The continuing US presence in Afghanistan fuels extremism in neighbouring Pakistan
The assassination of Salmaan Taseer has shown only too clearly the growing extremism in Pakistan, the radicalisation of its society and the polarisation that is taking hold. This is not just between the religious and the secular, but also the polarisation that the “war on terror” has caused between the various religious sects.
Is the Global War in Terror Creating More Problems than it is Solving?
The late historian Chalmers JOHNSON popularized the term “blowback” to describe the unintended grand-strategic consequences resulting from interventionist foreign policies and military actions. The term blowback dates to the CIA’s internal history of the US’s 1953 Iranian coup that threw out the Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh (a progressive social reformer who wanted to nationalize the oil industry among other things) and replaced him with the tyrannical American puppet Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi. No one can doubt that contemporary problems with Iran today are rooted in resentments dating back to the 1953 coup.
The United States reacted to the murder of 3,000 Americans on 9-11 by declaring a Global War on Terror (GWOT) and militarizing its response to what was in fact a heinous crime committed by a conspiracy of Moslem fanatics and nut cases. Treating this criminal conspiracy as an act of war has justified the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as well as unilateral attacks in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere, as well as a suspension of constitutional rights at home. Moreover, like the notorious Phoenix program rising from its Vietnam ashes, military strategy in the GWOT has devolved into the targeted killing and assassination of what the Pentagon likes to call “high value” targets. In the process, hundreds of thousands of innocent Moslems have met their deaths, either as direct or indirect consequences of our reaction to 9-11, and millions of Moslems have become convinced the US is engaged in a religious war with Islam itself. That these are unintended effects of a targeted killing strategy aimed at the Al Qaeda conspiracy and its fellow travelers is quite beside the point as far as the spreading anti-American Islamic rage is concerned.
Nowhere is the danger of blowback greater than in nuclear-armed Pakistan — a multi-ethnic Islamic nation of 180 million people that, like Iraq, had nothing to do with 9-11, but is now in the cross hairs of our killing strategy in the GWOT.
Unfortunately, as I indicated an earlier blaster, Mr. Obama’s strategic review turned inward on itself and failed to address the five crucial grand-strategic questions raised by that strategy. The attached op-ed in the Observer explains why a continuation of business as usual in Afghanistan and Pakistan could blow back on itself in Pakistan as well and push that nuclear-armed state into chaos.
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