So what was it all for? The British Army quits Afghanistan and that long-suffering patch of sand and dust awaits the arrival of the Taliban.
The wisest words came from Lord David Blunkett on Any Questions (Radio 4) when asked, why do we repeatedly get involved in overseas missions like Afghanistan? We do it, said Blunket, because sometimes, as in Kosovo and Sierra Leone, it works. The problem is that other times it doesn't work.
While retreat looks like a betrayal of the British troops who died there, our soldiers were doing what soldiers have always done. They were holding the line until the politicians sorted something out. It may look grim today but there is a chance that the liberties enjoyed by Afghans, especially Afghan women, over the past 20 years may prove too powerful for the Taliban to overturn.
Meanwhile, we have our own home-grown savagery to agonise over. After two of the latest stabbings in London, suspects were arrested in a matter of hours. This may suggest the police are red hot. Or it could tell us that in many of these attacks, the knife-wielders simply don't care whether they are captured or not. If that doesn't chill your blood, it should.
He may not have known it but when Gareth Southgate uttered the words: “We are a special country,” he will have infuriated the entire woke community. In today's academic world, the concept of “English exceptionalism,” as they sneer at it, is a terrible heresy. The only acceptable narrative in our universities, colleges and among elite opinion-formers is that England is a third-rate, failing, racist, middle-sized country, riddled with imperial and colonial guilt. And the one thing you must never do is like your country, love your country or express an ounce of pride in being English
“I've never been prouder to be an Englishman,” declares Southgate, just in case anyone in the ivory towers misheard him the first time. Growing up, I never thought much about England. My generation thought of ourselves as British. It is the steady march of nationalism in Ireland, Scotland and Wales that has made us feel less British and more English.
Sometimes, it takes another person's view to make you understand your own land. As Kipling put it: “What should they know of England who only England know?” If you doubt this is a special sort of place, look no further than the convoys of inflatables bringing migrants across the Channel. Why are they prepared to die trying to reach England when they could apply for asylum in any one of a dozen European countries? They clearly think England is a special place. So does Gareth Southgate. So should we all.
“How do I tell my husband I deleted the Test and Trace app?” agonises columnist Judith Woods in the Daily Telegraph. Well, writing a column in the Telegraph is a pretty fair start.