Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Radicalizing Islamic Societies

Excerpt: A pattern of brutal military intervention in Muslim societies to defeat radicalism that instead further radicalizes those societies is becoming increasingly clear, but powerful politicians remain (intentionally?) blind to the process. Pakistan and Somalia provide the latest evidence...

Text: On the heels of Ethiopia’s retreat from Somalia, the radical Islamist al-Shabab took over the town of Baidoa. It is noteworthy that it was al-Shabab, whose rise to power was stimulated by the U.S.-sponsored Ethiopian intervention, rather than the more moderate Islamic Courts Union—which Ethiopia entered Somalia to defeat—that is on the offensive. Foreign boots on the ground significantly worsened the situation in Somalia, from the perspective of moderates, opening the door wide to radical Islamist rule.

A similar pattern is becoming evident in Pakistan, this time following and evidently resulting at least in part from central government boots on the ground in tribal regions where the mostly Pathan Pakistani army is traditionally not viewed as exactly “our boys.” That view may be a bit stronger in the aftermath of a central government attack with tanks, jet fighter-bombers, and helicopter gunships in August that left some 400,000 refugees in Bajaur and repeated attacks in Swat Valley.

Whatever people’s feelings may be, the Taliban appear to be more than holding their own and, at the same time, to becoming increasingly radical. Warfare has a way of doing that. If some other approach to dealing with the Taliban had been tried, would they nevertheless have become equally violence-prone? It is up to officials suffering from their own addiction to violence to make that highly suspect case.

In Swat, where the Taliban are on the rampage murdering officials and publicly threatening others, the ruling party has admitted that it has lost control. The Taliban has just “summoned” several dozen officials to report to its sharia courts to be tried for opposing Taliban rule. Major General Abbas admitted that the military could not currently stop public Taliban radio broadcasts threatening the murder of officials but would take control “soon.”

Apparently not seeing this pattern of alien boots that run roughshod provoking the rise of radicalism, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday the United States will "go after Al-Qaeda wherever Al-Qaeda is."

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