The British are, by nature, a pragmatic race who take the truth in their stride.
They gave up most of their colonies when dreams of an empire became unaffordable after the victory in the Second World War.
They hitched their carts to an American horse during the Cold War, as it was obvious that Europe wouldn’t last a week against the Soviet Union on its own.
They gave up Hong Kong to the Chinese in 1997 without much fuss once they understood that Beijing wouldn’t countenance the perpetuation of strategic colonial outposts.
And they manfully did their duty in Helmand province, Afghanistan, during the two decades-long global war on terror by accepting that this was the price for having a special relationship, one that allowed them a continued say in world affairs.
Ironically, the true wages of that defeat are only now starting to be paid by Britain — at home.
The why and how are predicated upon British foreign policy being hamstrung by domestic socio-political compulsions and constraints of a left-liberal making.
Simply put, vote-bank politics has become so integrated into the British electoral system that the threat of Islamism and minority appeasement are now two sides of the only coinage in circulation.
A principal, public manifestation of that rarely discussed issue is the perennial question of why the West has consistently refused to highlight Pakistan’s role in the creation of the Taliban or take action against it for systematically derailing a trillion-dollar effort to solve the problem.
Could time, money, and lives have been saved if only they had admitted that the solution to the Afghanistan problem lay in Pakistan and acted accordingly?
Author Minhaz Merchant says that they knew, but still didn’t act because of a long and sordid history of collusion between NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and Pakistan, going back to the origins of the Cold War.
No doubt, countless dollars were siphoned off by everyone involved, for generations, for which no one can point a finger at Islamabad today without sending prominent participants in the West to the clink.
In addition, fairly brazen political correctness is also being peddled furiously now, as the manifold dangers of the West’s disastrously hasty exit from Afghanistan becomes increasingly apparent. Look at just three absurdities that surfaced in Britain over the past few weeks:
- The British Chief of the Defence Staff, General Nick Carter, whitewashed the Taliban as a group of ‘country boys with a code of honor’. Worse, he denied calling them the enemy. Ah, well! Good to know, but who, then, did so many valiant British soldiers die fighting in the Hindu Kush?
- A BBC anchor shut down an American academician trying to argue that the root of the Afghan problem was Pakistan, on the flimsy ground that there was no one from the Pakistani side to rebut the professor.
- It was reported that Britain would give 30 million pounds in aid for housing Afghan refugees to countries bordering Afghanistan. Though not stated explicitly, this payoff will go largely to Pakistan.
Why would Britain behave thus?
These three incongruities, among others, plus veiled social media schadenfreude at Amrullah Saleh and Ahmed Masood’s resistance not faring well in the Panjshir valley, raises a broader question: Why would you wish for the defeat of a group you supported, by those whom you called the enemy till just last month?
The answers lie in British domestic politics. We may call it the Blair-Corbyn effect, after former Labour prime minister Tony Blair and failed Labour prime ministerial candidate, Jeremy Corbyn, who adroitly mainstreamed good old-fashioned ‘secular’ Congressi vote-bank politicking into British elections.
They and their left-liberal jamaat (every democracy hosts such a section these days) learnt, to their delight, that dozens of parliamentary constituencies could be won on the back of a decisive Muslim vote. It was a profitable discovery in a country where most victory margins amount to only a few thousand votes.
In the 2017 general elections, the Labour Party gained 30 seats to score 262 in a House of 650. It wasn’t enough to cross the majority mark, but they stood just two percentage points behind the Conservatives.
Of those 262, a full two-thirds of their top 30 wins were in seats with a significant Muslim population. In a hundred-odd others, their margins matched minority demographics.
In 2019, Brexit (short for "British exit") overrode political correctness, and Labour were handed one of their worst electoral defeats in a century. They lost 59 seats and 8 per cent of the popular vote.
Yet, even in that debacle, as Swarajya showed using electoral and census data, it was the loyal Muslim vote that spared them the blushes.
The point, therefore, is that save for the bloc Muslim vote, Labour would have been wiped out in both 2017 and 2019, and it would have been a series of incredible Conservative sweeps.
The net result of this crushing, existential dependency on a vote bank meant that parties like Labour, which grew fat on identity politics, were now severely constrained from executing requisite foreign policy, in case it cost them the popular mandate.
No wonder that the more the West bombed the Taliban, the louder these people raised the bogey of Islamophobia at home.
Where does that leave Britain today, apart from calling the Taliban ‘country boys’ or preventing an academician from voicing uncomfortable truths in public? In a pretty pickle.
Decades of pandering to pronouns and cultural separatism have created a fatal flaw in the British electoral system, where foreign policies lie at the mercy of domestic politics and an accursed enabling environment of counterproductive correctness.
Sadly, it is not just the Labour Party that is a victim of this macabre development. The ruling Conservative Party is just as delicately poised on a knife’s edge, albeit for different reasons.
Indians, brought up on a strict diet of secularism, would recognise the situation in Britain today. Boris Johnson is where Atal Bihari Vajpayee was in the 1990s. Any erosion in popularity hands the opposition a sterling opportunity to cobble together a majority using the minority vote.
The problem is that such an alternative, if it were to ever secure the mandate, would be woefully stymied in formulating necessary policy, driven as they were by legitimate fears of somehow having to hold on to that crucial swing vote.
This is the surreal mess British politics is in at present, and this is what is driving absurd, conciliatory statements from various corners, which blithely force security concerns and geopolitics to be thrown to the four winds.
Pakistan won’t mind, though. It is the new doctrine of deterrence they couldn’t have constructed even if they tried. The importance of the swing Muslim vote in British constituencies ensures that important nations would stop short of pinpointing Pakistan as the true source of the jihadi problem plaguing Afghanistan, the subcontinent, and the world.
Today, non-appeasement of that vote bloc risks triggering either violence or vote-bank apathy. Who needs nuclear weapons when you can defeat a left-liberal party simply by not turning up to vote, or by implicitly threatening the government of the day with terrorist strikes at home?
The proof of this interpretation is self-evident in the election results, and in the fact that the perpetrators of both successful and aborted Islamist terrorist attacks in Britain over the past 15 years were born, bred, and radicalised there.
Perhaps, Britain might have avoided this terrible predicament, if only they had studied two things: past Indian secular politics and the way in which minority appeasement, and its attendant ills, are being systematically sidelined in India by the vote.
We, too, went through a torrid stage when a Congress government wanted to demilitarise the Siachen Glacier, give up efforts to reclaim Gilgit-Baltistan, accept terrorism as a way of life, or invoke pious, moral equivalences to shed tears for Muslim terrorists killed by our security forces (like at Batla House).
But we woke up and decided that national security concerns could not be held hostage to electoral exigencies.
Naturally, this is a work in progress since, as recently as this week, a former Indian editor said India could not afford to alienate its Muslim population when the Taliban were on the ascendant in Kabul. What he meant was that if India didn’t bow to the wishes of its minority, the minority would alienate itself further and become a grave internal security threat.
This statement encapsulates, perfectly, what the British have had to suffer courtesy their intellectuals and politicians.
The truth, of course, is that this sense of alienation predates the Taliban by two centuries. In fact, it is the Taliban that is a product of such alienation, and not the other way around (so eerily similar to those who bombed the London Underground or stabbed innocents near London bridge).
This, allied with vote banking, is what has prevented the Muslim community from joining the mainstream so far – be it in Britain or India. (Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, doesn’t count. He first made his name by defending a 9/11 terrorist, and then his fame, as a darling of the left-liberal brigade, by infamously exceeding his remit to oppose Donald Trump.)
This is the problem Indian politics is trying to solve, one that countries like Britain will have to tackle soon if they are to cleanse their electoral systems of identity politics — ‘alienation’, pampered and promoted by an indulgent liberal mindset, only perpetuates division, aggravates strife, and sustains a two-nation theory.
So, we see that the problem is not so much in Afghanistan or Pakistan, as it is in parts of Britain, like Sheffield, Bradford, or Manchester, where elections are won or lost by the identity vote and terrorism is kept away by appeasement.
The grim inference, in political terms, is that countries like Britain are now a full decade or two behind India. The grimmer implication, in geopolitical terms, is that India must not expect much assistance from the West as it gears up to tackle the stiffest national security challenges it has faced in centuries.
The actual failure of the global war on terror lies not on the desolate battlefields of the Hindu Kush, but in the well-heeled, well-paved constituencies of countries like Britain, where identity politics, vote banking, and minority appeasement have ensured that the very threats these nations went to war against have now been legitimised on their soil.
These are the true wages of defeat.
Venu Gopal Narayanan is an independent upstream petroleum consultant who focuses on energy, geopolitics, current affairs and electoral arithmetic. He tweets at @ideorogue.
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