The Reasoned Review

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Fresh Horror in Pakistan

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Some grim news today in Pakistan – more than 38 civilians and security officers  met their grisly end in coordinated attacks around Islamabad. This is the seventh such attack this month, each growing more vicious than the last. The story was sixth-page news for the American and European journals, but east of Suez it gained considerably more attention. Which is a shame, because except for Pakistan and India, there is no one for whom these developments mean more than the United States. Between President Obama’s escalation of the bombing campaign and his $7.5 Billion military-bribe package, the US has placed more than one bet on Pakistan.

But it is a curious feature of our discourse that these developments will invariably be framed as a suggestion that we keep on investing in Pakistan. “If we stop now,” the argument would surely run, “then we’d be explicitly condoning these acts, and would probably invite more.” Left unexamined is the possibility that our efforts to slow or stop terror attacks have actually had the opposite of their intended effect.

A definite strain of thought exists among policy circles that US troops are all that stands between Afghanistan, Pakistan and Chaos – it forms a “conventional wisdom” from which our leaders never diverge. The fact that Obama refuses to even consider withdrawing troops from Afghanistan stands in full evidence of this. However it is not yet clear that US efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan are having any effect on the rate of terrorism, except perhaps one of encouragement. When one considers that post-9/11 US policy has led to a sevenfold-increase in the rate of fatal jihad attacks or that Pakistan’s epidemic of terrorism began only after we enlisted them as a serious ally, the question assumes significant importance.

In particular, it is important to remember that most of the targets in this recent spate of terrorism have been military targets – barracks, training centers, etc – specifically of anti-Taliban forces armed by US aid. The United States can hardly be said to have such scruples; their attacks fall largely upon the village population of Pakistan, who are blasted by unmanned missiles from across the border with Afghanistan.

If the United States were actually concerned with the rate of terrorism in Pakistan, they would take a long, hard look at their current strategy and ask themselves if it might be to blame. The “drone” bombings, which occur weekly to the tune of 20 or so dead villagers, cannot seriously be thought of as reducing “terror”. Similarly, our continuous “aid” and bribery to leaders who are viewed as corrupt and incompetent, who routinely steal elections, and who receive our support against the express wishes of their population, do not have an easing effect on terrorism.

On the other hand, if the United States were only interested in new bases for its military, an expanded presence in the oil-rich Middle East, and unquestioned military dominance, they would not only cease their operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but in fact expand those efforts. Which is, of course, exactly what they are doing.


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