Why my dream is to migrate to Afghanistan: A lesson in imperial migration
Updated 21:43, 26-Aug-2021
Keith Lamb
Afghans dance at Kabul City Amusement Park on the first day of the Eid al-Adha holiday, July 20, 2021. /Getty

Afghans dance at Kabul City Amusement Park on the first day of the Eid al-Adha holiday, July 20, 2021. /Getty

Editor's note: Keith Lamb is a University of Oxford graduate with an MSc degree in Contemporary Chinese Studies. His primary research interests are China's international relations and "socialism with Chinese characteristics." The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Even before the ignoble ending of the occupation of Afghanistan, the Western press had been awash with stories of an imminent Afghan refugee crisis. However, their concern was primarily for Western states. In fact, Afghanistan has, for some years, suffered a refugee crisis with millions fleeing to Iran and Pakistan.

The UN Refugee Agency estimates that 270,000 Afghans had been displaced since January 2021, bringing the total displaced population to 3.5 million. Thus one may well say it is commendable that Britain is to take 20,000 refugees while the U.S. will take over 60,000.

This intake of refugees has led to much patting on the back by the very imperialists who caused this refugee crisis. For example, the former UK Prime Minister Theresa May, recently praised Western actions in Afghanistan, while simultaneously speaking of the moral duty the UK has to help Afghans wishing to seek asylum in the UK.

Personally, I'm aghast at how those in imperial centers are able to commit such heinous atrocities and remain so pious. The sickening fact remains that the desperate victims of Western actions in Afghanistan now run to the belly of the beast of liberal imperialism.

Indeed, the refugees that flee from Afghanistan are just another textbook example of liberal imperial migration. This process is one where the Western liberal states impoverish other parts of the world, leading to the poor and desperate fleeing to those countries which repressed them. At the same time, this process strips the Global South of its most capable people.

When looking at the makeup of multicultural Britain today, it is notable that those who seek a better life are predominantly running away from poverty and war. Immigrants who came after World War II were primarily from the neglected corners of the former British Empire while today their number is buttressed by those forced to flee from neoliberal wars. In both cases, it was a case of Western militaries going overseas first.

Immigration to the West is a topic that divides liberals and the right. However, both are conduits of the dominant ideas of liberal imperialism. For example, the right still subscribes to a former imperial ideology that was used to buttress colonialism.

Here, occupation was justified under the civilizing process of the "white man's burden." Under this ideology, the former serfs and industrial working class, though repressed, could console themselves with their higher position on an imagined hierarchical pyramid.

By carrying this ideological baggage of empire, it is no wonder that the some of the traditional laboring class now resents the multicultural society thrust upon them. Of course, they also have legitimate concerns based on fears of rapid cultural change and competition for scarce resources. However, ironically, the biggest waste of resources is war itself.

Firstly, let us not forget, that the Western occupation of foreign lands has been justified by the same supporting ideology of human rights, which is deeply entwined with the notion of multicultural societies being an innate good. Thus, behind the mask of universal liberal human rights and multiculturalism is the historical truth that this ideology is backed by the worst crimes against humanity.

Liberals remain unaware of this because they like many "religions" divorce their ideas from material reality. That is to say, they are not able to recognize the basic fact that ideology is backed by hard power. In this case, their hard power is the Western forces that destroy development in the Global South.

Demonstrators including Afghan people protest in London, demanding a safe passage to the UK for the refugees fleeing Afghanistan, August 23, 2021. /Getty

Demonstrators including Afghan people protest in London, demanding a safe passage to the UK for the refugees fleeing Afghanistan, August 23, 2021. /Getty

As the son of a first-generation immigrant, my gripe is hardly with refugees or immigration. Indeed, throughout human history, the fundamental fact has been that humans mix and move. But when migration patterns and multiculturalism are built on the unnatural foundation of poverty and war, how can we perceive it as a natural good? It is even used as the "fairy dust" to give Westerners a charitable feeling after their elites have committed the most uncharitable acts.

While we must truly welcome those from impoverished lands, we need to figure out the fundamental trends that bring them to the West in the first place.

In contrast, my dream is to migrate to Afghanistan. Not because I'm forced out by war or poverty but because I have an innate interest in the country and its people. I wish to move there because it could be safe and developed. After twenty years and over $2 trillion poured into its occupation, this should have been achievable. Alas, human rights wars have provided nothing but a cover for resource extraction and war profiteering.

Thus, what this world requires is an end to the forces of de-development; it requires a community of shared values where "clashes of civilizations" become consigned to history books, and it requires the forces of peace and development to thrive in both the West and the Global South.

Only when we have reached this stage of human development will we have the foundation for democratic global migration and multiculturalism that we can all be proud of.

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