Sunday, March 8, 2009

Obama Reaches Out to Taliban: This Might Actually Work

I felt 'lively apprehension' after reading that President Barack Obama wanted "to reach out to Taliban" in Afghanistan. (AP) President Obama's background and style during the election reminded me of the 'good old days' of my youth, with its values of peace, love, and spitting on soldiers.

This isn't the sixties, and (so far) President Obama hasn't fulfilled my worst-case scenarios. And I'm not at all disappointed.

Reaching Out: to the Taliban?!

Reading past the headlines, always a good idea, I discovered that Barack Obama seems to have the idea of opening doors for Afghans who support the Taliban, but aren't utterly committed to the Taliban's no-trouser ideology.

That actually makes sense. Parts of Afghanistan aren't all that cosmopolitan, and quite a few 'pro-Taliban' Afghans may have heard about Western civilization mostly through the Taliban and people like professor Ward Churchill.

Once they find out that westerners can be reasonable people, and aren't as touchy about dress codes as the death-to-men-wearing-pants outfits, quite a few Taliban supporters might change their minds.

Reaching Out to the Enemy: Sound Familiar? It Should

President Obama isn't the first western leader to try dealing with non-fanatic supporters of terrorists. The "diabolical" George W. Bush's administration did the same thing, around 2006, in Iraq. That time it was Al Qaeda, not the Taliban: but the principal was the same.

Between turn-arounds like the Anbar Awakening and the Surge, Iraq is now relatively terrorist-free, and following the American Way of squabbling over election results.

Reaching out worked in Iraq, it might work in Afghanistan.

Reaching out, Yes: Giving In, No

One reason that I think President Obama's gambit in Afghanistan may work is that Afghanistan is not Pakistan.

Afghanistan's national leader doesn't have military leaders under him who gave orders to shoot American and Coalition soldiers if they chased terrorists in his country. In fact, the Afghan government seems quite willing to let western forces help them get control of their country.

Pakistan, on the other hand, recently handed the Swat Valley over to the Taliban. That's not quite how the deal was spun, but that's the gist of it.

There are No Rice Paddies in Afghanistan

Finally, "quagmire" is back. An op-ed in the Boston Globe sports this in the second paragraph: "However, the 17,000 new troops may actually help avoid a quagmire. The long-term challenge Obama faces in Afghanistan...."

"Quagmire" was a very effective metaphor for the Vietman War mess. Between rice paddies and natural landforms, Vietnam has quite a lot of sincerely soggy ground. For Americans who had been fed a steady stream of images from Vietnam, "quagmire" resonated.

Afghanistan, like Iraq and Pakistan, isn't a very damp country. At least one alert writer called America's 'failure' in the Middle East "quicksand."

I like to think that, as years go by and the more adventurous writers and thinkers in America become familiar with realities in the Middle East, terms like "quicksand" will replace "quagmire" as a metaphor for America's 'racist oppression' of indigenous people and 'popular uprisings.'

It would be nice, if more of America's 'better sort' found out what a sweet deal they've got: but I'm not holding my breath. One of the drawbacks of having freedom is that, after a while, it's easy to forget about the alternatives.

More-or-less related posts: News and views: Background:


Shane Shirley said...

I am praying for the President!

Anonymous said...

There is no Good Taliban or Bad Taliban, just as There is no good terrorist and a bad terrorist.
Misplaced Idealism.Remember,Osama who's been promoted to check USSR.

Brian H. Gill said...

Shane at Environmental Health-Wellness-Beauty,

Prayer is a good idea. Thanks.


Re-reading my post, I may not have been clear enough. As apprehensive as I am about Obama's policies, in this case he seems to be 'reaching out' to people who support the Taliban - not hard-core, dedicated Taliban members.

There is a difference: or, at least, there was a difference between the (largely foreign) Al Qaeda fighters and local Iraqis who had learned about Western Culture through the likes of Al Qaeda.

Misplaced idealism, perhaps: or using the most powerful weapon American has: facts.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.