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The Problem with Sending US Troops into Pakistan
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February 19, 2008                                               

                                  

 

                             The Problem with

            Sending US Troops into Pakistan

 

A few weeks ago a CIA predator drone aircraft launched missiles that killed a senior al-Qaeda operative; a seemingly stunning success for the US.  However, today’s Washington Post article, “Unilateral Strike Called a Model For US Operations in Pakistan,” belies this assumption.

Yesterday’s election in Pakistan has apparently undermined the ruling party of Pervez Musharraf.  His declining popularity is due in part to his association with the US and its war against Islamists.  The two ascendant opposition parties, the leaders of which hated each other until recently, now must form a government together.  Although both now say that they favor negotiations with the Islamists in their country, one party has repeatedly emphasized its closeness with America and intention to fight extremism.  Their government's effect on the “war on terror” will be anyone’s guess.

So much for the notion that democracy and elections provide stability.

The above-referenced article was illuminating for several reasons.  A senior administration official said, "Even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then. But overall, we're in worse shape than we were 18 months ago."

Another source said, "It's not going to overwhelm their network or break anything up definitively.  We're now in a sit-and-wait mode until someone else pops up."  Unlike the capture of a senior al-Qaeda operative, there is little long-term intelligence value from such a strike.

The tip for the strike didn’t come via some hi-tech gimmickry.  How was it accomplished?  It was through an informant.  Was the informant garnered through some exciting cloak-and-dagger, spy craft technique?  Nope. A source said, "All it takes is bags of cash."

It should be noted here that Bob Woodward asserted in his book about the aftermath of 9/11 that it only took $70 million of CIA largesse to turn the Northern Alliance into a competent force that abruptly overthrew the Taliban with limited US air support.  The US was already giving Afghanistan $170 million annually to ward off starvation prior to the attacks.  It’s easy to sit back and say, “what if?”

In the Post's article, former counterterrorism official Richard Clarke was quoted as saying; "The United States has gotten into a pattern where it sends a high-level delegation over to beat Musharraf up, and then you find that within a week or two a high-value target has been identified. Then he ignores us for a while until we send over another high-level delegation."

Finally, one military official said: "We'll get these one-off flukes once every eight months or so, but that's still not a strategy -- it's not a plan. Every now and then something will come together. What that serves to do [is] it tamps down discussion about whether there is a better way to do it."

What would a better policy look like?  A plan?

Reading Charles Allen’s book, “God’s Terrorists: The Wahhabi Cult and the Hidden Roots of Modern Jihad,” published in 2006, can provide much fodder for this discussion (see link on home page). 

In the introduction, he relates a story from Dr. Henry Bellew a surgeon with the British military in India during the mid-19th century.  He served in an area that is now part of Pakistan’s frontier tribal lands.  With respect to this area and the Yusufzai (or “Eusufzai,” a sub-group within the Pashtun tribal group) who inhabit it, Dr. Belew wrote:

Frugal in their own habits, they are hospitable to the stranger, and charitable to the beggar.  The refugee they will protect and defend with their lives…Secure in the recesses of their mountains, they have from time immemorial defied the authority of all governments that have preceded us on the frontier (p. 9) (emphasis added).

The author himself adds, “the British soon concluded that not just the Yusufzai of Swat and Buner but all the Pathans in the mountains were best left alone.  Recognising them to be well-nigh ungovernable, the British government of the Punjab devised a system that reflected the realities of the situation” (id.).   

The current talk of increasing the military presence in Afghanistan, more incursions into Pakistan, as well as the pressure from the West that led Pakistani President Musharraf to attack the Red Mosque in Islamabad last summer is contrary to a policy that has had success for over a century.

Words such as Punjab, Swat and Pashtun (another name for members of the “Pathan” tribe) have frequently been in the news recently.  These problems are not new.  Pashtuns have been living as they now live in the area overlapping the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan for over 1,000 years. 

Mr. Allen’s book explains that they live by the feud, and that the countless sub-tribal groups that dominate the entire region often hate one another.  The only people that they hate more are outsiders who try to control their lives or disturb their code that holds tribal tradition even above Muslim law.  They are historically amenable to bribes, but trying to get them to change by force is the worst tactic; one that has been tried and failed numerous times.  Hence, Musharraf's intransigency.

Indeed, this was validated in an AP story today: “Afrasiab Khattak, a leading opposition politician from the northwest (tribal areas), said his Awami National Party did not believe "that a military solution will work," adding his group "will never support American forces coming here and operating."

Most importantly, what would Jesus say about this approach and how does it tie in with the great commission.  What does the word of God say?

Old Testament rules of war are succinctly stated in Deuteronomy chapter 20.  They are harsh and are remarkably similar to some Quranic verses.  However, today’s Muslims bear no resemblance to the Canaanites of old who were Baal worshippers who used witchcraft and were tantamount to devil worshippers.

Regardless, now we live under grace.  There is no New Testament language that supports conversion by the sword or “eye for an eye.”  Indeed, it’s just the opposite.  See Mathew 5:38-48.

More on point, see God’s commandments in Romans  chapter 12; summarized in the sidebar in the left column on the “About Me” page of this website (see link in the navigation bar above). 

The clear instruction of the Apostle Paul is to overcome evil by feeding your enemies and loving them to repentance.  This is the same instruction given to us by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, and in Proverbs 25:21-22.  Thus, a more effective long-term strategy of dealing with the Pakistani tribal areas is a massive infusion of economic aid.  And, as the Washington Post story noted about the CIA 's informants, in ceratin circumstances money has a track record of working.

What if economic aid, instead fo being haphazard, were part of a well thought out, all-encompassing strategy?

Now, most of the current foreign aid that the US gives to Pakistan is military; with little going to food, medicine or education.  Of this assistance, I would venture to say that almost none goes to the tribal areas.  Indeed, there is a problem in that the locals probably wouldn’t even accept help from foreign Christians.  However, the aid could be “washed,” if you will, through Islamic charities with a track record of efficiency and transparency. 

Later, at an opportune time the real source of the funds could be revealed for maximum affect.  Imagine a circumstance where despite such increased aid the US had to resort to the military as a last resort.  Because we would no longer be seen as a hypocritical threat, many more Muslims would be pro-American.  They would also be more likely to turn in terrorists.  Our counter-insurgency policy in Iraq is already trending in this direction.

The Bush administration’s Millennium Challenge Fund gives huge grants, but only to developing countries that demonstrate “good governance.”  This is a start, but really is counter to Mathew 5:38-48, referenced above (see also Luke 6:27-37).  You don’t just show your generosity to people who are good or are your friends, even sinners do that.  Giving them a little bonus is fine, but now the dichotomy is far too great.

The policy changes I’m suggesting are also in keeping with other biblical teachings to give to the poor and sacrifice for the gospel’s sake.  We have been instructed to put our faith in the Holy Spirit not our own might (see Zechariah 4:6).  As we know, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:14-26).  We need to think about what this really means, and we need to think bigger!

It is true that we risk a lot.  The people in these areas have a lot of guns and produce a lot of opium that is then made into heroin.  Yet, the biggest threat to us is in not leaving these people alone to live as they want to live.  The threat is antagonizing them.  Where did most of the 9/11 hijackers come from?  Saudi Arabia.   

Generally speaking, you cannot force people to change.  Sometimes the Holy Spirit wants us to try.  Normally, in order to change people they must be gently coaxed of their free will.  The gun cannot do that.

Our adversaries in this region can never rise to the level of being a serious existential military threat to the West.  We should attempt to help everyone in the region magnanimously, giving increased focus to helping those who want help in changing to a more modern, open lifestyle. 

Surely, surrounding these areas with military forces and monitoring the ingress and egress would be wise, thus limiting the terrorists with weapons and heroin from coming out to wreak havoc. 

In other words, if some people want to be Taliban then let them be Taliban, as long as they don’t come outside of their areas to harm others.  There will be some who will want to move out of these areas who do not want that type of lifestyle who will risk losing their homes. 

Foreign aid can help with this "voluntary" resettlement also.  It’s already being considered as a solution to the Palestinian “right of return” claims elsewhere in the Middle East. 

Some may complain about paying for this with their tax dollars.  But we are already wasting billions of dollars in our military budget and in wasted reconstruction dollars that have been lost to fraud.  I view this as similar to tithing.  Did Jesus stop performing miracles because only one leper came back to thank Him?  No.  You have faith and keep trying. 

Taking risks and sacrificing is what “loving your neighbor” and “loving your enemy” is all about see Proverbs 3:26 and 21:31).

 

 

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LOVING YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOU LOVE  YOURSELF REQUIRES TOTAL LOVE, TOTAL FORGIVENESS, TOTAL BROTHERHOOD AND SUBVERTING THE DOMINANT PARADIGM