Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Phone Ringing at 2 A.M.

With the same insouciance it showed in wiping out statues of the Buddha that far predated its sway in Afghanistan, the Taliban is sweeping out local authorities in Pakistan after getting its way. The new and untested government of Pakistan made the effort to survive by giving up territory; does that have a familiar ring? In WWII it was Nevil Chamberlain's policy, and it didn't work.

The sudden action of the Taliban has a chilling resemblance to the Third Reich's moves swiftly and mercilessly into territory in Europe, and the character of the Taliban has much resemblance to that earlier regime.

Taliban fightersspilling out of the Swat Valley have swept across Buner, a district 60 miles from Islamabad, as Hillary Clinton warned the situation in Pakistan now poses a "mortal threat" to the security of the world.

The US secretary of state told Congress yesterday that Pakistan faced an "existential" threat from Islamist militants. "I think the Pakistani government is basically abdicating to the Taliban and the extremists," she said. Any further deterioration in the situation "poses a mortal threat to the security and safety of our country and the world", she said.

In Buner, Taliban fighters occupied government buildings, ransacked the offices of aid agencies and ordered aid employees to leave. Fighters brandishing guns and rocket launchers patrolled villages, forcing beleaguered local police to retreat to their stations. Local courts have stopped functioning and judicial officials have gone on indefinite leave.

When governments fall suddenly before military might, the countries of the world need to act. Of course, the U.S. is totally out of its depth here, because our military has been stripped of its power and wasted in illegitimate and unproductive warfare by the minions of the right wing over eight years just ended by their ouster. We are that pitiful, helpless giant that Nixon liked to refer to when he wanted to frighten the weakminded into ceding him ever more power. Sadly, that is a tactic that is wrongheaded, and leads to selfdestructive behavior. That self destruction has proceded so far that we are in real danger this time.

We are seeing the beginnings of a return to world friendships through the President's diplomatic overtures to that estranged community, but will those beginnings lead to enough support for the dangers the previous maladministration has brought on us?

We are about to find out.

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