Friday, October 16, 2009

Schadenfreude and Pakistan

Pakistan is facing an escalating, coordinated string of attacks. It is, of course, wrong, but I cannot help but feel a twinge of Schadenfreude (nicely explained below by Avenue Q in a marginal video--download the song via Itunes). Why? Because the groups attacking Pakistan now have received significant support from Pakistan in the past--to fight against India so that Kashmir could be unified under Pakistani rule, to fight against the Afghan government (the Taliban), and to fight against everybody else (Al Qaeda).

The [Pakistani] government has tolerated the Punjabi groups, including Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, for years, and many Pakistanis consider them allies in just causes, including fighting India, the United States and Shiite Muslims. But they have become entwined with the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and have increasingly turned on the state.
So now, Pakistan is reaping what it has sowed. The US is no stranger to this kind of blowback, so I am probably a bit of a hypocrite.

Obviously, Pakistan becoming a failed state is not a good thing for the neighborhood or the world, so taking delight in its current troubles is wrong. And, of course, the folks paying the price are mostly those who had little influence over the policies. One of my frustrations with the US invasion of Iraq was that it made the US and NATO far more dependent on Pakistan as the focus shifted from Afghanistan when the real threat to international peace and stability has long been Pakistan.

Once again, there are no easy solutions, as Pakistan must fight its domestic opponents and must develop far better control over its own agents, such as the ISI. Its counter-insurgency effort may have created far more insurgents than it killed, but tolerating or appeasing the Taliban in Pakistan was a bad idea. External assistance to Pakistan may not actually help the situation, as it may be diverted to the conventional forces confronting India or to repressing domestic political opponents (one of my newer students is asking questions about aid and repression).

Perhaps Coburn is right--ignorance might be bliss. Perhaps if we ignore Pakistan, it will go away. Or not.

No comments: