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JeffVader's avatar

Are there any parallels between the revolutionaries in the American War of Independence, and the Taliban?

Asked by JeffVader (5416points) April 14th, 2010

Please don’t think this is my opinion, nor am I trying to be offensive. I was talking to a lad from my brothers Mosque (incidentally, I’m Atheist not Muslim) at the weekend & he was arguing there is. I kinda see what he meant. About radicals forcing a scary philosophy onto a world that was not ready for it. & it is an interesting intellectual exercise. However I had numerous fundamental objections. What are your thoughts?

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27 Answers

Mikelbf2000's avatar

No, he is wrong. The American War of Independence was for independance not for forcing anything onto the world.

JeffVader's avatar

@Mikelbf2000 Although, in the context of the time, & from the British perspectave, was it not just that. A group of radicals with challenging beliefs trying to overturn the social order.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

American revolutionaries were against governmental oppression and lack of representation in the governing body that legislated taxes and laws. They were in favor of the right to worship as one choses. The Taliban is the exact opposite of that, seeking to impose religious oppression on all, without representation or tolerance of divergent positions.

So, no, they are not the same. If anything, they are diametrically opposed.

janbb's avatar

There are certainly parallels between insurgents in any country fighting against a large organized military and the revolutionary soldiers in the War for Independence, but the philosophy of the Taliban is completely different. I think there might be a greater parallel with the Iraqi insurgents but I would want to look at it more closely before making a judgment.

dpworkin's avatar

One was a war to establish freedom of religion, among other things the other is a war to impose strict religious law on everyone regardless of personal belief.

It is offensive to compare the two – we don’t coerce anyone to be a republican; the Taliban mutilate and murder people for refusing to cooperate with their religious ideals.

JeffVader's avatar

@janbb Many thanks. I do think that the similarities only really seem to exist when viewed from the British perspective…. & as you say, the philosophies are diametrically opposed.

JeffVader's avatar

@dpworkin Many thanks, & sorry if I offended.

dpworkin's avatar

Oh, there was nothing offensive about your question. What is offensive is your interlocutor’s notion that strong-arm ideological conversion is analogous to casting off the yoke of oppression.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

I don’t find it oppressive at all. Perhaps it would be more closely aligned to compare it to the American Civil War, with the Taliban cast as the Confederacy. But even in that, the factors were economically driven, and about preserving a “peculiar institution” that was imported to the United States that perpetuated from what was perceived as economic necessity.

It was not about imposing slavery where there was no slavery, so in that aspect, too, it was different. The largest factor in the Civil War was whether or not a central government could impose laws on states, requiring states to abide by national laws, or whether states could choose to follow national laws. An outcome of the American Civil War was the solidification of national identity, the shift from “the United States are” to “The United States is.”

Perhaps all fundamentalism more closely resembles the Spanish Inquisition.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

The similarities are only at a tactical level. Remember that the American revolution would have failed if the British Empire hadn’t been busy elsewhere. The “American” victory at Yorktown, which decided the conflict, was entirely due to Admiral DeGrasse’s French naval squadron defeating a wind-locked British squadron at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay (the British Admiral had split his squadron and sent half to the Caribbean). Without relief, the British forces at Yorktown were forced to surrender.

Philisophically, as others have said, the US founders were diametrically opposed to what the Taliban stand for. The only colonial government that had any similarity was the early Plymouth Colony, which forced their beliefs on all residents; the exiles from Massachusetts went on to form New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Vermont. Most of the American founders were Enlightenment freethinkers, either diests or agnostics who stood for freedom of (and from) religion and a strict separation of religion and government. Totally opposite to Taliban objectives.

wilma's avatar

I agree with many of the above posters. Totally opposite to the Taliban and who they are and what they do.
@JeffVader I do not find the question offensive at all, but the idea behind it is offensive to me.
Good question.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

As others have said: on a superficial level only.

- American revolutionaries fought against the superpower of their day; so does the Taliban
– American revolutionaries were generally poor, not uniformed (or badly), shoeless peasants; ditto Taliban fighters

On more fundamental and philosophical level, there are zero similarities. The idea of a democratic republic was new to the world (since the ‘pure democracy’ of the Greek city-states). Islamic fundamentalism is an old, old idea. Fighting for religious tolerance and multi-culturalism was a novel idea; attempting to enforce an orthodox religion and intolerance on a society is ancient.

American democracy has been generally good for the world. Even the enemies we defeated in the World Wars are now our strongest allies. It’s doubtful that the Taliban could ever make such a claim, even if they could “win”.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

Actually, the Taliban are a creation of the West (specifically the US). A sort of Frankenstein’s monster we created to wreak havoc with the Soviet occupiers of Afghanistan in the 1980s. The mujahideen that we brought together and trained in Pakistan formed their international connections in those US sponsored training camps. Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden got thier start right there. When the Soviets left, so did US support. The only cohesive military and political force left in Afghanistan was the Taliban, who overthrew the traditional tribal leadership structures and instituted their theocracy and were determined to spread it throughout the world. Many of the Taliban “most wanted” were students of US military advisors 25 years ago.

wundayatta's avatar

The willingness to kill people in order to further their revolution is similar. I’m not sure if the rabidness about killing is the same. I know passions ran high in both conflicts. We can’t read the minds of anyone, but figuring out the state of mind of people long dead is a lot harder.

I’m not sure if the proto-Americans were all fired up with hatred for the British, or if it was more, “we have to do this.” I get the feeling that the Taliban are so fired up with hatred that they enjoy killing their enemies. Certainly they see glory in it—martyrdom that gets them into heaven. I would conclude that even in the willingness to kill for their cause (or die for it), there are differences.

JeffVader's avatar

@wundayatta & Im inclined to agree.

mattbrowne's avatar

Virtually none. The Taliban are basically a criminal organization. They intend to establish a brutal totalitarian theocracy taking away pluralism, freedom of religion, denying education to girls and women as well as allowing foreign criminals to establish terrorist training camps. The American revolutionaries ended a unjust system of colonialism giving freedom to people instead of taking it away from them.

DarkScribe's avatar

No, in the American War of independence the French rescued the Americans – without them the British would not have been defeated. The French don’t seem to like the Taliban any more than we do.

JeffVader's avatar

@DarkScribe Hahahaha, damn Frenchies :)

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

The Taliban no longer have a superpower behind them, but oil money finds its way to them and there is a vigorous black market in modern weapons. Only a matter of time until a loose tatical nuke finds its way into their hands. A strike on the US would force even a left-pragmatist like Obama to engage in genocidal retribution. Mecca reduced to a lake of molten glass?

JeffVader's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land Ouch! Lets hope it never comes to that for everyone’s sake!

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

American revolutionaries didn’t routinely stone women to death for putting their hair up. Next question.

Qingu's avatar

I don’t think they are really that similar. Especially because Afghanistan has never been a U.S. colony and we’ve made it clear we’re not out to occupy the country.

The main similarity comes from the fact that both groups were native insurgents fighting what they saw as an anathema foreign power. But that’s a pretty broad similarity.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

The roots of the American Revolution are far different from what is happening in Afghanistan. Initially, the American colonies did not want independance, but proper representation in Parliament and some say in their taxation. Only when representatives like Franklin were rudely rebuffed did the notion of independance begin to form. Only then was the soil ready for the radical seeds of Tom Paine.

The Taliban were largely foreigners, bringing in notions od radical Wahabbi Sunni Islam and took advantage of the tribal custom (Pushtun Wali) of sanctuary to undermine the traditional tribal governmental structure. Once they were given sanctuary, it could not be revoked, even if their behavior endangered the tribe. Pakistan has been encouraging this for the last 60 years, as they see Afghanistan as a “tributary state”, inheriting British ambitions in the area. For hundreds of years, Britain and Russia played “the great game” in this region. The US stumbled into this as a sideshow of the Cold War; and an opportunity to “get back” at the USSR for their involvement in Vietnam. The current mess with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda is an unintended consequence of American actions of 25 years ago.

YARNLADY's avatar

All wars are similar in that people die. Other than that, no.

laureth's avatar

The Puritans, however, didn’t come here for religious freedom so much as they were fed up with not being able to make everyone follow their religion in their homeland and wanted to make a place where everyone believed like they did. That’s uncomfortably close to a Talibanlike philosophy, and I’m glad that America didn’t really begin with the Puritans!

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

GA @laureth. Fortunately the Puritans were outvoted by twelve other states when it came to forming a nation. The Puritans were so obnoxious that three other colonies formed (NH,CT, RI) just from refugees of that theocracy.

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