How the Anti-West Axis Leverages Western Guilt

The United States’ wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have widely cast the image of America as the great imperialist evil of the modern era. In the face of centuries of post-European colonial turmoil in the Middle East, international attention has latched onto Israel as perhaps an even greater symbol of Western exploitation. Progressives in the West focus on this conflict and particularly the most recent Hamas war out of a sense of support for the oppressed – a view which largely plays into the “clash of civilizations” ideology posited by American political scientist Samuel P. Huntington. Actors like Iran and their proxies such as Hamas realize that by posing as the victim of whatever it may be – the West, democracy, or capitalism – they can eventually win over a large number of Western progressives who have grown disillusioned with issues endemic to Western countries.

Indeed, the Western exploitation argument could hold better in regard to Iraq where there was a primary interest in region-specific natural resources. However, the position that Israel is a Western colonial outpost founded to pursue malevolent Western interests in the Middle East makes little sense, as the US primarily relies on Israel for innovative technology, and technology can be developed anywhere. Moreover, the insistence that the conflict with Palestine is analogous to Iraqi and Afghani insurgents doesn’t track, seeing as the situations of Gaza and the West Bank are borne out of several wars primarily begun by Israel’s neighbors. October 7 constitutes the largest example thus far, an attack which Iran-sponsored Hamas has promised to repeat, while the US steps down its support amid Israel’s refusal to cease fire on Gaza.

As more progressive educated elites come to power in the US determined to make a change by pursuing what they assume must be the greener pastures of equity and atheism (from Judeo-Christianity), they often fail to acknowledge that such issues exist on both sides of the coin. Where the largely Christian patriarchy in the West has prevailed in most systemic policies, theocratic and communist nations such as Iran, China and Russia respectively have upheld actual religious and economic regimes. Similarly, whereas they purport to oppose violence as a rule, many both in the West and elsewhere excuse violence seen as sacrifice. In this alleged struggle against oppression, even a security situation such as the blockade of Gaza and military occupation in the West Bank which resulted from wars initiated by Israel’s neighbors and several Palestinian treaty rejections are deemed entirely unnecessary and without basis. Those who refute the West claim to value innocent life, but then support attacks against an allegedly Western presence, even knowing that the retaliation will bring more death. Refusal to hold non-Western entities accountable for harming even their own people shows how Palestinian activist Edward Said’s notion of orientalism – or the West’s fetishization of the non-West – can actually be used to justify the actions of those otherwise claiming to resent such fetishization.

While many of these people mean well, they have sided with one set of flawed values in the fight against another set of flawed values. By championing the murder of innocent Israelis and the sacrifice of Palestinian lives solely to rebel against the “wicked West”, this support for the underdog ends up empowering the very misogynistic and homophobic dictatorships these advocates claim to oppose. With enough guilt-ridden elites gaining influence in Western politics, countries such as China with its economic surplus advantage and Russia with its growing backing of Palestinian militancy could sway incoming leaders in the West. Whereas China’s wealth could deter some Westerners skeptical of monetary privilege, the fact that the Chinese government hoards those funds alongside China’s status as a non-European country stands to override the economic reality. This determination to avoid criticizing entities perceived as non-Western, “non-white”, or non-European recently surfaced with the reluctance to suggest COVID-19 could have originated in a lab in Wuhan.

Similarly, although technically with all major political centers located in Europe, Russia has long set itself apart from the West in its insistence on equity. Contemporary members of Western intelligentsia see this lack of privatization as guaranteed equality, when it really presents yet another opportunity for oligarchs to control access to resources. President Putin is simply the latest in many such Russian leaders, and one who has held ongoing power for far longer than right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Whereas many American progressives rightfully protest the war in Ukraine, particular ire arises at US aid going toward Israel, as opposed to Russia which faces US sanctions. However, this indignance fails to acknowledge the fact that Russia started its war with an invasion on Ukrainian territory, while all conflicts between Hamas and Israel – and largely between Israel and most of its adversaries – were not initiated by Israel.

Finally, the Iranian theocracy deprives its own people to posture as a non-European anti-West freedom fighter rising up against Israeli and US influence encroaching on Islamic hegemony, a worthy cause in the eyes of Western rebels with a naïve cause and scant nuance. By leveraging smaller players such as Hamas and the Houthis of Yemen – who have long since suffered their own post-colonial trauma and intertribal conflicts – against a common enemy, the Islamic Republic rallies alongside other powers such as China and Russia to play upon the emotions of those in the West who are as impressionable as they are educated.

[Photo by the Palestinian News & Information Agency (Wafa) in contract with APAimages, via Wikimedia Commons]

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect TGP’s editorial stance.

What is the Relevance of Networked Deterrence in the Indo-Pacific?

Deterrence has been at the center of the world’s strategic thinking for over the last seven decades. During the Cold War period, the idea...

Why Tajikistan’s Water Matters

Tajikistan is a very rich country in terms of water and hydropower potential. Its water, which is the Central Asian nation’s most widespread natural...

Being Part of the Plan: An Integrated Approach for Global Biological Diversity Conservation

The International Day for Biological Diversity, observed annually on 22nd May every year, serves as a poignant reminder to recognize and promote the importance...