Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Taliborg!

I'm not proficient in Photoshop, otherwise I would have placed a turban on the Borg ship. But here is an article from Dawn that compares Taliban to the Borg:

Watching a re-run featuring the fearsome Borg, I was struck by how similar they are to the Taliban. Anonymous and terrifying, these bearded holy warriors could easily be an army of clones. Motivated only by ideas put in their unformed minds by the Taliban collective, they kill all who differ with them. Those who fall into line then become foot soldiers. Other recruits to the Taliban cause are drawn from the thousands of madressahs that have proliferated across Pakistan. Here, young men are brainwashed into hating all ideas and influences not sanctioned by their narrow belief system.

Just like the Borg, the Taliban are an implacable foe in their unreasoning drive to assimilate or annihilate all in their path. So certain are they of their monopoly on the one truth that they are not willing to contemplate the possibility of different approaches, different beliefs. And just like the Borg, it is impossible to reason or negotiate with the Taliban. It’s all or nothing for these stone-age warriors.

However, those manipulating them are far more cunning. People like Osama Bin Laden and Baitullah Mehsud are using the dirt-poor, ignorant Taliban as pawns in their attempt to seize power in large parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan. In their dream of world conquest, a secure base in the rugged tribal areas would give them the opportunity to raise and train an army to take on the world.

and, of course, negotiations are futile:

As mankind explores the stars, and seeks to leave the confines of earth’s gravity, it is hard to believe that we are still locked in an existential battle against a foe that wants to drag us back to the seventh century. For the Taliban, there are no half-measures. As we saw in Swat, they are not content with simply running a territory ceded to them by a weak state. Having grabbed one piece of land, they sense weakness, and want it all.

The Borg, too, spurn offers to negotiate as a sign of feebleness. For them, the only options open to another race is to accept ‘assimilation’ or face destruction. And these are the choices the jihadis are offering. Whatever the likes of Maulana Sufi Mohammad might say, any deals we make with the Taliban have invariably been broken by them, just as the Swat deal was. In the extremist handbook, the adversary only offers to talk when he is weak, so that’s when you go for the jugular.

Ok - so its a bit over the top, but it conveys the ruthless mindset of the Taliban. Of course, Cylons in the new (recently concluded) Battlestar Galactica (BSG) provides another close comparison. The cylons are motivated by God and are hellbent on destroying the human race - and have already used a WMD once. There are sleeping cells of cylons - but there is no effort to assimilate. They just want to destroy humans. Thus, the cylons are the Al-Qaeda (as seen from the West). This is not so surprising as the new BSG was written with post 9-11 world in mind. On the other hand, the Borg model works well from the Pakistan perspective. The Taliban are trying to assimilate the population at all costs.

In any case, read the full article here.

On a related topic, I have brought up before the issue of the effectiveness of drone attacks in Pakistan and the ethics of such a warfare. Now there is an excellent oped piece in today's NYT that comes out strongly against the use of drones in Pakistan. Here are the three key reasons they cite:

First, the drone war has created a siege mentality among Pakistani civilians. This is similar to what happened in Somalia in 2005 and 2006, when similar strikes were employed against the forces of the Union of Islamic Courts. While the strikes did kill individual militants who were the targets, public anger over the American show of force solidified the power of extremists. The Islamists’ popularity rose and the group became more extreme, leading eventually to a messy Ethiopian military intervention, the rise of a new regional insurgency and an increase in offshore piracy.

While violent extremists may be unpopular, for a frightened population they seem less ominous than a faceless enemy that wages war from afar and often kills more civilians than militants. Press reports suggest that over the last three years drone strikes have killed about 14 terrorist leaders. But, according to Pakistani sources, they have also killed some 700 civilians. This is 50 civilians for every militant killed, a hit rate of 2 percent — hardly “precision.”

This is an excellent point and it automatically leads to the anti-Americanism all over Pakistan:

Second, public outrage at the strikes is hardly limited to the region in which they take place — areas of northwestern Pakistan where ethnic Pashtuns predominate. Rather, the strikes are now exciting visceral opposition across a broad spectrum of Pakistani opinion in Punjab and Sindh, the nation’s two most populous provinces. Covered extensively by the news media, drone attacks are popularly believed to have caused even more civilian casualties than is actually the case. The persistence of these attacks on Pakistani territory offends people’s deepest sensibilities, alienates them from their government, and contributes to Pakistan’s instability.

But it is their third point that is essential to think about. What is the overall strategy behind the drone attacks?

Third, the use of drones displays every characteristic of a tactic — or, more accurately, a piece of technology — substituting for a strategy. These attacks are now being carried out without a concerted information campaign directed at the Pakistani public or a real effort to understand the tribal dynamics of the local population, efforts that might make such attacks more effective.

To be sure, simply ending the drone strikes is no more a strategy than continuing them. Stabilizing Pakistan will require a focus on securing areas, principally in Punjab and Sindh, that are still under government control, while building up police and civil authorities and refocusing aid on economic development, security and governance. Suspending drone strikes won’t fix Pakistan’s problems — but continuing them makes these problems much harder to address.
The rest of the article is also very good. Read the full article here.

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