Thursday :: Aug 17, 2006

The Mess in Pakistan

by Mary

Today Jonathan Landay reports that the overall strategy for addressing the unrest in Pakistan has gone badly awry. Based on the Cheney notion that all bad guys can be subdued by force, the Musharraf government has been given arms and encouragement to crush the insurgents and rebels on the Afghanistan border where the Taliban and bin Laden are hiding. What they've found, as we've seen in case after case after case, relying on military power to crush rebellion without regard to innocent civilians leads to increasing rebellion, not subduing it.

A U.S.-backed plan to defeat Islamist militants in Pakistan's autonomous tribal areas has backfired badly, and the Bush administration is working with Pakistan to come up with a new strategy to defuse the insurrection.

Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf "sees that what he was doing wasn't working," said one U.S. official who's familiar with the new plan. "He really has a mess."

Now Musharraf's government is attempting to negotiate truces in the areas, expand local police forces and introduce development projects to reward tribal leaders who break with the militants. The Bush administration has pledged millions of dollars to the new effort, said the official, who, like others familiar with the plan, spoke only if granted anonymity.

Ending the uprising by Islamist militants aligned with Osama bin Laden and Taliban rebels is crucial to American-led efforts to contain the worst surge in Taliban violence in Afghanistan since 2001. The bloodshed is adding to the Bush administration's woes in the Middle East and other fronts in the war on terrorism.

Pakistan deployed 80,000 troops in the areas, which border Afghanistan, at Washington's behest to hunt down bin Laden and his sympathizers and secure Pakistan's side of the border. The Bush administration reportedly has spent nearly $1 billion since 2003 to underwrite the Pakistan army's operations.

But the army's use of artillery and helicopter gunships - as well as U.S. airstrikes on suspected al-Qaida hideouts - has killed numerous civilians and stoked popular ire.

This is yet another indication that the aggressive, neocon, tough-guy approach to solving real-world problems is not only immoral, but worthless in acheiving any goals except expressing your own aggression. The ultimate result is chaos.

I think it is worthwhile recycling what Caleb Carr, professor of military studies at Bard College and author of The Lessons of Terror: A History of Warfare Against Civilians, said before Bush started his ill-begotten war in Iraq. His thesis is that using indiscriminant force resulting in the deaths of lots of civilians is a hallmark of a civilization that will be cursed in posterity.

[March 15, 2003] Caleb Carr had an article in the NY Observer about military ethics that was quite thought-provoking. Carr's writes about the argument that is going on in military circles concerning what is ethical in battle. Strategic bombing (bombing the sh*t out of them) is for some military leaders ethical because it saves soldiers' lives.

General Glosson has more than once spoken out to declare the Defense Department's plans for the coming invasion "criminal": "It is risking more lives than are necessary," he says---meaning, of course, American lives. General Glosson especially dislikes the idea that the American air campaign may last only a few days. He belongs to the school that favors prolonged, intensive, long-range bombing. The idea here is that the more we hammer areas where enemy troops are concentrated, as well as enemy infrastructure--regardless of attendant civilian casualties---the more likely we are to guarantee low, even negligible casualties among our own troops and thus protect our national interests.

However, Carr points out that thoughout history, civilizations are defined and remembered largely by how they fight....

As we have observed in every conflict since (and including) the Second World War, more long-range (or "strategic") bombing inevitably means more civilian casualties; less bombing may mean more American casualties. Against this brutally simple calculation stands a hard truth overlooked by generations of American military planners: Soldiers, especially in a volunteer army, accept risk as part of their job and are specially equipped to meet it; civilians, on the other hand, are offered neither such choice nor such special equipment. They are, for the most part, defenseless, and will generally show deep gratitude to whatever army or nation recognizes that---and equally deep hatred toward those who do not.

He asserts that our safety and well-being will be tied to how this war is conducted. Governing a country with angry citizens is not easy, unless you build a police state and even that is not enough sometimes. And the anger of others in the world will obviously be stoked by massive and indiscriminate deaths and this will come back to haunt Americans.

We Americans must also start to realize that we can continue to strike out at all "evil guys" thus increasing the evil quotient in the world, or we can start to address the problems of the world in a sane manner, recognizing it's not a winner-take-all game. The goal should be to stop creating more enemies and to start to solve the problems that create the anger.

At the risk of repeating myself too much, I think Rami Khori's point from last week is something we all need to consider.

Moses had it right, perhaps because he accumulated much wisdom during his 120 years of life. Meet the legitimate demands of both parties to a dispute, he said, and a fair, lasting resolution will emerge. Ignore the centrality of justice and equal rights for both parties, and you will be smitten by divine fire - or fated to fight your adversaries forever, as Israel seems to have opted to do.

Mary :: 12:05 PM :: Comments (16) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!