Bombing didn’t win the Vietnam War and it’s not going to “win” the “War on Terror” either. Would someone explain this to the White House? Before it’s too late? Please!
I was struck by another amazing headline today: US might strike in Pakistan: White House. And upon reading the story, the headline is accurate. At a press conference the White House spokesman said that indeed the US might strike “actionable” targets in Pakistan, and that it wouldn’t comment on whether or not the president of Pakistan would be consulted first. The White House has been increasingly critical in recent days of Mr Musharraf’s truce with tribal leaders in the hinterlands of Pakistan, calling on him to take “aggressive action” against Taliban militants believed to be using Pakistan as a base to operate in Afghanistan. Sigh, there are so many things wrong with this thinking I hardly know where to begin. If Bush is trying to widen the war in the region and make things worse, he’s on the right track.
I guess it’s the almost mind numbingly sanctimonious attitude that gets me first off. We created the problems in Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan with our ill considered invasions, now it’s Pakistan’s fault that the violence and terrorism has spread? This sanctimonious “we know better” attitude is straight out of the nineteenth century. It’s depressing really, millions of Americans think that it’s perfectly OK for Americans to go into another part of the world and tell people not only how they are supposed to govern themselves, we even have the God given right apparently to tell them how their women should dress! Nothing has changed since the missionaries told the Polynesians that their women had to cover their breasts, like this is somehow any of our goddamn business?
More specifically though, how would Americans react if Mexico or Cuba announced they might launch military strikes at their enemies inside the US? Show of hands, any American readers out there who have no problem with Cuban jets bombing Cuban dissidents in Miami? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Americans would go absolutely ape shit if another nation threatened to use military force against their enemies hiding in the US. And that any American government that allowed this would make Bush look like a popular and admired president in comparison. Yet Americans can’t grasp that the typical Pakistani might feel the same way about their country?
These threats and criticism literally put Musharraf in a position where anything he does is likely to make the situation worse. If he does take military action, he will be seen as a tool of the Americans, his popularity will sink and more Pakistanis will take up arms against their government. If he does nothing and the Americans start attacking targets in Pakistan, his popularity will sink and more Pakistanis will take up arms against their government. What exactly is he supposed to do now? He has been walking a tightrope for years because of the American war in Afghanistan, and until recently has managed to do a pretty good job of keeping the lid on the trouble in Pakistan.
Sadly there is a terrible historical analogy here that the White House seems completely unaware of. This is very similar to the situation in Cambodia in the late sixties. The Viet Cong had secret bases in Cambodia that they were using to support their fighters in South Vietnam. For years the US had a quiet arrangement to secretly bomb these secret bases. It wasn’t the best deal for Cambodia but it limited the violence to their border regions and kept them out of the war. This wasn’t good enough for Nixon though, he engineered a right wing coup in Cambodia that brought Cambodia into the war on the US side, despite being warned that this would massively destabilize Cambodia. And that’s exactly what happened, the new government was wildly unpopular with Cambodians, the Cambodian insurgents were strengthened enormously. Not only was Lon Nol, the new right wing Cambodian leader, unable to do anything about the Viet Cong bases, very soon he was faced with a communist insurgency that swept him from power and ushered in the Khmer Rouge years. Yeah, we all know how well that turned out.
The other aspect of this that is so troubling is that the White House seems to think that air power is going to be helpful in fighting an insurgency. Let’s review, air power is very effective at destroying: Infrastructure, factories, airports, bridges, large warships, large military bases, and large concentrations of troops and weapons. How many of these things does an insurgency rely on? None of the above. Air power is virtually useless at finding and destroying the small scale units and installations that insurgents rely on, it’s easy to hide such things from the sky. The very predictable result of using air power to fight insurgents is that the insurgents are harmed little (if at all) by the attacks, and their popularity and support grows with every attack that misses its target and blows up innocent civilians.
And yet the White House thinks that US air raids in Pakistan are going to help? It’s a crazy idea, and it is baffling to me that it is even being suggested. What is most troubling is that this indicates that the White House is either completely out of touch with reality, or that they are deliberately trying to start a widespread Islamic uprising in Pakistan. Do we really want a nuclear armed fundamentalist Islamic state? Is that the goal? There’s times when in my despair I think that the White House really is trying to bring on the End Times by triggering a nuclear holocaust in the Middle East. And after reading today’s headline, this is one of those times. God help us all if I’m right.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit and is central to illustrating the post. I believe it is a US Air Force image which would make it public domain as well. Credit: USAF)