Monday, March 9, 2009

Foreign Intervention Fatigue

Christopher Hitchens has an article in Slate about Pakistan's surrender of the province of Swat to the Taliban.

However, one should be careful of the seductions of this compromise. In a wishful attempt to bring peace with the Taliban in Pakistan itself, the government has recently ceded a fertile and prosperous and modernized valley province—the former princedom of Swat—to the ultraviolent votaries of the one party and the one God. This is not some desolate tribal area where government and frontier have been poorly delineated for decades, as in Waziristan. It is a short commute from the capital city of Islamabad. The Taliban have never won an election in the area; indeed, the last vote went exactly the other way. And refugees are pouring out of Swat as the fundamentalists take hold and begin their campaign of cultural and economic obliteration: no music, no schooling for females, no recognition of the writ of the central government.


There is another symbiosis between state failure of that kind and the spread of deadly violence. A state or region taken over by jihadists will not last long before declining into extreme poverty and backwardness and savagery. There are no exceptions to this rule. We do not need to demonstrate again what happens to countries where vicious fantasists try to govern illiterates with the help of only one book. And who will be blamed for the failure? There will not, let me assure you, be a self-criticism session mounted by the responsible mullahs. Instead, all ills will be blamed on the Crusader-Zionist conspiracy, and young men with deficiency diseases and learning disabilities will be taught how to export their frustrations to happier lands. Thus does the failed state become the rogue state. This is why we have a duty of solidarity with all the secular forces, women's groups, and other constituencies who don't want this to happen to their societies or to ours.

By all means, let field commanders make tactical agreements with discrepant groups, play them off against one another, employ the methods of divide and rule, and pit the bad against the worst. C'est la guerre. But under no circumstances should a monopoly of violence be ceded to totalitarian or theocratic forces. For this and for other reasons, we shall long have cause to regret the shameful decision to deliver the good people of the Swat Valley bound and gagged into the hands of the Taliban, and—worst of all—without even a struggle.

Note the parts that I bolded from Hitchens' article. I get tired of hearing that we have duties in places like "Swat." Six months ago, I had never heard of the place, so I don't think it's my duty to pick sides in their civil war. Wouldn't it be arrogant of me to assume such a position?

What can we do about it, anyway? Nobody wants or is prepared for a US led intervention into Pakistan. The army in Pakistan have been sitting on their hands when it comes to combating insurgents. There's no doubt, much sympathy, and outright support of the Taliban inside of the force.

If the Jihad side has that much support, maybe it is unstoppable in Pakistan. Hitchens makes a case that a failed state or a jihadist state will mean future terrorist attacks on us, over here. Maybe so. But right now, call me naive, isolation from the part of the world seems like the better course. Get out of there and let them drag themselves down, instead of us with it.

The bottom line is that nobody knows what to do with Pakistan. The western countries are broke and spread thin. A pullback from the region seems inevitable. Perhaps a quarantine of the region is necessary. Maybe we shouldn't allow Pakistanis or Afghans to be able to freely board a flight to Canada or the US, and thus stop importing their problems. Maybe a more defensive posture is the key to combating terrorist attacks on us.

We should think of new ideas because the neo-con method of attacking countries and imposing our will on them, don't seem to be doing anything to stop or even slow the growth of jihadism.

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