Mission Creep into Pakistan and the Problem of Violence

Posted: September 23, 2008 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

A while back I wrote a post on the liabilities inherent in the use of violence in our conflict with terrorist networks. One of the sources cited warned the parties involved that the worst strategic mistake the U.S. and NATO could make would be to give Pakistani groups a reason to unite with terrorists and/or insurgents.


Pashtuns in Peshawar, hitherto regarded as secular liberals, told the BBC only last week that they had lost all faith in the west. The decision to violate the country’s sovereignty at will had sent them in the direction of the insurgents.

Those who live by the sword die by the sword, but in an era of cheap explosives and “smart” bombs, they tend to take people with them:

The attack on one of the hotels in the chain of the US Marriott group was one of the worst in Pakistan’s history and involved the sophisticated use of over 600 kilograms of TNT explosive blended with RDX and phosphorous, detonated when a truck rammed into a security barricade in front of the hotel

Among the dead were the Czech ambassador to Pakistan, two US Marines, members of the US embassy staff, Saudi nationals and other European diplomats. More than 250 people were injured and dozens of parked cars were destroyed.

Why attack this particular hotel? Tariq Ali explains further, emphasis mine:

The deadly blast in Islamabad was a revenge attack for what has been going on over the past few weeks in the badlands of the North-West Frontier. It highlighted the crisis confronting the new government in the wake of intensified US strikes in the tribal areas on the Afghan border.

Hellfire missiles, drones, special operation raids inside Pakistan and the resulting deaths of innocents have fuelled Pashtun nationalism. It is this spillage from the war in Afghanistan that is now destabilising Pakistan.

…It is the consequence of a supposedly “good war” in Afghanistan that has now gone badly wrong.

…The majority of Pakistanis are opposed to the US presence in the region, viewing it as the most serious threat to peace.

…When in doubt, escalate the war, is an old imperial motto. The strikes against Pakistan represent – like the decisions of President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, to bomb and then invade Cambodia – a desperate bid to salvage a war that was never good, but has now gone badly wrong.

As mentioned in several previous posts, both major U.S. presidential candidates campaign on an expanded, intensified war in Afghanistan. Both Republican and Democratic policymakers have urged over-the-border attacks in Pakistan to kill terrorists; the current U.S. activity in Pakistan is not the culpability of any particular party. This is, after all, the logical outworking of the frame of mind we’ve built, in a perversely bipartisan way, around the Global War on Terror ™: we reserve the right to strike anywhere, anytime against “terrorists” that threaten us. Both of the largest political parties scramble to show they see the world in this way, and neither can consistenly point the finger at the other as the war in Afghanistan creeps into Pakistan.

Change is the golden fleece for political candidates this year: the candidate that can drape “change” around their shoulders to the greatest degree will likely walk into the White House in January. But the change we need (and we do need it!) is far more than a change in administrations or political parties in control of the government. We Christians need to change the way we view conflict, and just as importantly, we need to change the means by which we want our political candidates to participate in conflict should they be elected. Candidates push for expanding militarism and war because that’s what they think you want them to do.

The floundering U.S. effort to provide security and democracy through the barrell of a gun, combined with the graveyard quiet that has fallen over Iraq following unimpeded ethnic cleansing, should be a testament to the bankruptness of violence as a means of participating in conflict, any conflict. Surely a nation with more than 159 million self-described “Christians” is capable of pulling itself back from this exercise in murderous futility, of looking with fresh eyes and finally, finally some seriousness of mind at the answer given by Christ to the problem of evil and violence: self-sacrificing love of enemies.

  1. Greg says:

    I’ve been pouring over this blog since I found it a few days ago. Thank you for you faithfulness. A light in the darkness!

  2. dcrowe says:

    Thanks! And thanks for stopping in. I hope you’ll stick around.

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