America, learn from Afghanistan: Giving up to radicals is not the answer

“If Trump becomes president, I am leaving this country.”

This is a sentiment some of my American friends have shared with me.

Having lived in the U.S. for a few years, I follow the politics of Afghanistan and the U.S. closely. And when I hear political rhetoric in the U.S., particularly during the presidential race, I smell the odor of radicalization.

The top candidate brushes a whole community of people as rapists, murderers and terrorists, and it all sounds familiar to me. As the Egyptian comedian Bassem Youssef, who lives in the U.S., said, “it feels like home.”

Hearing radical ideological rhetoric and having lived by it is nothing new to me. I spent most of my life in Afghanistan and have first hand experience of what radicalism could look like, but it’s disappointing to see it happening in the U.S., a developed and to a large extend a democratic society.

They say that the rise of ideologues in the U.S. is because of grievance and anger. People said the same things about the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but where has that led Afghanistan?

That’s not to suggest that a Trump presidency would be like a Talibani regime – the two countries are barely comparable – but their xenophobic, misogynistic and nationalist characteristics are quite similar.

Under Taliban rule women couldn’t go to school, the economy was paralyzed, hundreds of thousands of Afghans left the country, and diplomatic and trade relations with other countries were cut.

Generally speaking, that could easily be a Trump presidency, considering his positions on women’s status in society, his plans to close borders and to alter free trade agreements, and his lack of a solid foreign policy strategy.

At least after world war two, the developing world have looked up to the Western world for source of inspiration – in particular they have viewed the American political model as ideal form of polity and have benefited from the American technological advancement.

The good news is that people still look up to the U.S., but the bad news could be if the results of this year’s election puts someone like Mr. Trump as the president of the U.S. China, the world’s second largest economy, will be out, ties with the Islamic world will suffer, and we don’t know what will happen to NATO, women, or the LGBTQ+ community.

You would think that this is America and thus the society holds higher standards of respect for universal democratic values, but you see journalists getting kick out political rallies, people getting beaten up and violence is encouraged.

And you see that the demagogues are using the same “third world country” political tools, tribal and race affiliations and religion, to win an office. I am not saying that  our stories, Afghanistan or the U.S., are all about radicals and isolationists.

The common sensical people in both countries are fighting hard to bring about progressive change. However, it seems as if the progressivist voices are overpowered by the radicals.

Afghanistan’s location in the buffer zone between the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the Cold War also contributed to the radicalization of Afghan society. That is not to say that Afghanistan did not have a large chunk of religious zealots before that. Afghan King Amanullah, who in the 1920s wanted to modernize Afghanistan using Europe as a model, was kicked out of the palace.

The U.S. does not have this power of dependency and being used as a buffer zone, it is a superpower country, not comparable to Afghanistan in this sense at all. It is would be unthinkable to have an Afghan kind of radical regime in the U.S., but a quasi-fundamental-isolationist Trump regime is quite possible.

America’s radicalization should be alarming, it is not only bad for the U.S. but for the world, but the solution is simple, it is the power of voting, but of course that voting power could be also problematic and can put people like Trump in the White House.

The Americans have a choice to make, and I trust they will make the right choice. The first and the good choice, is to vote for a progressive candidate, and I think at this stage you have only two choices, and you know who they are.

The engine of the world’s economy and democracy has been running for over 60 years by the forces of ideals progressivism. Isolationism and nationalism have led to problems such as Nazism, wars and destruction.

History has proven that the more open and democratic societies are, the less wars and conflicts there be. This is not only because of common characteristics of societies of the democratic societies, but also because of the free flow of capital and labor.

So voting a logical leader is a better option than leaving the U.S. for Canada. In the case of Afghanistan, unfortunately, we endure an ongoing war, which makes the power of voting weak, but we have not give up on modernizing our society.

Cover credit: Daily Republic (Edited)


Said Sabir Ibrahimi

Research Associate for the Center of International Cooperation at New York University Recent graduate in Political Science and Communications at Fairleigh Dickinson University, former collaborator for the UK Department for International Development, former collaborator for the Norwegian Refugee Council in Afghanistan, participant at the Model United Nations in Düsseldorf and at the United Nations Youth Assembly in New York. "As a curious and responsible global citizen, I would like to write about issues pertaining to humanity and in particular the politics of the South Asian region and the U.S."