Greg Scoblete wonders whether the Taliban’s new YouTube channel represents an attempt by the group to widen its appeal, and calls the question “disturbing.” I’d actually find it reassuring, if that’s the intention. Radical groups remain radical precisely because they value ideological “purity” over wide appeal. It’s when they attempt to widen their appeal that they are forced to confront the reality of how limited a constituency there is for their radical agendas.
And actually being answerable to a wider constituency only reinforces that process. The reason Hezbollah has been deterred by the 2006 Lebanon War is not because of the battlefield outcomes, by all accounts of which it “won” the actual ground fighting. It’s a result of the constraining effect of Lebanese popular opinion, which would look very harshly on any similar outbreak of violence directly provoked by Hezbollah action.
Broad appeal dilutes radicalism, and being answerable to constituencies limits its expression. I’ll try to develop the implications that has for Afghanistan, and the notion of reaching some sort of political accomodation with the Taliban, in a later post.