Cry havoc and let loose the Dogs of War.
May 26, 2009 2:21 PM   Subscribe

Nearly 2.4 million displaced; mostly in refugee camps where it's about 45 degrees Celsius with no wind. Their economy is devastated."The numbers of people who have moved in that last three and half weeks is the highest rate of movement we have seen for more than 20 years anywhere in the world."
Your tax dollars at work?
posted by adamvasco (61 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
113 F
posted by the aloha at 2:35 PM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


You would rather they didn't evacuate the civilians?
posted by mr_roboto at 2:48 PM on May 26, 2009


legalize opium
posted by philip-random at 2:49 PM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


That "tax dollars at work" link concerns a proposed non-military aid package. The first link describes a refugee situation caused by Pakistan's month-old military campaign to rid the country once and for all of the fanatical religious fundies who like to cut heads off with big knives in public to terrorize people into accepting feudal rule.

Anybody who reads those links can see that the premise of this post is invalid on the face of it.
posted by longsleeves at 2:55 PM on May 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Can't we just leave NW Pakistan and NE Afghanistan alone and create some kind of autonomous region?

Already tried that. Then these guys with boxcutters showed up...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:59 PM on May 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Mod note: A few comments removed. Joe Beese, cut it out with the "and this is how I feel about this subject re: Obama" interjections in threads. It's getting to seem pretty indefensibly axe-grindy and it's derailing threads. Get a blog or spend more time at Kos or whatever it is you need to do, but treating any thread you can find an angle on as your personal Obama Discussion Time forum needs to not happen so much here.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:02 PM on May 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


Cool Papa Bell: "these guys with boxcutters showed up..."

Mohamed Atta al Sayed (Egyptian)
Waleed al-Shehri (Saudi Arabian)
Wail al-Shehri (Saudi Arabian)
Abdulaziz al-Omari (Saudi Arabian)
Satam al-Suqami (Saudi Arabian).
Marwan al-Shehhi (from the United Arab Emirates)
Fayez Banihammad (from the United Arab Emirates)
Mohand al-Shehri (Saudi Arabian)
Hamza al-Ghamdi (Saudi Arabian)
Ahmed al-Ghamdi (Saudi Arabian).
Hani Hanjour (Saudi Arabian)
Khalid al-Mihdhar (Saudi Arabian)
Majed Moqed (Saudi Arabian)
Nawaf al-Hazmi (Saudi Arabian)
Salem al-Hazmi (Saudi Arabian).
Ziad Jarrah (Lebanese)
Ahmed al-Haznawi (Saudi Arabian)
Ahmed al-Nami (Saudi Arabian)
Saeed al-Ghamdi (Saudi Arabian)

Though in fairness to you, while none of these men are Afghani or Pakistani, they do have brown skin and strange names.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:04 PM on May 26, 2009 [10 favorites]


All was peaceful in Afghanistan before 9/11...just the Taliban and training camps for AlQaeda. And all was peaceful in Pakistan till Obama became president and will once again be peaceful once the GOP gets into power or all the busybodies leave the region and stop bothering the drug
folks moving their stuff across Pakistan to other regions so they can sell it.

America has been guilty of a lot of dumb things but somehow Pakistan has managed to be a screwed up nation all on its very own.
posted by Postroad at 3:05 PM on May 26, 2009


Can't we just leave NW Pakistan and NE Afghanistan alone and create some kind of autonomous region?

Already tried that. Then these guys with boxcutters showed up...
posted by Cool Papa Bell


When did we create this autonomous region?
posted by gman at 3:05 PM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


No link for donations?? Give to the International Red Cross (pick "Pakistan" under Programme).

Or donate $5 through your cell phone. As suggested by Hillary Clinton:
Using your cell phones, Americans can text the word “swat” — to the number 20222 and make a $5 contribution that will help the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees provide tents, clothing, food, and medicine to hundreds of thousands of affected people.
posted by exhilaration at 3:10 PM on May 26, 2009 [7 favorites]


America has been guilty of a lot of dumb things but somehow Pakistan has managed to be a screwed up nation all on its very own.

Because the U.S. did nothing to piss off the public by keeping their favourite military dictator in power for 7 years when it served their interests.
posted by gman at 3:13 PM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Interesting isn't it how many of the 9/11 crew were Saudi. Almost as if he was trying to make a point.
Osama must have been baffled and pissed when the US invaded the wrong country ;)
posted by fingerbang at 3:17 PM on May 26, 2009


"The FBI doesn't even specifically mention 9/11 on his Most Wanted page."

That's because the Jews did 9-11.

Wait, it was Cheney.

No, the Illuminati.

Hey, throw me a bone here, who's trending up on the "did 9-11" thing these days?
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 3:50 PM on May 26, 2009


It's all fun and games until religious extremists gain control of nuclear weapons.
posted by Artw at 3:56 PM on May 26, 2009


Is OBL generally reckoned to be still alive these days?
posted by Artw at 3:56 PM on May 26, 2009


does anyone remember peace? what happened to that?
posted by kitchenrat at 4:02 PM on May 26, 2009


Artw: "It's all fun and games until religious extremists gain control of nuclear weapons."

The Pashtun of NWFP have no intention or capability of moving into Pakistan's other provinces, Punjab, Sindh and Baluchistan. They just want to be left alone. Alarms of a "Taliban takeover of Pakistan" are pure propaganda. Lowland Pakistanis repeatedly have rejected militant Islamic parties. Many have little love for Pashtun, whom they regard as mountain wild men best avoided. Nor are Pakistan's well-guarded nukes a danger -- at least not yet. Alarms about Pakistan's nukes come from the same fabricators with hidden agendas who brought us Saddam Hussein's bogus weapons.

posted by Joe Beese at 4:05 PM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Though in fairness to you, while none of these men are Afghani or Pakistani, they do have brown skin and strange names.

You're deliberately being obtuse, and acting like a jackass, to boot. Normally, you're OK. I'm sorry someone pissed in your Cheerios this morning.

/me shows you the back of my hand, clicks 'remove from activity' button
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:06 PM on May 26, 2009


Alarms about Pakistan's nukes come from the same fabricators with hidden agendas who brought us Saddam Hussein's bogus weapons.

Except that these weapons very much do exist.
posted by Artw at 4:09 PM on May 26, 2009


When did we create this autonomous region?

Arguably when we gave certain elements huge piles of money and equipment to help them in their fight against the Russkies.

Though in fairness to you, while none of these men are Afghani or Pakistani, they do have brown skin and strange names.

You know, I'm pretty sure John McCain was not born or raised at the United States Naval Academy, yet I'm kinda thinking I could argue that there is some kind of link between the two without suggesting he was.

So there it is, my prejudice against people from Maryland revealed. Or is it people from the Panama Canal Zone. Eh, I can never tell them apart anyway.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:11 PM on May 26, 2009


I think people in the U.S. underestimate the depth of anti-American feeling in Pakistan. It is much greater than anywhere else I can think of. Iran or N. Korea is touted as the worst in that respect, but their anti-Americanism is mostly confined to the ruling elites. Saudi Arabia is bad, but not as bad as Pakistan, and there are a lot more Pakistanis. The reasons for this are complex, and there's no doubt that hatred-inciting clerics play a big part, but a lot of this is the result of our foreign policies. We kept in power vicious and corrupt Pakistani dictators. We constantly interfered in their internal affairs, and continue to do so, relentlessly. This is hugely resented.

I'm afraid there are no happy endings to this mess. However, blaming Obama, who has been in power all of 4 months, for the Pakistani disaster, is simply insane. Should he have been more artful in his South Asian policies than he's been so far? Sure, but that can be said about almost any politician at any time on any issue. Here is the problem folks - what do you do, when every single policy you can think of is going to lead to disaster - different flavors of disaster, but disaster nonetheless. And merely minimizing the disaster (which is the best we can hope for), while imperative, will hardly elicit plaudits from any quarter. That's what Obama faces vs Pakistan. So, everyone's a critic.

We are paying for real sins committed over decades, and sadly we'll even pay for sins we did not commit. That's how the cookie crumbles sometimes.
posted by VikingSword at 4:16 PM on May 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


VikingSword: "I think people in the U.S. underestimate the depth of anti-American feeling in Pakistan. ... The reasons for this are complex"

Sometimes it's as simple as shoveling dirt over your child's coffin.

"senior administration officials said... that the United States intended to step up its use of drones to strike militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas and might extend them to a different sanctuary deeper inside the country. ...

The plans have met strong resistance from Pakistani officials and have also worried some former American officials and some analysts, who say that strikes create greater risks of civilian casualties and could further destabilize the nuclear-armed nation.

“You will be complicating and compounding anti-Americanism here,” said Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani general and military analyst in Islamabad. “How can you be an ally and at the same time be targeted?”
- NYT
posted by Joe Beese at 4:27 PM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just to continue a bit of a derail, uh
"Iran or N. Korea is touted as the worst in that respect, but their anti-Americanism is mostly confined to the ruling elites."
The hatred of Americans in Iran is in absolutely no way confined to the ruling elite. Persians have hated the US ever since we toppled their most popular and first democratically elected leader when the Dulles brothers decided we could rest control of Iranian oil from under the Brits' noses. Iranians know this, even the younger generation. I don't know much about Pakistani thoughts on the US, but Iranian hatred is not a ruling elite thing.
posted by Kaigiron at 4:42 PM on May 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sometimes it's as simple as shoveling dirt over your child's coffin.

Of course. But let us resist the cheap tactic of responsibility-free finger pointing. What can be done? Stop using drones? Fabulous. What is the alternative? Supply intelligence to the Pakistani security forces? Bzzt. Wrong answer. We positively cannot trust them at all - they are thoroughly corrupt and infiltrated by the Taliban/extremists; even that is not accurate - often they've created and support their extremists - it filters back and forth, and you have no idea where the bad guys end and good guys start. It is 100% FUBAR. And there is no chance anything will be done to clean up their forces - there is no political power capable of doing that in Pakistan. So, relying on their security apparatus, whether intelligence services or the army, won't work. So much for the force of arms from Pakistan. And laying off any force of arms, simply means handing over the country to the extremists unopposed - and the extremists are armed and absolutely capable of taking over by force of arms. Which would be fine by me anywhere in the world, except for the complicating factor that Pakistan has nuclear weapons, and functioning delivery systems. Now what?
posted by VikingSword at 4:47 PM on May 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Joe Beese - did you forget the password for your blog or something?
posted by Artw at 4:51 PM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


However, blaming Obama, who has been in power all of 4 months, for the Pakistani disaster, is simply insane.

This refugee crisis began the day after the President's meeting with the Pakistani Prime Minister. Maybe it shouldn't raise eyebrows after all these years, but to me at least, it's still disturbing that the democratically elected leader of another country would so readily and so immediately thrust his own people into such destructive chaos at the word of the U.S. President.

Here is the problem folks - what do you do, when every single policy you can think of is going to lead to disaster - different flavors of disaster, but disaster nonetheless.

There were better, saner options. To begin, people in areas that have resisted outside control for generations should be left well enough alone. You don't have to like them, but you can come to some sort of truce. Offer to stop raining down bombs from the sky. Maybe they'll agree to keep to themselves and hold back their own homicidal maniacs. An imperfect ceasefire would have been better than what's happening now.

And laying off any force of arms, simply means handing over the country to the extremists unopposed - and the extremists are armed and absolutely capable of taking over by force of arms. Which would be fine by me anywhere in the world, except for the complicating factor that Pakistan has nuclear weapons, and functioning delivery systems.

Look, to keep believing that scattered, roving bands of illiterate gunmen could take over a state that has a half-million man army is just grossly ignorant. If you stepped foot in the country for a single day, or read a journalist who actually knew the country and didn't just bunker up in a hotel in Islamabad, you would see how absurd this is.

In regard to the donations comment earlier, there's also this.
posted by zerzura at 4:53 PM on May 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


VikingSword: "What can be done? ... What is the alternative?"

Chris Floyd:

One of the largest empires the world has ever known – complete with second-largest nuclear arsenal in the world, capable of wiping out the planet several times over – disintegrated completely in the early 1990s, breaking into a myriad of different nations, and chaotic polities, some of which went to war with each other while others had internal wars that raged for years. Corruption was rampant, society collapsed, death rates climbed, birth rates plunged – all of this, again, with a vast nuclear arsenal looming over it all. Yet I don't recall anyone recommending any U.S. military intervention to "preemptively mitigate the risks that might ensue from political chaos" in the break-up of the Soviet Union, to which I was eye-witness for a time. The only difference I can see in regard to Pakistan is that the scale of the risk and its possible global ramifications are actually much, much smaller. ...

As Juan Cole and many others have noted, the picture now being painted of Pakistan on the verge of a Taliban takeover is wildly off the mark, and completely ignores the reality (there's that damn thing again!) of Pakistan, which, as I pointed out yesterday, is actually filled with millions upon millions of ordinary, literate, peace-loving people, committed to democracy and the rule of law: principles for which they courageously risked their lives and liberties in ousting an American-backed military tyrant just a few months ago. ...

... in my own decidedly uncanny opinion, the maximum degree of military intervention in Pakistan that would be appropriate is this: zero.

posted by Joe Beese at 5:01 PM on May 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


The hatred of Americans in Iran is in absolutely no way confined to the ruling elite.

Right, which is why I inserted the weasel word "mostly". The elite thing applies more to NK than Iran, but even so, I stand by my statement. I am well aware of the unfortunate Anglo-American history vis a vis Iran, and the resentments that caused - indeed, the 1979 revolution was the culmination of that resentment, a revolution broadly supported by the masses.

However, that was then, and this is now. The one good thing about the Iranian revolution is that it succeeded, and that they've had its fruits now for a generation. The bloom is off the rose. Nothing curbs the masses appetite for the revolution, like a revolution's success, when the thing was poisoned to start with. Now the poison has had a chance to be clearly felt. And the people hate it. Meanwhile, the stock of the one who opposed the revolution (fortunately, never with military power), and has been the target of non-stop vilification by the leaders, correspondingly rises. As the clerics lose credibility, sympathy for America grows.

Yes, there are still large numbers of Iranians who are clearly anti-American. However, not only are they a fraction of the percentages we saw in 1979, but they are a constantly shrinking minority if polls over the last few years are to be believed. And in the ME, Iran has possibly the least anti-Americanism anywhere (with the possible exception of Kuwait). Of course, we can completely reverse all that with one stupid military strike, but I'm hoping Obama and his team have enough brains not to do that.
posted by VikingSword at 5:01 PM on May 26, 2009


“Because the U.S. did nothing to piss off the public by keeping their favourite military dictator in power for 7 years when it served their interests.”

Whoa, hey. Yeah, we were friendly with him, but Pakistan’s been a shooting gallery and coup prone for a very very long time. So, what, we were supposed to kick him out? You could argue the same thing with Saddam – why didn’t we kick him out earlier if he stopped serving out interests?
One can’t have it both ways. One can’t cry imperialism every time the U.S. goes anywhere but then turn around and say we’re evil for not nation building all over the planet.

Pakistan was/is as a strategic ally and Musharraf was in charge. In fact, there was a lot of criticism by the west because he wasn’t doing enough to secure the Afghan border and back off the terrorist outfits that use the place like a rest stop.

Plus he *was* in fact getting criticism for the Gestapo tactics with the military and intelligence services. Bit of a catch-22 for those folks really. But we resisted playing ball with him on the nukes like we did with India.
I’m not saying you’re wrong exactly ($4 + billion in aid since 9/11, yeah). But foreign policy moves are rapiers not sledgehammers.

-----------

Joe Beese, sure, Cool Papa Bell and all us Americans are all bigots who always generalize everyone else, but let’s square one thing away:
Mohamed Atta al Sayed (Hollywood, Coral Springs, Venice and Nokomis, Fla., and Hamburg, Germany)
Waleed al-Shehri (Hollywood, Orlando, Daytona Beach, Fla.)
Wail al-Shehri (Hollywood, Orlando, Daytona Beach, Fla.)
Abdulaziz al-Omari (Hollywood, Fla)
Satam al-Suqami (Boynton Beach, Fla).
Marwan al-Shehhi (Hollywood, Fla)
Fayez Banihammad (Delray Beach, Fla.)
Mohand al-Shehri (Delray Beach, Fla)
Hamza al-Ghamdi (Delray Beach, Fla.)
Ahmed al-Ghamdi (Delray Beach, Fla).
Hani Hanjour (Phoenix, Ariz., San Diego, Calif., New York)
(Saudi Arabian national, yeah, but he was living in the UAE in 1999 – after that he had a friggin P.O. box in Saudi Arabia)
Khalid al-Mihdhar (San Diego and New York)
Majed Moqed (Greenbelt, Md - in a Gold's Gym in fact)
Nawaf al-Hazmi (Fort Lee, N.J., Wayne, N.J., and San Diego, Calif)
Salem al-Hazmi (Fort Lee and Wayne, N.J.).
Ziad Jarrah (Hollywood, Fla)
Ahmed al-Haznawi (Delray Beach, Fla)
Ahmed al-Nami (Delray Beach, Fla)
Saeed al-Ghamdi (Daytona Beach and Pensacola, Fla.)

Sulayman al-Faris sounds like a brown person (because y’know, all terrorists are alike to us fat ass burger eaters) but he was John Walker Lindh born in Washington fucking, D.C. as a roman catholic before he went to al-Farouq and got reborn at Qala-i-Jangi.

Muhammed Dawood was an Australian when he was David Hicks. He served with the Taliban and trained at Mosqua Aqsa. He’s just as guilty as Lindh.
(That doesn’t excuse their treatment of course, but that’s not the issue here).

Point being – what part of transnational ideological based terrorist organization do you not understand?
So we should invade Washington because Lindh was from there? Or Australia?

Borders are not a big concern with these people (terrorists – although ho ho ho, I’m an ignorant beer gutted American so perhaps I should have used some racial epithet) – nor are names. They applied for visas – in their own countries. You had 19 guys with 364 names applying for two visas at Jeddah and at the embassy in Riyadh.

Someone’s country of origin is irrelevant to these organizations. Now I’ll grant Saudi Arabia does financially back terrorist organizations, but on the state level they’ve cooperated – albeit grudgingly – with the west. Since we’re, y’know, the west.

But we do have extradition and a bilateral agreement with them to deal with terrorists. But state matters and matters of faith and ideology often get mixed up in the Islamic world (hell, a Saudi judge okayed wife beating recently and it’s a real philosophical question apparently. So there's where they speak as a state official then there's this other language where they speak from sort of an influential quasi-shadow government operating out of a fanatic ideological pseudo-faith based, but exploitative... say that's starting to sound familiar...)

And granted Saudi Arabia’s response to helping us with counterrrorism has been tepid at best. Riyadh didn’t like us using their bases in their holy land (which leads to a whole other thing I don’t want to get into)

All that aside, a lot of the clandestine training goes on in Afghanistan and Pakistan (and until 1993 the Sec. of State had Pakistan on the list for supporting international terrorism)
– but even that is besides the point because good ol’ Nawaf Alhazmi from Fort Lee, NJ went off to train in Chechnya with Salem Al-Hamzi (who was on a U.S. government watch list, along with his associate Khalid Almihdhar long before the 9/11 attacks).
Anywhere there’s a war zone, they’ll jump in and learn. That's really where they're from. They identify by faith/ideology and the struggle, the holy war, not by whatever borders they happened to be born in.

Which, really, is what makes Iraq even more of a clusterfuck than it is (Bush ‘fight ‘em over there’ – yeah asshead, that’s exactly what they wanted).

Now, as it is, I think Stephen M. Walt is right about some things in his piece – but when it comes to humanitarian aid I tend to want to give with both hands. And it’s non-military, ok... but that’s a ball of goo right there too I don’t want to get into either.

Long story short – we’re better off keeping Pakistan on that kind of leash for now (especially after the crap with the Indian embassy last year ).

Walt has a point about growth – and I think we should foster growth – I don’t know about textiles because damn, we’re going to put another few million people out of work at home? But yeah – something. But for now – we’d be better off doing it ourselves.

Because the exact problem here is that it is NOT our fault. Or it’s not solely our fault. The U.S. didn’t put a gun to anyone’s head and say “build a quiltwork country out of a number of disparate tribes.” Hell, where do you think the name of the place came from? It is, itself, an amalgam of the names of the tribes that make the place up.

So no, no “fuck you America, you kill all the brown people and that's the problem” bullshit here. It’s not our fault (in this case). But – that is (IMHO) the problem in the first place. We should have been involved much much earlier.

In fact, part of the beef anti-U.S. forces in Pakistan have had is that given our (and at the time Bush’s) ass kicking freedom and democracy promotin’ style – why should Pakistan be an exception especially when (and Mahnaz Ispahani brought this up in the WSJ) they have no history of bringing Islamists to power through genuine elections? It's not like they want this chaos.

Back in ‘06 we shined them on about Musharrif, Boucher saying we support civilian domestic rule and civilian control of the military, but y’know, we’ll get back to you if Musharraf doesn’t take off the uniform. *cough*
Matter of time really until they took matters into their own hands. Again. I think once we were tacitly invited we might have stepped in. But Iraq, all that, and Bushco not being able to find their rear end with a spotlight and a team of dobermans.

And here we have the result. Again. Another ratchet down on the downward spiral.
On the upside the Taliban is going to die without local support. On the downside – someone else will gain power or seize it, be the next thing, and then be assassinated or betray the people and become a tyrant, etc. etc. And it'll start all over again.

I don’t know if it’s possible for them to self-stabilize. But even if it is - what they need is a long term commitment from the international community in any case.

Because, yeah, we’d rather have them making textiles even, rather than taking money from fanatic billionaires to train people to fly planes into our buildings, or blowing up Indian embassies, etc. yeah.
I think we should bring some security (by that I mean the international community, it's not like France, Germany, the U.K. and everyone else is immune to this), first even, but I'd like to feed hungry people if we can afford to.
Unfortunately we have defense contractors who want to make a buck.

“Is OBL generally reckoned to be still alive these days?”

I have it on good authority that Osama bin Laden is either alive or dead.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:10 PM on May 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


The hatred of Americans in Iran is in absolutely no way confined to the ruling elite.

Whoa whoa whoa... America or Americans? I've spent a fair bit of time in Iran and I've not met a local who doesn't go out of his/her way to explain the difference. The hatred you speak of is directed at policy, not people.
posted by gman at 5:10 PM on May 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


To begin, people in areas that have resisted outside control for generations should be left well enough alone.

Except that these areas are about 150 kilometers from Islamabad. The Pakistani state, such as it is, is very close to collapse, and so something has to be done. Of course, this military solution is like using a sledgehammer to fix a broken watch, but... Jesus wept.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:12 PM on May 26, 2009


Whoa whoa whoa... America or Americans? I've spent a fair bit of time in Iran and I've not met a local who doesn't go out of his/her way to explain the difference. The hatred you speak of is directed at policy, not people.

Iranians, in two words, fucking rule. If you think about it, Iran is the stabilizer of the entire region (Pak + Iraq) and the future economic engine, if only these goddamn wars would ever end.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:14 PM on May 26, 2009


Look, to keep believing that scattered, roving bands of illiterate gunmen could take over a state that has a half-million man army is just grossly ignorant. If you stepped foot in the country for a single day, or read a journalist who actually knew the country and didn't just bunker up in a hotel in Islamabad, you would see how absurd this is.

That's funny. We are not speculating what may happen. We're talking about what has already happened on many parts of the country. The border areas with Afghanistan are already pretty much ungovernable. And if you think the south is in much better shape, then you clearly have not paid attention. The biggest part of what you are missing is this: you think that the "half-million man army" is somehow the guarantor of the Pakistani state. It is not, for several reasons, the biggest of which is the fact that the military in Pakistan is fractured - it is not the monolith on the side of truth and justice you imagine. The recent border barracks rebellion was only a small example of the kinds of fractures that run through the Pakistani military, both horizontally and vertically. And you think the military is what will provide stability in Pakistan? Really? Pakistan is displaying more and more signs of a country on the verge of being a failed state. Not to mention the huge question of just how much civilian authority really controls the military there. The practical consequences of this, is that even in battling the extremists, the military itself is split with many rank and file as well as officers sympathizing with their ostensible opponents. Regardless, my point was different - I was pointing out, that if you abandoned force totally, what would stop these allegedly impotent illiterate extremists from taking over? They seem to have been quite potent in taking over huge provinces.
posted by VikingSword at 5:17 PM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


"America or Americans? I've spent a fair bit of time in Iran and I've not met a local who doesn't go out of his/her way to explain the difference. The hatred you speak of is directed at policy, not people."

Point well taken, that was my bad. I did indeed mean America, not AmericaNS. I am aware Iranians don't tend to hold a grudge against Americans themselves.
posted by Kaigiron at 5:21 PM on May 26, 2009


If you think about it, Iran is the stabilizer of the entire region (Pak + Iraq) and the future economic engine, if only these goddamn wars would ever end.

If you replace the word 'stabilizer' with 'powerhouse', you can understand why the U.S. doesn't want these 'goddamn wars' to end.
posted by gman at 5:43 PM on May 26, 2009


"If you think about it, Iran is the stabilizer of the entire region (Pak + Iraq) and the future economic engine, if only these goddamn wars would ever end."

True. End the influence of the folks interested in instability in those regions (some within the U.S.) and you'd be on #1 happy street.

"Pakistan, which, as I pointed out yesterday, is actually filled with millions upon millions of ordinary, literate, peace-loving people, committed to democracy and the rule of law"

Just like the U.S.
So..the point there is we're making war on them because we're all racists? Hnh. I'd've thought nuclear security might have had at least some small thing to do with it.
Must be why those profit seeking partisan hack racists at ISIS (sourcewatch) said Pakistan's expansion in nuclear weapons production capabilities, needlessly complicates efforts to improve the security of Pakistani nukes. (PDFs).
According to the CIA they're fairly secure. But I don't know if I'd expand a site (Dera Ghazi Khan) that's been the target of a ground attack by an armed squad and has had some nearby railroad tracks blown up.
Does uranium hexafluoride turn people brown? Maybe that's why ISIS is saying the security of Pakistan's nuclear assets remain in question. Or that the Pakistani military is fighting insurgents in the Northwest Frontier Province near, y'know the Dera Ghasi Khan Nuclear Site.
And the satellite imagery of the new, undeclared, unsafeguarded reactors and plutonium reprocessing facilities.
Or the whole racist thing out of left field, sure. Say, doesn't India have brown people?

(Speaking of India - India Times reports over 60,000 pregnant women in relief camps in the northwest frontier)

"Look, to keep believing that scattered, roving bands of illiterate gunmen could take over a state that has a half-million man army is just grossly ignorant."

Huh. The Indians seem to be getting suckered too. Ho ho ho, Pakistan's tribal regions becoming strongholds for Taliban militants who fled the US-led invasion of Afghanistan that toppled the hardline Taliban regime in late 2001, what a crazy story, that could never happen. "South Waziristan" what a crazy made up name.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:02 PM on May 26, 2009


(zerzura - on the saner options thing, I'm with you, but c'mon - "The foreign minister further said that Pakistan needed more cooperation from the world for provision of relief to more than 2 million displaced persons" (Also (listen)- "Commander Aslam said that the insurgents should unconditionally lay down their arms. He said that the insurgents and their supporters would not be spared at any cost." - probably part of the reason they are having problems.)
posted by Smedleyman at 6:10 PM on May 26, 2009


I don't understand the Foreign Policy post.

"So the aid package amounts to around a 1 percent increase in Pakistani GDP, which works out to about $8 for each Pakistani. [...] it’s not like $1.5 billion today is going to work miracles. [...] Instead of another aid package, we could probably do more to help Pakistan by removing U.S. tariffs on Pakistani exports (e.g., textiles), which would benefit Pakistani producers and American consumers alike."

There's an immediate need, with over two million people having hurriedly fled their homes. People who have starved to death will be weaving no rugs for Stephen M. Walt.
posted by Anything at 6:19 PM on May 26, 2009


(ah, I'm being crazy today. Sorry.)
posted by Smedleyman at 6:24 PM on May 26, 2009


Can't we(?) just leave NW Pakistan and NE Afghanistan alone and create some kind of autonomous region? Oh, right. Pipelines and stuff.

The offensive that triggered this refugee crisis is being waged by the Pakistani military, perhaps because the majority of the Pakistani public wishes to not see increasingly broader areas of their country controlled by persons who will force a brother to hold his sister down for a flogging and who throw acid at faces of girls for attending school.
posted by Anything at 6:32 PM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


(ah, I'm being crazy today. Sorry.)
posted by Smedleyman at 6:24 PM on May 26 [+] [!]

You're not alone here. And people like me, who really knew a lot less about these things than we should, benefit from that sort of crazy. So please, don't take your pills quite yet.
posted by AdamCSnider at 6:46 PM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Already tried that. Then these guys with boxcutters showed up...

Oh no, not boxcutters! Seriously, the reason they were able to take over those planes was because people had been conditioned not to fight back in the event of a hijacking. There is no way people would be able to do 9/11 today, they'd have to go with something a lot more complicated.

Is OBL generally reckoned to be still alive these days?

He's still putting out tapes about current events.

Right, which is why I inserted the weasel word "mostly". The elite thing applies more to NK than Iran, but even so, I stand by my statement. I am well aware of the unfortunate Anglo-American history vis a vis Iran, and the resentments that caused - indeed, the 1979 revolution was the culmination of that resentment, a revolution broadly supported by the masses.

Hah. How the hell do you know what the average North Korean thinks? The elite probably thinks we're chumps more then they hate us, but propaganda is pretty powerful. I would imagine most North Koreans probably don't love the U.S. Even if they're sick of Kim for the North Koreans to start loving the U.S. over it would be as likely as for Americans to start loving Iran because they didn't like Bush, or for them to start loving the Soviet Union because they didn't like Carter.
posted by delmoi at 6:48 PM on May 26, 2009


Hah. How the hell do you know what the average North Korean thinks? The elite probably thinks we're chumps more then they hate us, but propaganda is pretty powerful. I would imagine most North Koreans probably don't love the U.S. Even if they're sick of Kim for the North Koreans to start loving the U.S. over it would be as likely as for Americans to start loving Iran because they didn't like Bush, or for them to start loving the Soviet Union because they didn't like Carter.

That appears to be the consensus based on reports from refugees from NK. Now, we can say they are all biased, since they chose to escape to China and SK, but it doesn't seem they stand to gain by distorting that particular aspect of life in NK. Perhaps Stavros can speak to that. The other source I'm using is a book (published posthumously) on the web by an British translator who lived in NK and had first hand experiences with NK citizens.

I also think you are somewhat misunderstanding the attitudes here. Many young Iranians are actually pro-American, in that they are affected by American popular culture. That is not a claim I'd make about NK. What I said specifically, is that they are not anti-American. Mostly, they don't know much about America (compared to f.ex. the Iranians), and are rather indifferent (according to the Brit I mentioned above). That still qualifies as not anti-American. I never said they loved America. In other words, you are presenting a false dichotomy here. It's not Love vs Hate. It's are the anti-American or not? There are many ways of being the latter, only one of which includes "love".

As to Americans vs Soviets - the psychological dynamic is completely different. In one case you have smaller countries confronting a dominating superpower which has a huge cultural impact. In the other you are dealing with two superpowers which are rivals.
posted by VikingSword at 7:06 PM on May 26, 2009


does anyone remember peace? what happened to that?

There was peace? When?
posted by lullaby at 7:13 PM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


No link for donations?? Give to the International Red Cross (pick "Pakistan" under Programme).

exhilaration, thanks for the link. They have my donation.
posted by zinfandel at 7:27 PM on May 26, 2009


I have it on good authority that Osama bin Laden is either alive or dead.

Wow. Osama Bin Laden is Shrodinger's Cat. I find that somehow reassuring.
posted by philip-random at 7:38 PM on May 26, 2009


We constantly interfered in their internal affairs, and continue to do so, relentlessly. This is hugely resented.

Funny, Pakistan seemed pretty keen on 'US interference' when they were committing genocide in what would become Bangladesh.

Pakistan has been a disaster waiting to happen since independance. I do think the US has been stupid to support dictator-happy Pakistan over democratic India in the post-colonial era, but let's be honest: Pakistan was formed in an attempt to pretend the north of the subcontinent is an ethnically and religiously homogenous zone. It was a bad idea to start with, and it's lurched from bad to worse over the years. Interference from the US may be making things worse, but it wasn't the US that decided to pursue a one religion policy, or a one language policy, or to try and kill East Pakistan into submission, or to fight losing wars with India.
posted by rodgerd at 8:12 PM on May 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


And that's the tragedy of short-sighted foreign policy. We were only too happy to play geopolitical games in the region, "balancing" China vs India vs Soviet Union using Pakistan as a pawn. All to what miserable effect? A lot of effort, for no tangible benefit to the U.S. - even the vaunted Afghanistan campaign had as much blowback as benefit... the Soviets would have lost eventually anyhow, and look what good our support bought us with the hardliners - big fat zilch.

You know, that's why interfering in other countries affairs, unless absolutely necessary, is just stupid politics. We spend a lot of effort and treasure (and sometimes blood) that ultimately buys us enmity. Because whatever goes wrong, they get a ready excuse and someone to blame. Pakistan is a great example. Which is why I said in my first post, that we'll get to pay even for sins we did not commit.
posted by VikingSword at 8:23 PM on May 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


Man, how much is it going to take for enough people to realize that society as it is now is, at its most basic level, untenable?
posted by kldickson at 8:53 PM on May 26, 2009


It's all fun and games until religious extremists gain control of nuclear weapons.

If you believe that, then the only solution is to rid the world of religion (superstition). Then back to fun and games.
posted by Mr_Zero at 9:54 PM on May 26, 2009



exhilaration, thanks for the donation links. I'm not working right now, but I can still afford a couple bucks to the Red Cross, because, well, there but for grace go I.
posted by boo_radley at 10:22 PM on May 26, 2009


Are we getting the full story? Probably not.
Last week there was an article in Dawn stating that the Pakistan army were exagerating their gains and killings in Swat valley. Many Taliban fighters having achieved their objective have already retreated into the mountains.
Pakistan has been promised huge monetary incentives by the US to clear the Swat Valley of Taliban something that the Taliban are apparently doing on thier own. War equals profit and as the Pakistani government military complex has zero transparency the kleptocracy is obviously going to get considerably richer.
History shows us what happens in Refugee camps - just look at Lebanon. At a 1% conversion rate of 2.4Million refugees you get a small army of 24,000 people who hate America even more (rightly or wrongly America is seen as the culprit here). Some refugees are heading south to Karachi. If / when the displaced return home they will find that although they fled the taleban it was the army who destroyed their houses as the army is fighting with traditional field guns and tanks against a highly mobile guerilla force using SUV's and mopeds.
CSM asks "Pakistan can clear Taliban territory, but can it hold it?" as a second front seems to be unfolding in Waziristan
Very recently there has been a huge bomb blast in Lahore. Is the unrest moving to the cities?
Thankyou Smedleyman, please stay crazy
posted by adamvasco at 12:06 AM on May 27, 2009


This is a crazy post. The Taliban have shown themselves to be nothing more than pure evil and a danger not only to Pakistan but the whole world and then some peaceniks think we should just look the other way? Many wrong wars are prosecuted. Sometimes though action needs to be taken.
posted by caddis at 4:44 AM on May 27, 2009


From the New York Review of Books, a good summary of recent events and how Swat got where it is.

I work remotely for a development agency in Pakistan, and have been working full time on the IDP crisis. One of the biggest problems I foresee is that the vast, vast majority of displaced people are living in communities: in rented houses, with friends or families, or simply as squatters. Not in camps at all. This makes it difficult and expensive to reach them with health and education services. It means that fighters can blend in with the rest of the population. It means that host communities - themselves poor and finding it hard to cope in the midst of economic crisis, high prices and constant power cuts which reduce work and income - are badly burdened. Some of them will blame the army which (as it demonstrated so cruelly in Bangladesh, 1971) does not have a history of respecting civilians. Some of them will slide further into poverty. It also shows the failure of the state: the army is not trusted to protect its own civilians and the government is not trusted to provide services to displaced people (again with good reason. Religious groups are often better funded and recognise their stake in winning over the population)

Protecting civilians from the Taliban and the army alike is the real battle here. Military action is important, but the followup is immensely more so. That is what will determine the future of conflict and contours of opinion here.
posted by tavegyl at 5:00 AM on May 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


NB- these are my opinions, not those of my employers, the government of Pakistan, etc.
posted by tavegyl at 5:00 AM on May 27, 2009


Excellant article tavegyl; thank you. I hope any of your family in Lahore are safe and sound.
posted by adamvasco at 6:26 AM on May 27, 2009


Thanks adamvasco - the blast rattled the windows and caused a minor panic at home, but no one I know was directly affected.
posted by tavegyl at 7:00 AM on May 27, 2009


does anyone remember peace? what happened to that?

It doesn't make huge amounts of money for the military industrial complex that has taken control of our government.
posted by Mr_Zero at 7:35 AM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


There are lots of foreign actors to blame for the mess, from the British to the Russians to the USA to Saudi Arabia. But, mostly, it's a hell of Pakistan's own making.

Please remember that the people living in these places are as intelligent and capable as you or I am. The myth of the "Noble Savage" is pernicious and stinks of Western exceptionalism and race-bias. Pakistanis are perfectly capable of hatching their own schemes for their own pernicious reasons... they're imperfect human beings, same as you or I.

OK, so Pakistan, after the mess that was Partition, wound up with what was arguably a big chunk of what used to be Afghanistan in pre-colonial times. This was OK, as Afghanistan wasn't too terribly war-like, and interested mostly in modernization and economic growth, well, until the Russians invaded. Then, they kicked the Russians out, and started the longer war to run out the Communist puppet regime. Uh, oh... what now? They might ask for that territory back.

Afghanistan, post-Soviet rule, was a mess. Lawless, chaotic, and with a lot of religious extremists looking for something to do. So, right-wingers in the Pakistan military decided to set up a school for some of the local religious extremists, mostly kids too young to have fought the Russians, and paid them to set up more of these schools within Afghanistan. These new militants were the Taliban, and their mission was to bring law to the lawless through ruthless and brutal repression in a theocratic framework.

Since the Pakistani hard-liners were feeding the Taliban money, guns and new recruits across the border, Pakistan gets to keep its borders the way they were, because we're all friends, right?

Then the Taliban let Al Quaeda set up shop, and because the United States was a close ally of the Taliban's enemies (The "Warlords" as CNN called them - which were the Mujaheddin, the guys who fought off the Russians with American guns and money, organized on tribal lines), they decided not to turn Bin Laden over after 9/11, and then chaos did ensue.

Because India was a client state of the Soviets (mostly as a "screw you" to the British rather than because of an ideological mesh), the US backed Pakistan with foreign aid and sweetheart trade deals, regardless of who was in charge. (This has lead to accusations that the US backed brutally repressive regimes in Pakistan. This is true, but they've also backed progressive and democratic regimes there, too. Since India was cozy with the Russians, neither the civilian nor the military government was going to change their alliance with the US.)

So, now, Pakistan is in deep trouble, as they created the Taliban, but it's now beyond its control, because Pakistan is allied with the USA. So, the solution would be to disband and undermine the local Taliban affiliates and share intel with the US on the Afghanistan Taliban. Whoa, not so fast there. You see, since the 90's, the US and India have been very, very close, and getting closer. To the point where Pakistan's radical right-wingers no longer believe that the USA will serve their prime interest, which is messing with India every chance they get, believing this will somehow bring Kashmir into Pakistan's borders. What's more the US pretty much botched both Afghanistan and Iraq, so now the US is seen as weak, too.

And Pakistan's radical right wingers control the military intelligence branches of the Pakistan Army. Since they see the centrist Army commanders as weak, they're running their own game. The game used to be "Lets Mess With India," then it became "Let's rule Pakistan through a repressive theocracy we control behind the scenes, so we can mess with India even more."

It's like the CIA was funding, training and arming the Confederates, because they hoped in the confusion of the Civil War they could take over.

Now, with a clear secularist mandate from the government on one side, and their Tanks-n-Planes sugar-daddy on the other side prodding them, and without full co-operation of their intelligence branch (to say the least), the Pakistan Army decided to uncork some whup-ass on the Taliban. What people are mostly upset about is that they're doing it very, very, very poorly. Shock-and-awe does not work with guerrillas.

But if your own intelligence agencies might be working against you, what else can you do but send in the tanks and heavy infantry and hope you kill more of them than your own people?

A big fat mess all around.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:57 AM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pakistan has managed to be a screwed up nation all on its very own

Well, these guys helped a little...
posted by Rykey at 1:07 PM on May 27, 2009




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