Friday, April 13, 2007

Deja Dead

The IHT has more on Pakistan's claim that tribesmen have killed foreign Islamic militants in its western provinces. Carlotta Gall and Ismail Khan ask: is it true and if so, why is it happening? Apparently it is true, to some extent.

The military does appear to have gained more control in the immediate region of Wana, and Muhammad said the progress made in clearing the area of foreign militants - mainly Uzbeks and other Central Asians who have been allied with Al Qaeda - would serve as a model to use in the rest of the region, including the equally lawless North Waziristan next door.

These may be the reasons "why".

Pakistan has been under heavy pressure from the United States and NATO countries to contain the spreading lawlessness of its tribal areas, which Pakistani, Afghan and foreign militants have been using to wage an expanding insurgency across the border in Afghanistan. South Waziristan had become a Taliban state in all but name after a peace deal with militants in 2005 gave them freedom to operate while the military withdrew to its barracks.

After the Pakistani "peace deal" with militants fell apart, the Pakistani government was left with no place to go but back to the battlefield. The IHT reporters think that while the tribesmen are credited with having pulled the triggers on the "foreign fighters" it has many characteristics of internecine fighting among the bad guys.

And while the military has tried to depict the fighting as local tribespeople moving against the foreigners, in fact it has been led by a Pakistani Taliban commander, Maulavi Nazir, who has close links to the Afghan Taliban and Arab members of Al Qaeda. One of his accusations against the Uzbek group of militants has been that they did not want to fight foreign troops in Afghanistan but preferred to attack pro-American Pakistanis, whether tribal elders or government members.

Still, the Pakistanis are claiming credit for setting one side against the other without quite explaining how they did it.

A rift emerged between a local commander and Uzbek fighters in his region in November and the military, and intelligence agencies admit they have sought to exploit the growing animosity among the local tribespeople toward the foreign militants, whom they accused of thuggery, robberies and murders. ...

Even as it explains the recent developments as a homegrown uprising, the government is claiming credit for the shift in tribal dynamics as a result of its three-pronged strategy, referred to by Muhammad as coercive deployment, political engagement and socioeconomic development, to "win over the hearts and minds of the people."

Possible translation: the Pakistanis poured fuel -- and money -- on a squabble among thieves, something they probably know very much about. Anyone who reads the Pakistani government version of events will naturally be reminded of events in Iraq's Anbar province and in Iraq in general, where American Special Forces have succeeded in pitting one side against the other. It has sometimes been remarked that the key weakness of the decentralized Jihad is its chronic penchant for internecine conflict, which manifests itself in the proliferation of "militant groups" which subsequently vie with each other for turf, the control of rackets and in setting the record for viciousness. It's almost as if some counterterrorist strategist has found a way to pit one set of bugs against the other in a form of biological pest control, except the subjects are not insects, but men. The Pakistanis even sound like commanders in Iraq.

"It will take time," the general said. "There are no quick fixes in this war. We are here for a long haul."

Maybe the world has unconsciously given up on ending terrorism by leading its misguided adherents into the light of normalcy and civilization and has settled instead for setting them one against the other, so that they may expend their murderous instincts in mutual joyful mayhem in the barren corners of the planet. That would be sad, shortsighted and possibly futile. The danger is that the infection will escape one day and haunt us all. In Tolkien's story of the Lordof the Rings is allegory to this problem. In it the Council of Elrond debates whether wield the Ring, itself evil to hold evil at bay or to seek to destroy it utterly. To use evil to defeat evil was tempting, but dangerous. The wizard Gandalf put it this way:

We cannot use the Ruling Ring. That we now know too well. It belongs to Sauron and was made by him alone, and is altogether evil. Its strength, Boromir, is too great for anyone to wield at will, save only those who have already a great power of their own. But for them it holds an even deadlier peril. The very desire of it corrupts the heart.

In the last years we have lost confidence that, by an offer of freedom and humanity, we might strike at the very roots of terrorism. We laugh at that now. To bring democracy to the lairs of terror. Isn't it better to leave evil men to kill each other? To spread civilization -- that word was once used unashamedly; is an embarassment now. It seems naive and to take us through even darker places in the world. For the present, using Ring seems the brighter prospect. But will we return to the thankless road, when everything has failed? Will we like Frodo say, "I will take the Ring, though I do not know the way?" My guess is that we'll ask the question again. Someday.


The term of art for watching one group cancel out the other is apparently "Green on Red". Westhawk writes:

Iraq does not seem to be coming together as a unified nation-state. That constitutes a failure for the Bush administration. However, the U.S. can still achieve its paramount interests in the region. One of these paramount interests is preventing al Qaeda from establishing a sanctuary in Iraq. What was termed “red on red” combat in Anbar province in 2005 might now be termed “green on red,” with the Sunni Arab tribes having turned from “red” enemies to “green” allies of the U.S. military.


Blogger jane said...

Perfect, awful, awfully perfect last paragraph. That’s how it’s going to be. Cynical realism is smarter, and trying for principles is folly. But the real defeat will lie in our not forcing something beyond expedient compromise when we wise up in ’08, get smart, and screw ourselves.

About the question you say we might eventually raise- too many clever critics believe "better never than late." What could possibly change their minds, and would it be based on principle or embarrassingly desperate self-preservation at such a time?

4/13/2007 07:18:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

Things don't go in straight lines.

This is both the beginning and end of empires. the moslems do best at the end of empires. so all eyes that focus on the moslems are also watching the end of the age rather than the beginning of the next one.

When I think of Lord of The Ring analogies for the current war, I think that that all the current battles we see in the newspapers being waged in the middle east by americans and american allies against jihadists and what not are like the final battle in mordor before the gates. that battle served as a distraction for the eye of sauron so that the ring bearers could get past the evil eye and throw the ring into the lake of fire. who are the ring bearers in the modern world? they are the men inventing the new technologies which will displace oil and collapse the cost of water desalination.

The moslems will have absolutely nothing to do with the creation of the new technology. what you are seeing now is just the men in sheets conjuring so as to ensure that they get some of the credit for the new age.

4/13/2007 08:00:00 PM  
Blogger Reliapundit said...

so called "realism" is folly: it gave us 28 years of unpunished and escalating jihadist attacks - starting in 1979 with the overthrow of our ally the Shah.

defenders of "realism" cite "conatinment" of the USSR.

sure. yup. we sure contained the USSR - and from 1945 until Reagan they GREW AND GREW AND GREW AND GREW, gobbling up Hungary and Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe and SE Asia and parts of Africa. And they began to take over Central Americas until Reagan started fighting back.

and saddam was no more contained than the USSR. he was committing genocide against his own citizens. and firing on our troops EVERYDAY.
while building illegal missiles and hiding his WMD programs to revamp as soon as the sanctions were lifted. (and that would've probably come ion 2002 had 9/11 not occurred.)

Liberty and democracy - and an end to endogamy, polygamy and misogyny - are how the swamp is drained. and until the swamp is drained we have to counter-attack and make the price for the jihadists attack very severe.

this will be a LONG WAR. fought on many front using many tactics - some visible, some invisible.

Bush has said this from the start.

Those who argue - FOR ANY REASON - that we should back down or away or slow down or set the bar lower ARE DEFEATISTS, not "realists."

4/13/2007 08:08:00 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

A correct translation of a famous Sermon on the Mount line: The slow to anger shall inherit the Earth.

A pragmatic explanation is that the hotheads will wipe each other out.


4/13/2007 08:09:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

When we "spread civilization" to Germany and Japan, it took. What is the difference now, that it's not taking?

For one thing, we haven't smashed either Iraq or Afghanistan into utter oblivion. We've been very civilized in our caring about their supposed civilization, which enables them to more better ignore our efforts.

But I have to wonder, too, about the malignant influence of Islam, both internal with Shiites and Sunni's lusting after each other's jugular blood, and external with the dual concepts of the Great Satan (and Israel) and jihad.

The other possibility is sheer immaturity. That the countries we're trying to introduce civilization into this time aren't mature enough to grasp it, such as both Germany and Japan were able to.

4/13/2007 10:18:00 PM  
Blogger j willie said...

Nahncee, immature is an awfully nice word to substitute for barbaric.

4/13/2007 11:20:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...


Where did the idea start that the neocons were the first to hit on the notion of "bringing democracy to the Middle East"? Long before George Bush was born Europe was busy turning the Muslims into good Communists and in some cases, good Nazis.

In the late 1930s and through the 1940s the Mufti of Jerusalem embraced the Nazi creed, going so far as to get money from Himmler and sending recruits to the SS. After the war, socialism in the best European tradition was implanted in the region. Radical Islamism is largely a reaction to Nasserism; whose jail cells held most of its pioneers, some of who literally died at the hands of East German or Russian-trained interrogators. Nearly all the old Arab terrorists were once socialists. For example, Yasser Arafat.

Nasserism was displaced by radical Islam in the Arab world as the dominant militant ideology, just as the Iranian left was driven from the coalition that toppled the Shah, surviving today in the American protected Iraqi Kurdistan. It's not that Western ideas have never been tried in the Arab world. In reality the Arabs have tasted the most avante garde ideologies that Europe has had to offer -- and rejected them. It is not that the Middle East has never known Christianity. Christianity was indigenous to the Middle East; it has simply been evicted from there. Where did the Left get the conceit that they were somehow superior to Islam? What remains of them shelters behind American guns. How ironical is that?

Europe has brought "civilization" in buckets to the Middle East. That region has for centuries been the crossroads of the world. Maybe it isn't juvenile so much as jaded; not so much immature as senile; a nursing home for too many individuals afflicted with dementia.

4/13/2007 11:41:00 PM  
Blogger The MinuteMan said...

A story from 2005 covered ethnic tensions and the effort by US intel to exploit them:

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - American and Pakistani intelligence agents are exploiting a growing rift between Arab members of al-Qaida and their Central Asian allies, a fissure that’s tearing at the network of Islamic extremists as militants compete for scarce hideouts, weapons and financial resources, counterterrorism officials say.

The rivalry may have contributed to the arrest last week of one of Osama bin Laden’s top lieutenants, a Libyan described as al-Qaida’s No. 3 and known to have had differences with Uzbeks. Captured Uzbek, Chechen and Tajik suspects have been giving up information about the movements of Arab al-Qaida militants in recent months, four Pakistani intelligence agents told The Associated Press, leading to a series of successful raids and arrests.

“When push comes to shove, the Uzbeks are going to stick together, and the Arabs are going to stick together,” said Kenneth Katzman, a terrorism expert with the Congressional Research Service in Washington. “I think the Uzbek guerrillas have had no home. Some of this could be a battle for survival.”

I also recall a story about how the local warlords resented being usurped by the newcomers, but I can't find it.

4/14/2007 03:27:00 PM  
Blogger Utopia Parkway said...


There are a lot of similarities between Arab culture and the pre-war Japanese and German societies. The Arab and pre-war Japanese cultures are both honor-shame and tribal societies. The Germans under the Nazis were also an honor-shame society.

The reason that the Arabs aren't changing is in part, as you say, that they haven't been smashed, but moreso it is that we are only attacking a small portion of their society. There are 22 Arab countries and 1 Billion muslims.

When we attack them in Iraq or in Afghanistan money and terrorists come from elsewhere. The Japanese were an island and no one was going to be sending them cash to maintain an insurgency against the US. The Germans also were on their own. I think things would be very different if money and fighters weren't able to infiltrate Iraq and Afghanistan from neighboring countries.

I think this is the main difference.

You can argue that Afghanistan is "immature" or that its people don't have all the qualities they need to become a democracy. There is a very high illiteracy rate there and there is a strong fundamentalism there. I think Iraq is a much more modern place and people build a democracy there if given a chance. The constant bad choices made by the Sunnis though have slowed things down. The fact that the Kurds built a democracy largely or completely without outside help that endured for ten years or more suggests that they, at least, have what is required.

4/14/2007 06:28:00 PM  

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