I think it would be nice if disputes could be settled with a cordial chat over a pot of tea. When one group's philosophy is 'death to people we don't approve of,' being nice doesn't always work.
The Pakistani government apparently tried being nice to the Taliban, giving them the Swat Valley to rule. That, judging from what's going on this weekend, worked about as well as handing the Sudetenland over to Germany did, back in 1938.
Don't get me wrong: I love negotiation. I think it was a good idea to reach out to Afghans who may have supported the Taliban more out of ignorance and (quite possibly) fear, more than out of wholehearted solidarity with the Taliban's peculiar version of Islam.
The previous administration tried something like that in Iraq: and it worked then. Something like it could work in Pakistan.
However, there has to be more than "nice" involved. In addition to reaching out to people who aren't all that enthusiastic about Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or some other set of beheading enthusiasts, it looks like armed force has to be used against people who are sincerely, wholeheartedly, devoted to killing people who don't measure up to their standards.
It looks like Iraq is finding that out, now that the new Iraqi government is running things without foreign 'interference.'
'If it Worked Once' - Common Sense and DiplomacyI think it's reasonable to think that, if something worked once, it might work again. That's why I think that the Obama administration's effort to reach out to Afghans who might not be strongly tied to the Taliban made sense.
On the other hand, I think it's reasonable to think that, if something (spectacularly) failed to work before, it might not work again. Which is why I'm not at all surprised that the Taliban in Pakistan doesn't seem satisfied with the Swat Valley.
Learning from the Past: Hopeless Only for Those Who Won'tHopelessness has been fashionable for most of my life, so I could 'be sophisticated' and quote:
"Hegel was right when he said that we learn from history that man can never learn anything from history."Looking at this weekend's news shows that "man can never learn anything from history" is true - for some of us.
(George Bernard Shaw)
I'm inclined to see things differently:
"History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illumines reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life and brings us tidings of antiquity."Or:
(Marcus Tullius Cicero)
"Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. In the first stage of life the mind is frivolous and easily distracted, it misses progress by failing in consecutiveness and persistence. This is the condition of children and barbarians, in which instinct has learned nothing from experience."I'm not completely on the same page with either Cicero or Santayana: but they do seem to understand a bit about how the world works.
- "Pakistan; Nawaz Sharif; Multiculturalism; and a Skewed World View"
(March 15, 2009)
- "Obama Reaches Out to Taliban: This Might Actually Work"
(March 8, 2009)
- "Taliban Brings Peace, Islamic Law, to Pakistan's Swat Valley"
(February 21, 2009)
- "Pakistan, the Taliban, and Peace Through Diplomacy"
(February 17, 2009)
- "Good News: Anbar Province is Just About Ready for Hand-Over"
(January 11, 2008)
- "No Casualties in Anbar - Violence Down in Iraq"
(October 26, 2007)
- "Locals Join American Forces, Purge City of Terrorists"
(September 11, 2007)
- "Pakistanis flee offensive, U.S. sees fresh resolve"
Reuters (May 10, 2009)
- "Toll Rises as Iraq Slows Surge"
The Wall Street Journal (May 9, 2009)
- "WRAPUP 3-Gunships and planes strike Pakistan Taliban in Swat"
Reuters, India (May 9, 2009)
- "Taliban says suicide attacks comes from days of Prophet"
The Hindu (May 8, 2009)
- My take on this: With friends like the Taliban, Islam doesn't need enemies