This is an age of anger. Social media amplifies rage and exaggerates polarisation. Twitter isn’t Britain, but too many people in politics and journalism spend too much time on the site and – consciously or not – start to mistake its shallow extremes for real public opinion. The result is a public discourse more often driven by fury than understanding.
Just about any question or issue can unleash this lab cultured rage. Some people are angry about being asked to wear a mask to avoid spreading a disease that might kill someone else. Some people are angry about an alpaca.
So where’s the anger about Afghanistan?
Afghanistan, where two decades of Western intervention is ending in bloody failure. Afghanistan, where hundreds of our compatriots died trying to make the world safer and fairer. Afghanistan, where Britain’s claims to be a serious power are dying alongside people we promised to support.
Perhaps my views are skewed by experience. I used to write a lot about defence and made a few trips to Afghanistan over the years, seeing British service personnel on operations. I’m not rosy-eyed about the Afghan mission, which often lacked strategic clarity – and which morphed from counter-insurgency to counter-narcotics and into capacity-building, and sometimes blurred all three. Nor do I romanticise the success or otherwise of that mission – though however imperfect things were in Afghanistan during the intervention, they were still a damn sight better than what’s now underway.
My point here is simply that Britain seems to be largely indifferent to all this. In the late 2000s, the life and death of British personnel in Afghanistan was serious news. It made front pages, tormented Prime Minister Gordon Brown and angered the public.