Fringe Box



Letter: We Cannot Be Responsible for the Whole World, Charity Starts at Home

Published on: 21 Aug, 2021
Updated on: 21 Aug, 2021

From: Ben Paton

In response to: Try and Put Yourself in Their Shoes

If Cllr James Walsh wishes to be responsible for how the British Army is deployed he should stand for election to our Parliament in Westminster.

It appears that his compassion is directed rather narrowly. How about compassion for the natural world that we are collectively destroying? The species that are becoming extinct every day, month and year also deserve our attention. What does he feel about them?

How about the millions of people in Africa displaced by wars, dictatorships and poor government? Should we occupy their countries too?

How about the many tragedies of the twentieth century in which our government did not directly intervene?

What did the Labour Party advocate about Stalin? Labour was in Government in 1924 and 1929. Stalin and his policies murdered millions. Did we protect them?

What was the policy on the Spanish Civil War in 1936?

What about the dismemberment of Poland or the occupation of the Baltic States by Russia?

What did the Labour Party advocate about the Prague Spring in 1968 – when Soviet tanks crushed a rebellion in Prague? (Harold Wilson was in government).

Mr Walsh wishes to make the British taxpayer responsible for solving the world’s problems, many of which are beyond the power of any British politician to solve.

How about showing some compassion for the men and women of our armed forces that Mr Walsh wishes to give their lives for his causes?

Some of us think that defence means defence.

Who in England voted to occupy a country 4,500 miles away for two decades? I suspect that in the long run deploying Charlie Chaplin would be more effective in defeating the oppressive ideologies of the Taliban than drones and airbases.

Mr Walsh thinks the Taliban are barbarous. He should practice what he preaches and “try instead to put [him]self in the position of an Afghan [Talib]. In their eyes, they are freedom fighters opposing a foreign occupation. How many tens of thousands of them have been killed by non-Afghan forces?

Is not the treatment of children in care in England a more direct responsibility of our local government? That is also a tragedy. And that IS our responsibility.

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Responses to Letter: We Cannot Be Responsible for the Whole World, Charity Starts at Home

  1. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    August 21, 2021 at 10:35 pm

    I understand the sentiment of Mr Paton but the definition of “home” has changed in our present time.

    We live on this one planet and how we care about the environment and how we collectively control our pollution will ensure our homes will continue to remain habitable.

    Global warming is causing extreme weather conditions of devastating fires and floods. Sea levels are rising and many low-lying islands will disappear underwater.

    Flawed policies of the wealthier West could be blamed for political troubles in many parts of the world. Injustice, commercial interest without morality, lack of care and compassion for fellow human beings have led to a world where thousands are now fleeing their homes for the safety of another land.

    So, in addition to looking after our own needy people, we now have the understanding and maturity to embrace the well-being of the whole world as our responsibility.

    There is an Indian saying which is several thousand-years-old “Vasudhaiva kutumbakam” (the world is one family) and more recently, “Let your vision be world-embracing rather than confined to your own self.” These are guiding spiritual principles to follow in establishing lasting world peace and prosperity.

    We all should do our utmost by supporting charities engaged in humanitarian work and by aiding the refugees, as individuals, as communities and as local and national governments.

  2. Jim Allen Reply

    August 22, 2021 at 9:44 pm

    We have to consider the practicalities.

    Migrants, sadly, don’t bring their own food, water, fuel etc. These are all finite resources. I ask at what stage do we admit we have insufficient.

  3. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    August 23, 2021 at 11:02 pm

    In response to Jim Allen’s point.

    The UK population is about 67 million and growth rate is 0.5% a year. This means about 330,000 increase in population every year. Taking on 5,000 refugees a year is an insignificant number in the overall scheme of things.

    Resources are finite when measured within the boundary of a nation but in reality, this is not the case. We trade with other countries of the world, we import food but we also export food.

    World resources are not managed well at all. If all countries co-operated and there was an integrated policy, production of food would be done much more efficiently and managed to match the fertility of the soil and availability of water together with scientific advances that are mainly used by wealthy countries at the present.

    There is more than enough food to feed everyone, there are resources to educate every child and put a roof over every family in this world. We need to unite to solve the problems of this world. We can do this by reducing enormous waste in the production of arms and military equipment.

    I quote from The Promise of World Peace: “Whether peace is to be reached only after unimaginable horrors precipitated by humanity’s stubborn clinging to old patterns of behaviour, or is to be embraced now by an act of consultative will, is the choice before all who inhabit the earth. At this critical juncture when the intractable problems confronting nations have been fused into one common concern for the whole world, failure to stem the tide of conflict and disorder would be unconscionably irresponsible.” (

    World leaders must stop and reflect hard on how they could eliminate suspicion, animosity and hatred amongst nations. There is no reason to prolong the cold war. Ideologies have more or less merged. USA, China, Russia, the EU and the UK must take the lead to remove obstacles to peace.

    Let us hope COP26 would be a fresher starting point and would eventually bring nations closer under the umbrella of the UN. A tall order but every journey must start with the first step.

  4. Robert Burch Reply

    August 24, 2021 at 9:12 pm

    I am so saddened by the attitude Ben Paton has shown in this article. He has been a dogged campaigner for many years and I have respected his tenacity. But reading this I can only assume that his campaigning has been driven entirely by self-interest.

    He asks: “Who in England voted to occupy a country 4,500 miles away for two decades?”

    None of us voted specifically for this as I doubt it was part of the manifesto of any United Kingdom party. But, it has happened in our name it is our responsibility to do our best to respond to the mess our country played a role in creating. This does not mean we cannot look after our own as well.

  5. David Roberts Reply

    August 26, 2021 at 11:32 am

    With its international and economic condition shot to bits, Brexit Britain is in no position to fix Afghanistan. It is pure hubris to think we ever could, as I saw in 2005 when I worked there briefly.

    But we now have a moral and self-interested duty to do what we can to help before Afghanistan’s problems, from migration to terrorism to drugs to economic destabilisation, visit us here. It is naive to think they won’t or that we can shut ourselves off.

    The immediate challenge is simply to get a few thousand people out, which involves dealing with the Taliban and persuading the Americans not to cut and run.

    This is a logistical nightmare, but not a time to indulge in pointless moral breast-beating or xenophobic rants. There will be plenty of time for sober assessment in the months ahead.

    • John Perkins Reply

      August 27, 2021 at 12:14 pm

      Whilst agreeing with most of David Roberts’ post I’m puzzled by the first paragraph. If the UK was in no position to fix Afghanistan in 2005 then how can that be associated with Brexit?

      In 2005 the UK was still a committed member of the EU with only a few believing it would ever be otherwise.

      The only possible conclusion is that EU membership was and is irrelevant. So why mention it?

  6. Stuart Barnes Reply

    August 27, 2021 at 4:10 pm

    I would have thought that the responsibility for the Afghan disaster is clearly that of the pathetic President Biden. It is a bit rich to try to bring Brexit into it.

  7. David Roberts Reply

    August 27, 2021 at 7:23 pm

    In response to Mr Perkins’s questions.

    I worked in the Foreign Office throughout Tony Blair’s government, whose explicit policy in Afghanistan was liberal intervention: ie winning the so-called war on terror and establishing a Western-style democracy. When I was in Kabul in 2005 on an EU-financed project to reform the foreign ministry, it was already clear that, for deep-seated historical and cultural reasons, nation-building was too ambitious. My German colleague and I produced a very sceptical joint report which was duly filed away.

    But the multiplier effect of EU cooperation, like our continuing membership of NATO and the UN, allowed the UK to achieve many things it could never have done on its own, including terrorism, drugs, migration, women’s education, minority rights and humanitarian aid. I believe a lot of this will survive Taliban rule.

    Today, Britain has far less international leverage than it did sixteen years ago. Our economic and military decline, relative to other countries, has continued. We no longer have a seat at the table in Brussels or any influence on EU policy.

    Our reduced national standing has also impacted on relations with other important players, such as the US, China, Russia and Iran, which have all deteriorated markedly. Brexit has been central to this process and has not so far been replaced by any detectable resurgence of a “Global Britain.” The Covid crisis has proved a convenient excuse for this but won’t wash for much longer.

  8. John Perkins Reply

    August 29, 2021 at 10:18 am

    Is there any evidence that the people of Afghanistan wanted “liberal intervention” or “Western-style democracy” imposed on them. It seems to me that there are just as many Taliban now as there were 20 years ago, despite the best efforts of EU-financed projects. All that has been achieved is to provide them with much better armaments.

    It’s certain that terrorism, drugs, migration and humanitarian aid will survive Taliban rule, although not so certain women’s education and minority rights will.

    The UK doesn’t have a “seat at the table” of the Chinese Communist Party or the US, Indian or Russian governments either, yet there is no clamour for any and it’s not generally thought to diminish the country.

  9. Stuart Barnes Reply

    August 30, 2021 at 8:40 am

    I would point out that this country had no influence on EU policy when it was still in the hated organisation. The EU was delighted to take our money though and issue us with endless unwanted and unnecessary rules and regulations.

    Give thanks to the great Nigel Farage and, to a lesser extent, Boris Johnson, for getting us out. The latter did his best but the dog’s dinner of a deal cooked up by Robbins, Mrs May and other Remainers led by such people as John Bercow, has created a less than satisfactory outcome. However it is infinitely better than being in.

  10. David Roberts Reply

    August 31, 2021 at 8:33 pm

    I’m sorry if I didn’t answer Mr Perkins clearly. It has never been certain whether democracy could be established in Afghanistan. And it is far from certain whether the achievements of the last 20 years will survive. But it is just as uncertain whether the Taliban can turn the clock back.

    They may well split, spark a civil war, be outflanked by Al Qaida or Isis-K, find they can’t govern alone or (even) decide to act on the massive financial and other incentives they now have to behave better than last time. We just don’t yet know.

    In terms of blind faith, however, the Taliban have met their match in Mr Barnes, whose priceless comments illustrate how Brexit is a gift that just keeps on giving. To believe that the UK has more influence on world events outside the EU than in is a piece of magical thinking that would make even the maddest jihadist blush with embarrassment.

    • Stuart Barnes Reply

      September 1, 2021 at 4:47 pm

      I said nothing about whether this country had more influence in or out of the corrupt EU. That remains to be seen.

      However on Mr Roberts’s other comment about blind faith I would only observe that, for pure blind faith, one only has to consider the amazing faith that the Remainers (especially those in the Civil Service who did so much to ensure that the majority who voted for Brexit got such a bad deal) have in the EU failed super state.

      Perhaps they dislike democracy because the “little people” refuse to listen to their lords and masters. Would they prefer the Taliban type of government?

  11. Barbara Ford Reply

    September 2, 2021 at 12:52 pm

    This must be the most mean-spirited comment thread in the whole of The Dragon. Such a lot of reasons for not helping people who are desperate!

    I am eternally grateful to the generous and open spirit of Britain which allowed my refugee great-grandparents into the country, where we have lived, worked and paid taxes ever since.

  12. Susan Fox Reply

    September 4, 2021 at 3:51 pm

    I would merely pose two questions to those who have commented already.

    Were we in Afghanistan for the greater good of ourselves as part of a UN/Nato/US coalition or were we there to help oppressed people? The latter I think and hope.

    I agree President Biden has been disappointing but since 9/11 there have been quite a few US Presidents, including mostly Trump, who have certainly displayed self-interest for and have not seemed really interested in either the “special relationship” or caring about the aftermath of the pull-out. I really can’t see the Taliban respecting anything other than their own desires.

    Some people can’t resist gloating over Brexit. I would like to know some specific advantages we’ve gained since exit. I guess they’re happy with shortages, lack of influence, and lack of people to do the jobs we need to function.

  13. John Perkins Reply

    September 6, 2021 at 10:04 am

    I re-read the thread to try to find the “mean-spirited” comments, yet failed to find much to support the accusation.

    Susan Fox might hope that the reason for invading Afghanistan was to “help oppressed people”. However, Bush and Blair made no secret of the fact that they did so in order to punish Al-Qaeda following the bombing of the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon and the attempted bombing of the White House. There was no pretence then of it being a humanitarian exercise, it was about revenge and punishment.

    Blaming Trump for the issue makes no sense. He did not send in the troops and he said he was going to remove them, which is what Biden uses as his excuse to blame Trump rather than himself.

    Blaming it all on Brexit is an unnecessary distraction. The original letter from Cllr Walsh made the claim that we should not choose to select our compassion for refugees. Ben Paton responded with a long list of examples where the Labour Party had made exactly that choice. It was wrong of David Roberts to try to turn it into tired old arguments about the EU and wrong of Susan Fox to endorse him.

    I have one question for those advocating liberal intervention: what is the difference between a humanitarian invasion and a colonial invasion?

  14. David Roberts Reply

    September 6, 2021 at 10:15 pm

    The situation in Afghanistan is very nuanced and has been for centuries. It is not a matter for knee-jerk judgements from those who have probably never been there or ever met an Afghan.

    I dared to suggest that British influence overseas had plunged since Brexit. This is self-evident to everyone except those extremely anti-EU. Britain’s loss of influence has been an aggravating factor in how the Kabul disaster has unfolded.

    Muddying the obvious distinction between humanitarianism and colonialism doesn’t help. The difference needs no explaining to anyone with an ounce of compassion. It is deeply tasteless to present this as an excuse for isolationism. If we don’t stay engaged in helping Afghans, their problems of terrorism, drugs, crime and migration will soon arrive here on our doorstep in Guildford.

    I was never very convinced about the Bush/Blair project in Afghanistan and Iraq; my diplomatic career would probably have thrived if I had been. But my firm opinion is that, although the West has suffered a big setback in Afghanistan, time will prove that the last 20 years cannot and will not simply be wiped away. History won’t stop for the Taliban, nor in an era of globalisation can the UK hide behind some protective wall.

    • John Perkins Reply

      September 8, 2021 at 10:46 am

      Afghanistan is not nuanced. It is a country with many local peoples each with their own general viewpoint. What they have in common is that the place they live in has been constantly invaded by external powers for 25 centuries or more and at least some of them resent it.

      Brexit has absolutely nothing to do with the situation there. Britain’s loss of influence was apparent before the end of WWII, though there are still those who perhaps long for the return of the days when Britannia ruled the waves. Loss of anything is hurtful and losing power is especially so to those who crave it, though it doesn’t trouble most people.

      Whilst there is a clear distinction between humanitarianism and colonialism, it is not “muddying” to say that the invasion was colonial, it was – clearly and unequivocally. An armed force much larger than any local one, attacking with a massive superiority of arms cannot be described as “humanitarian”. More than 175,000 Afghans have been killed or injured since 2001, perhaps we should ask their families whether they regard the invaders as humane or barbarous.

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