Charles Moore Charles Moore

The Spectator’s Notes | 1 August 2009

Charles Moore's reflections on the week

‘Moderate Taleban’ are being talked of. It is a very strange, almost oxymoronic concept, like ‘moderate fanatics’; but the conventions of Western political discourse are such that the Foreign Office and the BBC have to deploy the word ‘moderate’ to legitimise whatever our diplomats might be up to. Hunting the moderate is a favourite sport of ‘that old fox, Britain’, as the Iranian regime likes to call us. It conceals the less palatable point that sometimes Western democracies feel the need to make deals with people who are thoroughly vile, but capable of delivering results. The old fox may even be right. But I wonder why the idea of talking to ‘moderate’ Taleban has come up just now, as our troops are fighting in Helmand to ensure that people there can vote freely in the forthcoming presidential elections. Is it because Britain has lost all faith in the President, Hamid Karzai, but is hamstrung by the fact that the new Obama administration, not very sure of itself at first, decided to stick with Karzai for the time being? We would appear to be insuring against, but perhaps also inviting, a result in which Afghanistan becomes even more ungovernable.

Much has been written about how little the British military think of our present government, especially of Gordon Brown himself. It is true. Less has been said about the decidedly cool relations between our soldiers and the Conservatives. There are grumbles that David Cameron, on his visits to Afghanistan, was ‘rude and arrogant’, and did not strike up the expected rapport. If this is so, it may have been part of the coldness required in leadership, at which Mr Cameron excels. He knows that if he becomes Prime Minister, everyone will be trying to prise more money out of him, so he must become nobody’s buddy in advance.

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