I apologize for writing short posts the past couple of days. I’m kind of swamped right now.

Also, a reminder that tonight at 9 pm EST I’ll be on web radio at Buzz Tok. You can participate in the show by going here. The planned topic is the politics of torture.

On to Pakistan — Apparently the Taliban have overrun large parts of Pakistan. There is genuine concern that Pakistan — nuclear-armed Pakistan, mind you — will devolve into a territory of warlord-led fiefdoms, sort of like Somalia.

The resurgence of the Taliban in Pakistan is not a new thing. This has been unfolding since the end of 2001, when much of al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan were able to escape into Pakistan. I remember sitting in on a panel at the Clinton Global Initiative in 2006, and Thomas Friedman and President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan talked about the Taliban, and how it was a really bad problem for Pakistan, and getting worse.

If you want to say that Pervez Musharraf also was a really bad problem for Pakistan I hear you, but the point is that events in Pakistan now have been building since 2001, at least (some would say you have to go back about 50 years to find the beginning of the story) and what’s happening now is the fruit of more than seven years of failure to deal with it realistically.

And if I had the time I would love to write a long analysis of how and why the Taliban problem wasn’t dealt with realistically. However, the short version is that the Bushies’ simple-minded worldview caused them to sort everyone into two piles, labeled “Evildoers” and “BFFs,” and Musharraf was in the BFFs pile. This in turn led to all kinds of misjudgments and miscalculations about Pakistan. As I said, I wish I had more time to go into it.

Today I noticed some rightie sites expressing new alarm about Pakistan, as if everything in Pakistan had been just hunky-dory until recently. But I also notice leftie sites aren’t dealing with it much at all, yet. Yes, it’s complicated enough to give one a headache, but it’s important.

A few days ago I was chatting with someone with a large presence on the left side of the Web — I won’t name names — and when I mentioned the Taliban in Pakistan he brushed my remark aside — oh, the Taliban are not a problem, he said. I don’t believe this is a majority view on the Left, but I don’t think it’s an uncommon one, either.

Listen, folks, just because the Bush Administration said the Taliban is dangerous doesn’t mean it isn’t.

What should the Obama Administration do? I don’t have a clue. There may be little we can do, at this point.

An aside — many news stories coming out of Pakistan mention Swat or the Swat Valley. I have some historic background on Swat on the other blog.

13 thoughts on “Pakistan

  1. I think Pakistan is lost cause at this point, our efforts need to be directed to securing the nukes.

  2. I fear that we’re all going to get more familiar with Pakistan than we’d like to be in the coming months and years. That comment you cited – of the Taliban not being a problem in Pakistan – is incredibly naive to me.

  3. My understanding of Pakistan hasn’t progressed all that much since I read Rushdie’s novel Shame, more than 20 years ago (pre-fatwa). Great book, but since it was written it’s as if all the societal components of Pakistan have been tossed into the air, to fall where they may.

    I promise to work on catching up, starting right now, with your closing link. I will probably be surprised to learn that the Swat valley isn’t so-called because of swarms of stinging insects. Or cops in flak jackets, either.

  4. Maha I gotta say that a General/President Pervez Musharraf like figure would suit me just fine at this point in Pakistan. These Islamic wackos are something like 100 miles away from Islamabad and Pakistan’s “President” is pretty much an unknown quantity.

    The real moral of the story is something happening all over the world – the nation state system is inappropriate for some “countries.” Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, and others are really still a bunch of tribal fiefdoms with no clear desire to connect to one another and or be represented by different tribes. The solution is a very bleak one – we could be talking about eliminating the whole nation state system, or perhaps just breaking certain nations into smaller countries.

  5. Where does India play into all of this? The historic hatred between India and Pakistan is pretty well know but will it then be transferred to the Taliban? Does the Taliban hate the Indians the way the Pakistani’s do? If they do, and the Taliban becomes a crazy scary threat with a Nuke, I wouldn’t think India would sit on their hands for long.

  6. Bucky, my impression is that much of the military support the Bush Government gave to Pakistan was spent preparing for the next (third? fourth?) war with India. Therefore I would think that assessment is pretty accurate – I have a feeling India has generally been antsy to strike Pakistan since last November’s terrorist attack.

    Its all such a mess and yet so inter-connected.

  7. “We know that Saddam Huessin has these weapons, somewhere to the North, East, and West of Baghdad”
    This all sounds so familiar………
    Any talk of the problems in India/Pakistan/ Afghanistan should be after reading and understanding “War at The Top Of The World” and “American Raj”, both by Eric Margolis. The whole issue is quite complicated, and compounded by the imperial ambitions of America and The U.K. Taliban militants do not spring forth magically like mushrooms after a summer rain, they move into areas that will accept them.

    If the right of way for the TAPI project was shown on a map, it would coincide with the “problem” areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
    I have no love for the horrid Taliban, but these attacks by predator and reaper drones will more likely drive the Pashtu tribesmen into the arms of the Talib as America and the U.K. become more hated. For every “suspected” militant MURDERED, every wedding party and innocent slaughtered by these sadistic weapons, a hundred tribesmen will go over to the other side.The U.S. military is not in Afghanistan to make the Afghan women happy

    One day these EVIL as hell weapons will fall into the wrong hands and be loose in our country.Ever since the first ape killed his brother, mankind has strived for bigger and more effecient ways to kill another of his species. The predator and reaper drones are indeed EVIL push button killers.

    As far as India attacking Pakistan goes, Let’s hope not; the radio active fall out could cause unimaginable problems globally, not to mention starvation on a massive scale in India and Pakistan.

    My advice to America, Canada, the U.K. and NATO: Put a fence around the whole area, establish a no-fly zone, and get the hell out while you can.

  8. Erinyes is spot on. President Obama is only making matters worse with more “Predator” drones. For every person killed we create 10 more to replace them. Its troubling.

  9. I would like to point out that many on the left(as well as us left voting independents) saw this coming …I still recall how when bush was running for the 2000 cycle he didn’t even know Musharraf’s name.. and the fit that the right threw when that mean old reporter caught bush in a “gottcha” moment..”Who the hell cares who is in charge of pakistan?” ,They cried.”Unfair to expect him to know this guys name….it’s not like it ever comes up!” “The left is just being mean weenies” ..hmmmm now they are finger pointing…goodness.
    I would also like to point out those who THINK every now and then freaked out when we left the region to instead grab Iraq just for the profit of it …(WE didn’t see that profit, but bet you sweet ass the bush folks are rich bitch!) .Most of us understood what taking our eyes off the ball in that region would mean and while bush was out there saying we had” defeated the taliban” in that region we all knew better…one only need look at the poppy profits in Afghanistan to know the taliban was still in charge of that region.But sadly there are still people who don’t even understand this is SE Asia…and not the middle east.When citizens are un educated about world affairs it creates a climate where leaders can get away with anything..including ignoring a REAL problem (taliban) in order to create a new one.
    I truly believe in my heart that we did not finish dealing with this region because there was no profit in it for the bush folks.Just that simple.

  10. I can easily picture a nuclear-armed Taliban in Pakistan going to war with India. I would expect India to “win” such a war, with perhaps 300 million people killed in the process and many injured survivors living on the brink of starvation. I hope it doesn’t play out that way, but it easily could.

    Since I’m speculating on disaster scenarios, I also can easily imagine that Iran will eventually produce a nuclear weapon. Unless they wise up, it’s not hard to picture them giving a nuke to Hizbollah or Hamas, who many proceed to smuggle it into Israel on a boat or truck, and detonate it in Tel Aviv. The Israeli response is likely to be many times worse – maybe nuke Gaza and the West Bank, along with Tehran, Damascus and Mecca. Again, not an outcome I want to see, but not unrealistic either.

    If any of these disaster scenarios play out, it will be cold comfort to say “it doesn’t affect me, because it’s happening over there, not here.” I don’t expect any of us to be spared the negative global effects of nuclear war, though clearly it will play out unequally.

    I’m not an admirer of the Christian fundies, but they might be on to something with their predictions of Armageddon, coming soon. But they don’t think it’s bad at all, and they even try to push it along by voting for Republican nutcase warmongers. Of course, that’s because the fundies don’t expect to stick around for the coming nuclear war(s) – they expect to be Raptured just in time. Wishful thinking on their part.

    I don’t have a crystal ball, so when it comes to future predictions, the only thing I feel confident in saying is that I don’t expect the 21st century to be any less bloody than the 20th. Anyone who thinks that the world “learned its lesson in World War II” is being naive.

  11. Erinyes is spot on. President Obama is only making matters worse with more “Predator” drones. For every person killed we create 10 more to replace them…

    Do see The Dawn of Robot Wars. It reminds me of the Spanish Civil War (1936-9) where the great powers behind the actors in Spain essentially used that war to perfect tactics that would be used a few years later, in WW2. I fear that GWB will be proved right when he said that Iraq is just a footnote.

    …the only thing I feel confident in saying is that I don’t expect the 21st century to be any less bloody than the 20th. Anyone who thinks that the world “learned its lesson in World War II” is being naive.

    IMO, the 21st will be more bloody. All the casualties suffered over five or six years of WW2, have the potential now of occurring in a single day.

    Some Christians may be agitatin’ for Armageddon; I take some solace in the notion of the yugas, or ages of man. This is a traditional Hindu concept revised by Sri Yukteswar in The Holy Science over a hundred years ago, and popularized recently in the documentary The Great Year. This appeals to me because of its explanatory power. From the intro to “The Great Year”:

    “The Great Year”, is the term that some ancient civilizations use to describe the slow precession of the equinox through the twelve houses of the ancient zodiac, a period that takes about 24,000 years. Different cultures refer to this cycle by different names including: the Platonic year, Perfect year, Yuga cycle, Ages of Man or just the equinoctial cycle, but one thing is clear, it was known to virtually every ancient culture throughout the globe…

    Nearly every culture has the idea of a set of ages, for example, an iron age, a bronze age, a silver age, and a golden age. That’s what Yukteswar’s yugas (or ages) are about.

    Over a hundred years ago, Yukteswar calculated that we are passing out of the Kali yuga – a dark, iron age of materialism – and are actually a couple hundred years into the Dwapara yuga – a higher age of energy. This transition isn’t fully complete, as these each of these yugas is several millennia long.

    This makes so much sense to me – people became fascinated with energy in the 18th and 19th centuries, and figured out how to harness energy through a multitude of inventions. Early in the 20th, Einstein discovered that matter is energy.

    In the Dwapara yuga, space is abolished. We can travel to the ends of the earth, or send our voice or image or bits anywhere. Individuality is favored over masses of people. Our own USA is the first nation born of this yuga, and its emphasis on individual rights, right or wrong, is a defining characteristic of this age. Individuals like bin Laden or geeks who know how to use the internet can amass power or vast wealth, far more easily than ever before. It is the perfect age to become wealthy easily and quickly, compared to how earlier generations had to do it.

    Alas, in Dwapara yuga, no one is safe. Wars don’t end until the next yuga, Treta yuga, which is the age of mind. Until people can generally read everyone’s mind, all sorts of mischief can and will occur. Satya yuga – a golden age, where humans are like gods, follows the Treta. And then the yugas descend in the cycle: Treta, Dwapara, Kali. This fits what we “know” of very ancient civilizations such as Atlantis – a supposedly high civilization that fell into decay, abused its power, and was quickly destroyed.

    At any rate, this admittedly “mystical roadmap” helps me understand what’s ahead, and helps me recognize old thinking that needs to be discarded.

  12. Civil War
    The key reasons the so called Taliban’s victory in Swat is not because of their religious message, but it is due to their system of swift justice. The elite in all segments of the Pakistani society are corrupt, inept. For example, a simple dispute between the owner of the shop and the renter takes years to resolve, and some time it end up in the top court of the country. Same case under the Taliban’s court system is decided within a few days.

    So what is going on in north west Pakistan is a civil war. What will be the outcome of this civil war is dependent on various players (i.e., Pakistan army, politician, the civil elite, and the USA). If there is going be a civil war, I hope it is like the US civil war.

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