Someone still has to speak for what used to be known as the “free world,” and if anything has been made clear over the last few days, it’s that this spokesman is not going to be Old Joe Biden. And so even as the British Parliament condemned Old Joe for his catastrophic mishandling of the Afghanistan withdrawal, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has stepped up and explained what the Taliban must do in order to gain legitimacy in the eyes of the global establishment: respect “internationally agreed standards on human rights and inclusivity.”
In other words, all the Taliban have to do is stop being what they are and become something else altogether, something they clearly despise and hold in contempt. Does Johnson, or anyone, really think this has any chance of happening?
Johnson wasn’t the first to issue this ridiculous demand. Biden State Department wonk Ned Price said it first on Monday, citing a UN statement that called for “an immediate cessation of all hostilities and the establishment, through inclusive negotiations, of a new government that is united, inclusive and representative – including with the full, equal and meaningful participation of women.” Price even held out the possibility of recognition of the Taliban government by the United States if the Taliban regime “upholds rights, doesn’t harbor terrorists, and protects the rights of women and girls.”
The Taliban responded to that on Tuesday by insisting that it would indeed respect the rights of women and girls, “within the limits of Islam,” and then proceeded to demonstrate exactly how limiting those limits really were by executing a woman for the crime of not wearing a burqa. No one, not even Ned Price, should have expected anything else. But his statement was yet another in a seemingly endless series of demonstrations of the State Department’s abject idiocy and ethnocentrism. Price and his colleagues have never shown that they have any idea that the Taliban operate on a value system entirely different from that of the secular West. Ned Price and his ilk likely can’t even conceive of that as a possibility.
Also on Tuesday, in a phone call with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who knows very well what the Taliban think of women and likely, as another devout Muslim, shares many of the same views, Boris Johnson said that “any legitimacy of any future Taliban government will be subject to them upholding internationally agreed standards on human rights and inclusivity.”
It is ridiculous to call upon the Taliban, which is the very embodiment of the rejection of the idea of secular, liberal democracy, to turn around and become a secular, liberal democracy. And why do Price and Johnson think that the Taliban will pay attention to anything they say, anyway? Do Ned and Boris really have any expectation whatsoever that the Taliban are so desperate for international approval that they will hear their words and suddenly decide to pack their government with women, men who think they’re women, and other people that they’d ordinarily just throw off the top of a tall building?
In the real world, the Taliban is indifferent to international approval. It thinks of itself as having just beaten the United States, and before that as having beaten another superpower, the Soviet Union. What can Ned Price or Boris Johnson do to give any teeth to their requests? Absolutely nothing, and the Taliban know it. The Taliban have a billion-dollar budget and $240 million in foreign donations. It doesn’t need membership in the crumbling post-World War II global order that Price and Johnson represent.
The age of absurdity in which we live today is truly impossible to parody. I’d like to present Ned Price to you as a fictional embodiment of how silly and full of nonsense our State Department is, and Boris Johnson, or BoJo the Clown as some Britons call him, as another fictional character, a telegenically clueless caricature of the disheveled, egocentric, ethnocentric Englishman. But they are all too real. With leaders of this caliber in the West propping up the Afghan government that the Taliban just toppled, it’s a wonder that government lasted as long as it did. And don’t expect the Taliban, as they consolidate their power within Afghanistan, to appoint any transgender ministers anytime soon.