Sunday, May 10, 2009

Iraq's Soft Surge; Pakistan and the Taliban: Weekend News and History

Just a quick post, about Pakistan's success in swapping the Swat Valley for peace; and Iraq's success in slowing down the surge.

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 Diplomacy

I 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't

Hopelessness 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."
(George Bernard Shaw)
Looking at this weekend's news shows that "man can never learn anything from history" is true - for some of us.

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."
(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."
(George Santayana)
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.

Related posts: In the news:


Brigid said...

"The Pakistani government apparently tried to try being nice"

You're stuttering. ^_^

Brian H. Gill said...


Thanks. Something like that. Fixed. Hoo ha.

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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.