I'm not surprised that the fall of Kabul has been a significant shock to the UK body politic. Since the Falklands War, military effectiveness has been central to a broadly conservative narrative of Britain as a post-imperial state which 'punches above its weight in the world'. /1
Blair gave this a liberal-interventionist twist, and Afghanistan played a key role in that. Compared with Iraq, Afghanistan could be presented as a broadly consensual and broadly successful intervention, at least as far as the UK press and public were concerned. /2
I suspect the military was more central to British (though not Northern Irish) public life in the 2000s than in any decade since the 1960s: wars on the nightly news, tributes at PMQs, and so on. (There'd be a good PhD project in this - unless someone has already written it!) /3
Though it was clear to close observers that the US-backed Afghan government was very fragile, I'd guess that most British citizens chalked up the Afghan war as at least a qualified 'win' in 2001-2. Blair's speeches certainly encouraged that. /4
The Taliban's return to Kabul is now forcing an abrupt reversal of that 'folk' verdict. I've no idea where this leads, but I do think the dominant public narrative of British FP since the 1990s - already battered by Iraq, Libya and Syria - has probably become unsustainable.
I should add that I'm not (by any stretch) a defence or foreign policy specialist, so I'd be very keen to listen to other interpretations...

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More from @pjsloman

17 Aug
Forthcoming this autumn: UBI in Historical Perspective, co-edited with @DanielZamoraV and @pedroramospinto. Thanks to @pvpbrussels we have a wonderful photo from the first BIEN meeting on the cover: palgrave.com/gb/book/978303…
We'll be launching it with @alybatt and @LHaagh at this year's BIEN Congress at 2pm on Friday (free registration here: cbin.scot/bien2021/). And we also have great chapters from @AntonJaegermm, @ma_sabate, @samuelmoyn, Liz Fouksman, Walter van Trier, and Andrew Sanchez
Here's the full list of chapters:
Read 4 tweets
15 Dec 19
Reflecting again on the question David Runciman asked me on Friday ("How bad is this result, historically, for British liberals?"), I think the deep parallel is 1931. After thirty years of defending free trade against the populism of the Tory right, the dam finally burst.
As Labour turned to the left and the Liberals struggled to recover from previous setbacks, disaffected voters concluded that Protection was worth a shot. Most economists knew that it wouldn't revive the depressed areas, but the siren song of economic nationalism was irresistible
WWI hit Liberals hard at an emotional level (as Michael Bentley has shown in The Liberal Mind) but I think it was 1931-2 that sealed the collapse of 'Liberal England' and forced the party to accept a new political economy. Harking back to the glory days of 1906 was futile
Read 5 tweets

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