War. Vendors in Kabul are doing a brisk trade in Taliban ringtones. Because Afghans report that the Taliban kill travelers at clandestine checkpoints if they don’t hear one of their messages on someone’s phone.

– The opening sentences of a Wired piece by Spencer Ackerman entitled Either Your Phone Plays Taliban Ringtones, or You Die

Samizdata quote of the day

We’ve already killed all the dumb terrorists, so all that’s left are the smart ones.

– I heard an American voice saying that, in connection with the ongoing war in Afghanistan, while I was transferring a recording I had made of a show called The World’s Deadliest Arms Race (shown in the UK about a month ago on Channel 4 TV) from my TV hard disc onto a DVD.

One of the best things about recording TV shows, as opposed to merely watching them, is being able to wind back and find out exactly who said something of particular interest, and exactly what it consisted of. The above words, I quickly learned, were spoken by a big, tough guy in a black T-shirt by the name of Marine Staff Sergeant Jack Pierce. They come right near the end of the show, which lasts just over forty five minutes.

Ssgt. Pierce was reflecting on how he and the rest of the crew of the vehicle they were all in were subjected to attack with an I(mprovised) E(xplosive) D(evice). Six of the crew were badly wounded, including Ssgt. Pierce who is now paralysed from the chest downwards. The other two died instantly.

Is the Afghan War lost?

I am not a consistent non-interventionist – as some people are fond of reminding me.

For example, I am no friend of the Slave Empire (sorry the “Slave Holding States of America” popularly known as the “Confederacy”), and I consider the struggle against the Axis Powers (National Socialist Germany, Fascist Italy, and the Empire of Japan) and the struggle against international Marxism, as two great achievements of the United States and Britain (and their allies) in the 20th century – not as shameful statism which should be condemned.

I even supported going into Afghanistan. It seemed the correct response to 9/11 and the other attacks by Bin Laden organization, to hunt him down and to hunt down his ally Mullah Omar, the creator of the Taliban – contrary to popular propaganda the Taliban was not created by the CIA to fight the Soviets.

However, it soon became clear that the Bush Administration was not making the hunting down of Bin Laden and Mullah Omar their top priority – which is most likely why the two men remain un-captured almost a decade after 9/11. Instead the Bush Administration fell in love with the Woodrow Wilson style “nation building” agenda of the “neo-cons”.

My attitude to the neo-cons is more nuanced than the attitude of most libertarians – in that I do not despise all of them. For example, I regard Frank Gaffney as a professional, I do not share some of his political opinions, but he is not a fool. Unlike most of the leading neo-cons who lined up to list the mistakes of the Bush Administration in Iraq and Afghanistan (mistakes often directly connected to their own wildly optimistic assumptions – a “detail” they tended to leave out) for Vanity Faire magazine in 2004 – in return for a promise that the article would not be published till after the election. That they were genuinely surprised when the magazine promptly broke this promise indicates a level of stupidity bordering on mental retardation. → Continue reading: Is the Afghan War lost?