by UnHerd
Monday, 16
August 2021

Rory Stewart: we need to take ‘many many millions’ of Afghan refugees

The former Tory MP has been taking the debate in a new direction
by UnHerd

Former Tory MP and Afghanistan expert Rory Stewart dominated the media over the weekend, with his excoriating criticism of the precipitate withdrawal from that country.

He has also led the way in moving the political conversation on to what is likely to be its heated next stage: the volume of Afghan refugees, fleeing the new regime, who should be welcomed by Western nations.

I would expect Britain to lead an international effort… to work out how we can provide safe passage and asylum for Afghans who want to leave. But be in no doubt: we are talking about many many millions of people. And this is an entirely horrifying and unnecessary tragedy, but it’s a tragedy that we bear the responsibility for for the reckless actions of the last few weeks.
- Rory Stewart

Commentators on the Left — many of whom have advocated leaving Afghanistan for years —are expressing almost universal horror at the effects of that policy. The number of refugees will offer a convenient channel for that guilt, and competition between countries will offer a way to pressurise the Government.

Canada has already announced it will accept 20,000 Afghan refugees. Will the Labour Party come out with a higher figure in the next couple of days?

As Parliament is recalled from holiday to debate the issue on Wednesday, expect the number of refugees that the UK commits to take to become a central political argument —it is now the only thing that British politicians have any agency over in this sad story.

Join the discussion

  • I didn’t vote for intervention in Afghanistan, because Afghanistan is none of our business, and I see no reason why our legitimate right to the defence of our borders and our society should be sacrificed to salve this man’s conscience.
    This is my country as much as it is his.

  • Hard decisions must be made, and No is the answer. The Afghani have not shown themselves to be exlempiary migrants in the West, as many groups have. If migrants are needed get the ones with the best track record, harsh, but one’s Nation comes first – and USA and UK are always first to me, everyone else later.

  • The centre right do not operate as a bloc. You may recall an old distinction between neo-cons and paleo-cons – heavy handed American journalese, but pointing to a real difference. Authentic conservatives are not in favour of the sudden overthrow of existing regimes with a view to changing the culture or “state building”, unless they do so from a position of overwhelming strength and prestige. Hence, following the example of Rome, Britain was able to Anglicise India to a small but lasting degree; and France had some success in Gallicising Algeria – why? Because they were there for decades in sufficient force. The Wolfowitz / Rumsfeld doctrine, that such things could be achieved in weeks, thanks to shock and awe and the alleged “end of history”, always owed more to progressivist and even Marxist notions than to anything authentically right wing. You may surmise from all this that I, for one, never supported the Iraq adventure and considered intrusion into Afghanistan a grotesque mistake. A fraction of the billions poured into these military follies might have been profitably devoted to security at home, which is where it counts.

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