Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Monday, May 11, 2009

Pakistan and Afghanistan: Crisitunity

Today, the Secretary of Defense Gates asked for the resignation of General McKiernan, the top general in Afghanistan. Last week, Presidents Zardari and Karzai of Pakistan and Afghanistan were in Washington for high-level summit meetings. Coincidence? I think not. I wonder what their objection to him was.

Moreover, what do we do now? Pakistan is in danger of becoming a failed state, which is really saying something with nuclear weapons. Its two main non-islamist political parties are locked in a deadly and petty personal struggle between Sharif and Zardari, giving the Islamists space to grow. Simply put, the Taliban in Pakistan has a coherent vision of the future; the other parties don't. That is a serious problem. Yet Pakistan, with its active lawyers who struggled repeatedly for establishing the rule of law, has something terrific going for it. Too bad neither of the main political parties will buy into their cause.

Here's the sad part. I suspect the army will likely stage a coup again within the next year. They will have to, they will think, because they do not want to see the Taliban forces challenge them for physical control of the country, yet the civilian leadership can't get its act together to oppose them. This is just more downward spiral. The USA must seize the opportunity here. (see the Simpsons joke in the title). Hamid Karzai said that the US needs to show moral leadership. We need to show we are better than the terrorists, he said. I think he's onto something big. The way to win in this area is for the non-Islamist forces, the pro-Democracy forces, to combine and express a coherent vision for both countries, and since the US army will have to help out in this battle too, probably in both countries, it has to get its act together. Word travels quickly of atrocities and slowly, but effectively, of good treatment. When the people learn in villages that US/government forces treat them well but the Taliban treat them badly, this is how the tide turns. We are already outsiders, so we start at a deficit. We must be better than the Taliban just to be viewed with equanimity. If we give in (a la Cheney and Rumsfeld) to frustration and torture, to the idea that you have to fight on their level, we will lose surely and hard. It is imperative, therefore, to end the abuses at Baghram airbase and change US strategy 180 degrees. Bottom line: we have to start acting like the good guys. We have to show the moral superiority of democratic forces.

I am reminded in this vein of how we "won" in Germany after WWII. This is a complicated story, but it involves above all a generosity of spirit (and money, food, etc.) and a willingness to work with locals. In Germany we saw not revanchism, but a real genuine liberal democracy arise out of the ashes. There are wonderful stories of German POWs deciding to stay in America or returning home to tell people that they were well treated and well fed. The Nuremberg trials were the victor's justice, to be sure, but they were not show trials. Acquittals happened. Most of all, the top brass were held accountable, and the little people were largely forgiven. We worked with existing non-Nazi parties that survived the war clandestinely, but the real triumph was in these (the SDP etc) not being viewed as "collaborators." German intellectuals invested themselves in the process of creating a new Germany. Famously, 1946 was declared "Year Zero" by leading literary figures who bought into what the Allies were selling. Economically, we helped rebuild the country we had just bombed to smithereens. The projects of NATO and the European Union integrated Germany rather than isolating and injuring it. The result was a place where ambitious young Germans - and it is the young and ambitious everywhere who lead revolutions - bought into the new Germany.

Now is the time for a "Marshall Plan" for the Hindu Kush.


Raised By Republicans said...

In addition to being nicer we have to be more reliable. We can't just send small companies of heavily armed units with civil affairs officers roaming around the country performing random acts of kindness.

There must be a predictability to it. Villagers must know that when they see the US or NATO forces coming down the road, that things are going to be better. And not just for a week or so, at which point the Taliban come back and execute all the suspected collaborators, but for the long term. At least long enough for some kind of local authority to establish itself.

As I understand it this is essentially what the "surge" strategy has been in Iraq for the last year or so.

Raised By Republicans said...

RE: The Marshall Plan for the Hindu Kush -- great idea.

I like the idea of economic integration too. But that can't happen in South Asia without the economic giant /engine of the region...India. That means finding a way to get on the path to peace between India and Pakistan will be a necessary condition for any long term success.