GUESS who said this: “The Taliban is a conservative, religious force, the US is godless and liberal. The defeat of the US government is unequivocally a positive development.” Now if you thought that this was a statement from a Muslim group inspired by the victory of the Taliban over the decadent US, you’d be wrong. This was posted by Nick Fuentes, a highly influential 23-year-old American white supremacist in the US who is also a close ally of members of the increasingly radical opposition Republican Party.
And when it comes to expressing this sort of admiration for the Taliban’s sweeping victory, and in particular the ethos that they think enabled it, Fuentes is by no means the only one in the right-wing sphere who has taken the Taliban victory and woven it into his own worldview, using it as ammunition in America’s unending and increasingly violent culture wars.
In that sphere, the US lost not because the war was unwinnable or because its own brutalities and the corruption of the Afghan government increased support for the Taliban, but because it was too focused on diversity, ‘wokeness’ and choosing the correct pronouns. As right-wing news personality Greg Kelley put it: “Tragically, planning and preparing for Afghanistan wasn’t a priority. Instead [Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin] made the army woke.”
By contrast, they see the Taliban as epitomes of traditionalism and a masculine grassroots religiosity, the loss of which they feel is the root cause of America’s military defeat and social decline. Take Rod Dreher, senior editor of the right-wing American Conservative who, while criticising a US army document that emphasised diversity as a strategic asset, wrote, “There’s nothing diverse about these hillbilly adversaries, but they drove us out of Afghanistan. There’s a lesson here.” These arguments are now a staple in white right-wing circles.
Some unlikely elements are admiring the Taliban’s victory.
Ironically, Islamophobia is also a staple in those circles where Arabs are referred to as ‘mud people’ and subjected to attacks but we have seen — now and in the past — that this gets relegated to second place when it comes to admiration for the actions of Muslim extremists like Al Qaeda. After the 9/11 attacks, an official of the American neo-Nazi group the National Alliance lamented that his party members did not have the same “fortitude” as the group that attacked the Twin Towers. In the Czech Republic, the leader of the nationalist National Social bloc Jan Kopal declared Osama Bin Laden “an example for our children”. The list goes on, but you get the idea.
Examining the reasons for this admiration, Martin Lee of the right-wing watchdog organisation the Southern Poverty Law Centre writes that white extremists and certain Muslim extremists not only had “shared enemies” but also a “shared belief that they must shield their own peoples from the corrupting influence of foreign cultures and the homogenising juggernaut of globalisation”.
Another common ground and shared agenda is the extermination of the ‘grey zone’, that increasingly thin sliver in which communities, races and belief systems coexist in relative tolerance. In 2015, Daesh (IS) explicitly stated this as their agenda, and you will also find similar thoughts in neo-Nazi and right-wing circles in the West, where those who stray from the fold are labelled race traitors and legitimate targets for violence with an aim to deepen divisions and force people to choose sides.
And so for those in the West who would prefer to see the whole system crash and burn, the Taliban victory is something to salivate over showing as it does to them that a small group of fighters with the right (pun intended) ideology can in fact triumph over a well-armed military. It comes as no surprise then that this exact point is being discussed, mostly through memes, among anti-government militias in the US who had often been mocked for lacking the wherewithal to overthrow the state.
Thus, the enemy of my enemy is my friend even though he may also be an enemy. Interestingly, this mirrors in a way the ‘near enemy, far enemy’ debate in Islamist circles, where the question was raised as to who should be the priority target: the rulers of ‘apostate’ Muslim countries or the US, without the support of which (according to them) these rulers would fall?
In the white nationalist circles, it seems the choice has been made that the ‘near enemy’ — the liberal democracies and the social ethos they espouse — are the real threat. Of course, the liberal democracies of the West have done themselves no favours here by perverting that very ethos to engage in, and prolong, imperialist wars and interventions. When you cynically sell wars as battles for liberal democracy and human rights, the very concepts of liberal democracy and human rights suffer. Hence in the coming days you will likely see the global right gain further ground, in large part thanks to the very forces that claim to oppose them.
The writer is a journalist.
Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2021