Skip to comments.The Best Laid Five Minute Plans Of Bill Richardson (Mark Steyn: Pakistan's Islamist Pathology Alert)
Posted on 12/30/2007 12:40:32 PM PST by goldstategop
Its tempting to rerun my column on Pakistan from a month ago. Not because I predicted the assassination of Benazir Bhutto or offered any other great insight, but rather for the opposite reason: Everyones an expert on Pakistan, a faraway country of which we know everything: General Musharraf should do this, he shouldnt have done that, the State Department should lean on him to do the other Well, I dunno. It seems to me a certain humility is appropriate when offering advice to Islamabad.
Oh, well. In the stampede of instant experts unveiling their Pakistani solutions-in-a-box, some contributions are worthy of special attention. Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who is apparently running for the Democratic presidential nomination, was in no doubt about what needs to happen in the next, oh, 48 hours:
President Bush should press Musharraf to step aside, and a broad-based coalition government, consisting of all the democratic parties, should be formed immediately... It is in the interests of the U.S. that there be a democratic Pakistan that relentlessly hunts down terrorists.
Wow. Who knew it was that easy?
Except maybe it isnt. A broad-based coalition of all the democratic parties would be a ramshackle collection of socialists, kleptocrats, tribal gladhanders and Islamists. Whether this is the horse to back if youre looking for a team that relentlessly hunts down terrorists is, to say the least, uncertain.
But, since Governor Bill Richardson brought it up, its worth considering what exactly the interests of the U.S. are in Pakistan. The most immediate interest is in preventing the countrys tribal lands from becoming this decades Afghanistan a huge Camp Osama graduating jihadist alumni from all over the world. That ship, if it hasnt already sailed, has certainly cast off and is chugging out the harbor. Something called the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan now operates a local franchise of Taliban rule in both north and south Waziristan, and is formally recognized by the Pakistan government in the Islamabad-Waziri treaty of just over a year ago. Officially, the treaty was intended to negotiate a truce, although to those unversed in the machinations of tribal politics it looked a lot more like a capitulation, an interpretation encouraged by the signing ceremony, which took place in a soccer stadium flying the flag of al-Qaeda.
Of course, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas have always been somewhat loosely governed Federal Administration-wise. In the new issue of The Claremont Review Of Books, Stanley Kurtzs fascinating round-up of various tomes by Akbar Ahmed (recently Pakistans High Commissioner in London and before that Political Agent in Waziristan) mentions en passant a factoid I vaguely remember from my schooldays that even at the height of imperial power, the laws of British India, by treaty and tradition, only governed 100 yards either side of Waziristans main roads. Once you were off the shoulder, you were subject to the rule of various maliks (tribal bigshots). The British prided themselves on an ability to run the joint at arms length through discreet subsidy of favored locals. As a young lieutenant with the Malakand Field Force, Winston Churchill found the wiles of Sir Harold Deane, chief commissioner of the North-West Frontier Province, a tad frustrating. We had with us a very brilliant political officer, a Major Deane, who was most disliked because he always stopped military operations, recalled Churchill. Apparently all these savage chiefs were his old friends and almost his blood relations. Nothing disturbed their friendship. In between fights, they talked as man to man and as pal to pal.
The benign interpretation of Musharrafs recent moves is that hes doing a Major Deane. The reality is somewhat bleaker: Today, even that 200-yard corridor of nominal sovereignty has gone and Islamabads Political Agent is a much shrunken figure compared to his predecessors from the Raj. That doesnt mean foreign influence is impossible in Waziristan. Osama bin Laden is, after all, a foreigner, and so are many of the other al-Qaeda A-listers holed up in the tribal lands. Jihadists arrested recently in Britain, Germany and Scandinavia all spent time training in Waziristan, as do Chechen rebels. If another big hit on the US mainland is currently in the works, its safe to say its being plotted somewhere in Pakistans tribal areas.
Its easy to tell Musharraf what he should do. Over one thousand Pakistani soldiers have been killed fighting Islamists in Waziristan and other tribal lands. That would be a lot even for an army solidly behind Musharraf. But in Pakistan every institution charged with relentlessly hunting down terrorists has, to one degree or another, been subverted by them: Pakistans military the least corrupt agency in the country and its intelligence service, the ISI, are both riddled with Islamist sympathizers. As Churchill noted, the British had a fondness for the more bloodcurdling Pushtun warriors: In 1939, for example, Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Sanders accepted an invitation to tikala (lunch) from the tribesman whod blown him up. The Pushtun apologized for costing the Colonel his right arm, and the Colonel accepted the apology and raised his glass in a presumably left-handed toast, and they got on splendidly and had a whale of a time. But a mutual respect between combatants is very different from the ties that bind Taliban leaders in Waziristan with elements of the Pakistani military and intelligence service: Two groups, nominally at war with each other, nevertheless share indistinguishable views on the joys of hardline sharia and the wickedness of the United States.
One way to look at whats happened over the last five years is simply that Afghanistan and Pakistan have swapped roles. In the Eighties, Washington used Pakistan to subvert Afghanistan. Since the fall of Mullah Omar, the Taliban, a monster incubated by Pakistan, has swarmed back across the border and begun subverting Pakistan. Today, its the tribal lands that have a 200-yard corridor through the rest of the country, exporting Islamist values through the network of madrassahs to the fierce young men in the cities. Just as the Taliban eventually seized control of Afghanistan, so they believe theyll one day control Pakistan. Stan-wise, the principal difference is that control of the latter will bring them a big bunch of nukes. Meanwhile, life goes on. Just as the tribal lands seem to be swallowing Pakistan, so Pakistan is swallowing much of the world. It exports its manpower and its customs around the globe, and Pakistani communities in the heart of west have provided the London School of Economics student who masterminded the beheading of Daniel Pearl, the Torontonians who plotted to do the same to the Canadian Prime Minister, and the Yorkshiremen who pulled off the London Tube bombing. Saudi men pay lip service to Wahhabist ideology but it rouses very few of them from their customary torpor. In Pakistan, Islamism spurs a lot more action.
No people are immutable. Its worth noting that Muslims next door in India are antipathetic to jihad. Yet they are ethnically and religiously indistinguishable from the fellows in Islamabad wiring up one-year old babies as unwitting suicide bombers. The only reason ones an Indian and the others a Pakistani is because of where some British cartographer decided to draw the line in 1947. Since then, Indian Muslims have been functioning members of a modern pluralist democracy, while Pakistani Muslims have been mired in incompetence, backwardness and dictatorship, and embraced jihadism as the most viable escape route. Reversing that pathology would have been beyond Benazir Bhuttos pretty face. Or even the best-laid five-minute plans of Bill Richardson.
"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." - Manuel II Palelologus
We need to have an independent, international investigation of Vince Foster’s death.
"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." - Manue
Bill Richardson is a “C” lister.
IMO while there is trouble in Pakistan we have an opportunity to take out all of OBL’s camps. Should take an afternoon but it should at least set their plans back in Afghanistan. They have identified 40 plus training camps. Bomb the piss out of them.
Sometimes the best thing "to do" is NOTHING!
I think other countries tell us what to do day after day.
We don’t like it when people tell us what to do, so who are we to tell Pakistan what to do? The Dems say the Iraq invasion was meddling in foreign affairs, yet here they are telling Musharraf how to run his country. Double standard.
‘Sometimes the best thing “to do” is NOTHING!’
Yes, “Don’t just do something, stand there” does seem to be the best policy for this rats nest. Let the Indians and Chinese deal with their unruly neighbors, and acknowledge that the nuclear genie is “out of the bottle” henceforward (where it has in fact been for some time).
An illuminating discussion of the consequences of this fact may be found in:
Nuclear Proliferation and the Future of Conflict
by Martin Van Creveld
From Publishers Weekly
Though the possibility of nuclear confrontation between superpowers has greatly diminished since the end of the Cold War, the possession of nuclear weapons by states whose conflicts are unresolved could turn out to be equally threatening, notes Van Creveld ( The Transformation of War ). He here considers the likelihood of conflict between North and South Korea, China and Taiwan, China and India, India and Pakistan, Israel and the Arab states, as well as the nuclear status of other countries currently developing the scientific, technological and industrial infrastructure that would enable them to build weapons of mass destruction. Van Creveld begins this academic study by describing the basic characteristics of large-scale warfare as it evolved before the introduction of nuclear weapons and the effect of the latter on both the countries that possess them and on those countries threatened by them. Finally, he assesses the impact of nuclear proliferation on the future of war itself, including the configuration of the armies that would be prepared to wage it. For specialists.
Thanks for your essay. The fact that Richardson is the best they have to offer, shows you how devoid of leadership the ‘rats are.
Thanks for posting Steyn. Very good article.
Too bad I never got to see NYC before it was nuked.
They also tell us where to go!
The tribal areas are not politically homogeneous - that is, after all, a part of being tribal. But those portions who are in bed with al-Qaeda can count on sufficient hostility to outsiders to keep the area safe on the part even of their nominal enemies. That is one reason that the Pakistani army, with its own Pushtun component, has had such a difficult time mounting operations there.
To a very great deal the Taliban have been run to ground there. Despite breathless celebration on the part of the anti-American international media they do not control Afghanistan and are highly unlikely to regain that control in the imaginable future. Waziristan is their redoubt and a formidable one at that. But if they are confined to that location they may be isolated and constitute a diminishing international threat over time.
If, however, they manage to expand their control to that of Pakistan proper, the potential for mischief is enormous. Current strategic objectives are to prevent that control from ever happening and to mitigate their ability to throw that country into chaos despite a failure to take control. The latter is the scenario that seems to loom largest at the moment. Efforts to consolidate democratic influence that was thought (by some in the State Department at least) to further that objective have hit a rock in the assassination of one of its chief proponents in Benazir Bhutto.
It is entirely possible that we may yet see a field army in Waziristan - it that does eventuate I am going to have to send a note of apology to one B. Hussein Obama. But that isn't, at the moment, the primary arena of engagement. All IMHO and with the usual disclaimers, of course.
Sorry, that’s Richardson. And the last paragraph should read “IF that does eventuate.” I need a proofreader. ;-)
The Democrats are the REAL BULLIES!! To think that A president can wave a wand and DICTATE to Pakistan who their leader will be is disgusting!
“Too bad I never got to see NYC before it was nuked.”
Plausible alternative histories in which NYC and other major population centers suffer nuclear attack have been proliferating since 1945. Which one have you escaped from?
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