At this point, it doesn”t matter if you are pro- or anti-war, because it”s clear that we”re going to war. Liberals have diverged into two general camps the centrists who have decided that patriotism means standing firmly and unquestioningly behind the president, and the left-wingers who are rallying for peace.
What”s been lost in the “60s nostalgia versus absolute patriotism is a responsible critique of the actions of the Bush administration. It”s not enough to say “Make love, not war,” nor is it enough to say “I rally behind the president.” War is inevitable, and I tend to believe that war might be necessary. But the Bush administration has been reverting to tactics that reek of Cold War politics finding allies in people who do not like us. When Bush began naming his cabinet, a clear pattern began to emerge he was choosing many people who were directly involved with his father”s administration. On one hand, that was seen as positive, since he was obviously surrounding himself with people with more experience, and perhaps more intelligence.
But now we see the shortcomings of this plan. The ideas that seem to be floating around Bush right now are the ideas of tacticians who learned their trade on the volatile blackboard of the Cold War. Middle Eastern policies have especially been defined by the Cold War, and the collapse of the Soviet Union left the United States confused about its friends and vulnerable to its enemies. A return to a “zone of containment” style strategizing will prove nothing short of calamitous in the long run.
The Bush administration has sought out Pakistan to be its ally in this war, a decision that could have long-standing destabilizing effects. The decision to employ Pakistan is a decision grounded in history Pakistan was one of America”s Cold War allies against the Soviets. Indeed, in the final years of the Cold War, Pakistan was used as a base for the war in Afghanistan against the Soviet invasion.
But Pakistan is not our friend. If not for the threat of destruction as a price for noncompliance, Pakistan would side with the Taliban, a neighbor-state with which Pakistan has been cooperative for years. When Pakistan”s military president, Pervez Musharraf, addressed his nation regarding the decision to cooperate with the U.S., the decision was met with a great deal of protest. Musharraf”s government took control after a military coup, and the stability of Pakistan depends on the complacency of the population. A citizenry enraged over cooperation with the enemy against an ideological brother could lead to massive civil unrest in Pakistan, bringing to power the same sort of fundamentalists who were responsible for the terrorist attacks.
The U.S. seems willing to forsake long-term strategy for an immediate, politically popular round of attacks against Afghanistan. By employing Pakistan in these efforts, we will only further inflame the fundamentalists who seek to destroy all governments seen as complacent to the whims of the U.S.
The common enemy approach failed during the Cold War. Some examples:
In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and began a decade-long battle. Those fighting against the Soviets included freedom fighters who would eventually form the Taliban. At the same time, the U.S., understanding the strategic importance of keeping the Soviets at bay, funded a proxy war through Pakistan. Following the defeat of the Soviets in 1989, the freedom fighters organized into the Taliban and overthrew the government, setting up an antiquated, fundamentalist society that was as anti-Soviet as they were anti-American. We hated the Soviets, the Afghanis hated the Soviets. That did not make us friends.
In 1980, the year after Ayatollah Khomeini led the fundamentalist revolution in Iran, Iraq invaded Iran and began a protracted border war that eventually led to the involvement of the U.S. The decision to support Iraq against a common enemy the new, fundamentalist government in Iran proved to be an utter failure when, in 1991, Saddam Hussein”s thirst for territories led to the invasion of Kuwait. Our war with Iraq was fought with American-made weapons those that we had and those that we had provided for Iraq a decade earlier. We hated Iran, Iraq hated Iran. That did not make us friends.
In 1982, when the Israeli army moved into South Lebanon in order to oust the invading Palestinian forces, which had occupied south Lebanon as a base of attack against northern Israel, the Israelis were met with adoration by the local Shia Muslim villagers. The Israelis were seen as liberators, driving away the Palestinians from the Shia homelands. Israel sought to make local village militias who would aid them in their fight against the invading Palestinians, but they soon overstayed their welcome. The training that the Israelis gave the local Shia population turned against them and Israel found themselves accosted from the very people who had once loved them. Israel hated the Palestinians, Shi”ites hated the Palestinians. That did not make them friends.
I could continue, but the point is clear. Amidst all the Cold War politics, the U.S. seemed to have lost sight of the larger picture the 1979 Iranian Revolution had created an organized fundamentalist group, Hizbollah, that sought to create not just an Islamic state, but an entire Islamic world. The cost of this dream is the destruction of all those who oppose fundamentalist precepts.
This organization of fundamentalists extends beyond Hizbollah it extends beyond Iran and beyond Afghanistan. It extends into nations that we are seeking out to be our friends nations such as Pakistan.
We are entering a war without borders, against an enemies for whom death is not punishment and defeat on one front will only inflame the agitations on numerous other fronts.
Forcing one terrorist state to support us against another terrorist state does not solve the problem of terrorism. Pakistan”s actions in Kashmir, its support of the Taliban and its violent reaction to the decision to support the U.S. is a testament to this fact.
At best, aligning ourselves with Pakistan will delay the sort of anti-American violence that we witnessed on Sept. 11th until after President Bush is out of office. But in the long run, we will have only forced these people to reorganize elsewhere in order to continue their fundamentalist activities. By the time that happens, us 20-somethings will be the ones sitting in our offices when a plane explodes into our building.
Manish Raiji can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org