The image of a Black Hawk helicopter full of grinning Taliban soldiers flying a Taliban banner whizzing around Kandahar during a victory parade says it all. America was defeated in Afghanistan and to complete the humiliation the pilot was American trained. I have to admit that nothing more encapsulates the weak strategic thinking behind the withdrawal than the premature abandonment of the vast air force base at Bagram. However, make no mistake here, what has happened will have huge consequences. During Biden’s address to the nation, not one word of thanks was made to the UK or America’s Nato Allies. Pretty remarkable considering for the first time Article 5 of the Nato Treaty was invoked following Nine Eleven and that hundreds of British troops lost their lives in the Afghan War. That combined with the fact that the British PM couldn’t get the US President on the phone when he announced the withdrawal must leave the “Special Relationship” in a pretty frosty state. We may be a neutral country but we sure as hell have more than a passing interest in all of this. Does this mean the emergence of a Biden-doctrine? Will the U.S. stand by its allies in Europe were they to suffer unwarranted aggression from Russia ? Far fetched you might say but look at the poisonings in Salisbury. Nerves have been rattled and diplomatic feathers ruffled. So the U.S. has much work to do to calm its allies down. However, if the “Forever War” in Afghanistan has quelled the American desire to try and transform nations it cannot conquer, perhaps the world will be a safer place.
Now to the Blue Shirt Entitlement Scandal, otherwise known as Zappone-gate. To be honest I’m tired of it as in the overall scheme of things it is not that important but for the fact that it is illustrative of a certain sense of arrogance and entitlement that seems to be pervasive in the upper echelons of Fine Gael. The opposition are naturally seizing upon it because it is giving them ongoing opportunities to kick the government, especially because Simon Coveney looks like he has something to hide. It has undermined the stability of the government with Catherine Martin the Deputy Leader of the Greens being the latest to demand that Simon Coveney produces a clarification “ as a matter of urgency”. Barry Cowan who lost his job as Minister of Agriculture and is nursing a grievance, feels the Taoiseach applied different standards to him. This is not helpful and a clearly irritated Micheal Martin referring to it all as a “Melodrama” wishes it would all go away as it is serving as a distraction from the serious issues facing the government, like housing and health, together with the ongoing problems thrown up by the pandemic. The Taoiseach is, of course, right. It is a melodrama, the cause of which lies with his Fine Gael Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs. This week I met with an old friend and we ended up talking about the state of the nation. On balance, apart from the “Meaningful Christmas” we reckon the Taoiseach is doing a good job.