So another aid worker has been seized and doubtless murdered in Afghanistan. If she has not been shot by now it's only because she's being held to ransom, with a gun pointed at her head and a hood over it. If alive, she is probably in a dark cellar somewhere, with one meal a day and a plastic bag for a toilet.
How many more of these idealists will venture into that wild, barbaric land to try to help the people and build bridges of common humanity etc etc? In return for their noble intentions they are regarded as spies or - worse - Christian missionaries - and treated as criminals.
So why are we still there? Because no government is honest enough to admit that the whole idea of subduing Afghanistan is barmy. Nobody ever succeeded in the past. The Russians failed. The British Empire had the wisdom to give up and keep out. The terrain is a gift to guerillas and the defenders are breeding faster than we can pass laws on human rights. Yet we go on and on sending plucky young heroes and heroines in camouflage kits to be either blown up or reduced to a breakdown or just in the long run brutalized by what is going on there.
The recent election in Afghanistan got very little press attention here. Of course not, because it was a dismal failure, fraught with accusations of corruption and violence and producing an outcome that half the country just refused to recognize. The moral is that you can't set up a democracy somewhere in another country. It has to evolve. Our governments seem to think that democracy is like a washing-machine, something that can be taken to a given address and installed. You plumb it in, you switch it on and you expect it to work.
But it doesn't work. And I am not convinced that there is any example of a country where democracy and Islamic beliefs manage to co-exist. Co-incidence?