Progressive foreign policy should not be pro-autocracy

KARIM SAHIB/AFP via Getty Images
A Taliban fighter is pictured against the backdrop of Taliban flags installed at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Sept. 11, 2021.

How does one know that autocracy is winning and liberal democracy is failing around the globe?  

When the Taliban-led government in Afghanistan engages with more countries as each day passes and Taiwan is on the verge of losing another formal recognition, it is clear that the death knell to liberal democracy has been sounded.  

It was not long ago that we witnessed desperate men in Afghanistan clinging onto the undercarriage of airplanes and falling from the sky as it took flight. And yet there is already discussion and deliberation on recognizing the Taliban. 

There are op-eds sanitizing the Taliban as the rightful heirs and that the departure of “imperialist” West was about time. Pieces framing world events in this manner are clearly a sign of the times. The worldview that the West is an evil force and terror outfits such as the Taliban and Hamas deserve our sympathy is no longer fringe in America. This characterization would not be out of the norm for fringe progressives. However, of late, this worldview has been mainstreamed by so-called progressives within the Democratic party.  

Earlier this year, in response to the Biden administration’s Strategic Competition Act, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) alleged that the Biden administration was starting a new Cold War with China. She proposed an alternative mode of engagement, built on cooperation on climate change.  This was not long after the representative was marred in controversy over remarks she made about the aftermath of 9/11. The signs keep coming. 

Her colleague, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) has been a vocal proponent for the Boycott Divest Sanction (BDS) movement targeted toward Israel. Progressive lawmakers such as Sen. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-N.Y) and Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) have reportedly supported these fringe policies. Most recently, progressive characterizations of the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan as the end of the “forever war” selectively excludes the role of states such as Pakistan, which has sheltered and supported the Taliban while pretending to be America’s ally in the war on terror. 

Progressive foreign policies seem to translate to holding the door for China, the Taliban, Hamas and Pakistan. But the bigger question is, how have these radical policies found refuge in the Democratic party? There are two causes for this grim development. The rise of Trumpism and consequently, its product, the Democratic party’s guilt-driven, activism-led policy development. 

As Trump drove the Republican party away from free market capitalism and toward isolationism and economic populism, in response,  the Democratic party moved further to the left, adopting a worldview that America is a product of white supremacy, an imperialist force and the rest of the world are its victims. While American history is not without blots — the massacres and forced expulsions of Native Americans, African American slavery, segregation, deep rooted racist policies, comparing America of the 21st century to autocracies of the world is way more than an apples to oranges comparison.  

In the U.S., a baker’s refusal to place two male or two female figurines on top of a cake for a gay wedding warrants a Supreme Court intervention, however, in another part of the world gay men and women are pushed off of buildings as punishment.  

In the U.S., Texas’s abortion laws draw liberal ire to an extent that the critics of the policies draw parallels to the Taliban. In Taliban led Afghanistan, girls as young as thirteen are forced into marriages, women are whipped in public for infidelity, and are not allowed to sit next to their male counterparts in schools and universities, that is if they are allowed to attend one in the first place.   

The hyperbolic language and false moral equivalencies are serious threats to social cohesion. Furthermore, this worldview has blinded moderates to march alongside progressives in “canceling” contrarian views and sympathizing with autocratic and theocratic elements around the globe. For example, Sen. Tom Cotton’s (R-Ark.) A New York Times op-ed calling for military intervention in the wake of unrest during George Floyd protests received widespread criticism. The Times had to issue a clarification addressing questions on the rationale behind providing a platform for the Republican Senator. However, a piece titled “What We, the Taliban, Want,” by deputy Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, received little condemnation. 

Liberals have to engage in some soul searching. How does Haqqani, a deputy leader of the Taliban with a $5 million bounty on his head, get a platform to speak to the American public but an elected conservative Senator’s opinion is deemed too radical?   

America’s infighting should not frame its foreign policy. Democrats and Republicans have to move more toward the center of the political spectrum to rightly identify the oppressor and oppressed. Granted,  Trump’s incendiary and hyperbolic rhetoric moved the Republican party to the far end of the right. With Trump out of office, Biden should rein in his party and address the deep polarization in the nation.  

In order to prevent the progressives taking the Democratic party off a cliff as Trump supporting Republicans have with the “big lie” and anti-vaccine propaganda, the Biden administration should proactively enforce punitive measures, targeting autocracies of the world.  

First, the administration should impose targeted economic sanctions on Pakistan’s intelligence service members and generals — who played a role in the failure of the 20-year war in Afghanistan through their proxy war — as it has with Chinese officials involved in the Xinjiang concentration camps. Secondly, it should support democratic activists around the globe — Taiwan to Hong Kong — and not terror outfits such as Hamas and Taliban. If the U.S. agreeing to the name change of Taiwan’s representative office from Taipei to Taiwan draws Chinese ire, so be it. The U.S. should steadfastly stand with Asia’s most vibrant democracy over the Communist regime. And lastly, the Biden administration should adopt the French model of reviewing universities — one that was initiated to look into Islamo gauchisme, a strange partnership between radical Islamists and leftist scholars.  

Democrat or Republican, America should always stand with democracies and not autocracies and theocracies of the world. 

Akhil Ramesh is a non-resident Vasey fellow at the Pacific Forum. He has worked with risk consulting firms, think tanks and in the blockchain industry in the United States, India and in the Philippines. His analysis has been published in The South China Morning Post, The Diplomat, Asia Times and the Jerusalem Post. Follow him on Twitter: @akhil_oldsoul

Tags Afghanistan conflict Aftermath of the September 11 attacks Al-Qaeda Ilhan Omar In Afghanistan Joe Biden Rashida Tlaib Taliban Tom Cotton War in Afghanistan

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