The esteemed historian and novelist on how there is only one path for the United States in Afghanistan: withdrawal.
Editors’ note: The following talk was given on April 19 to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the London Review of Books.
Afghanistan now is at a critical stage. And now I’m very glad to say that the London Review of Books, whose thirtieth anniversary we are commemorating, has over the years published myself and others on this subject, taking essentially a critical stance to this war because, as many of you will recall, it became fashionable all over the world, not just in the United States, to think of Iraq and Afghanistan as two very different wars. Which of course, on one level, they are. But I mean different moral values were placed on these wars by good-thinking people. The Iraq war was a bad war, which should never have happened; that is the view of large numbers of people in the United States today, and always was the view of an overwhelming majority of Europeans. The Afghan war, on the other hand, was meant to be the good war. This was a war where people who attacked the United States on September 11th were based. And therefore they had to be sorted out; the government which gave them refuge had to be toppled and this could only be done militarily. I will just say as a small footnote here that the official 9/11 inquiry said that the Afghan government never formally refused to hand over these people; they just demanded to see the evidence, and said if the evidence was convincing of their involvement they would hand them over. I just say that because the commission of enquiry made a point of noting that.