Thursday, November 15, 2007

Appropriate humility

I don't know a whole lot about Pakistan or its politics. However, even though I think we should generally support people who demonstrate for representation and an independent judiciary and against military rule, I can't quite see Pakistan solely in those terms. I think we should be careful what we wish for.

So does Mark Steyn, who rightly reminds us that "Pakistan is both a nuclear power and a nation that cannot enforce sovereignty over significant chunks of its territory. Large tracts are run by the Taliban." Nuclear + Taliban. The use of the word "humility" in the first sentence below is entirely "appropriate".

It seems to me a certain humility is appropriate when offering advice to Islamabad. Gen. Musharraf is — as George S. Kaufman remarked when the Germans invaded Russia — shooting without a script. But that's because he presides over a country that defies the neatness of scripted narratives. In the days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America, President Bush told the world you're either with us or against us. Gen. Musharraf said he was with us, which was jolly decent of him considering that 99.9999 percent of his people are against us. In the teeth of that glum reality, he has ridden a difficult tightrope with some skill.

As John Negroponte, U.S. deputy secretary of state, put it, aside from America, "No country has done more in terms of inflicting damage and punishment on the Taliban and al-Qaeda since September 11" — which, given the proportion of Pakistanis that loathe America and actively supports the Taliban and al Qaeda, is not unimpressive.


Riri said...

My history knowledge is not great so apologies if I profer some enormities but yes, I agree with the rationale. However, I doubt even Pakistanis support Taliban for the sake of them. I think they just support them to oppose the US somehow. It is desperate and foolish, but I don't think anybody in their right mind would support Al Qaeda or the Taliban just for the sake of them. Even the US supported the Taliban to irritate the Russians at some point in History...What goes round and all that

NoolaBeulah said...

Is it just the US they oppose? Or rather, is it the US as the most visible form of "the modern"? Because isn't that the deep-down problem, the conflict between a traditional life and the technological, rootless, cosmopolitan existence ushered in by globalisation, whose most visible carrier is the US?

Riri said...

Am not sure they oppose the "modern" as you call as much as the way it is being advertised to them. Most things in life are about the way you do them more than the things themselves. What might come across as an irrational devotion to tradition could only be in actual fact a sincere sense of nostalgy for a long gone past. We all experience that on an individual level, with respect to a period we associate with our happiness. The trouble is that of timing I believe. While the West has had enough time to adjust because they were driving progress, the East was stagnating not only through colonialism (I know you hate this word, but it is true, colonialism holds people's evolution down), but also through false pride and blindness to our own defects. Suddenly, we find ourselves in the midst of globalization and we haven't even recovered our own sense of belonging to a nation. We're lost, torn apart, we hang on to the past, a happy past we believe full of victories and achievements...We are scared, there is this "modernity" which seems to be shoved in our faces, threatening our values, the values we love and don't want to lose, family, faith in God, respect for elders, marriage...We look at the "modern" world, we envy their economic achievement but we despise their moral decay, their decadent lifestyle, we hate the fact that they seem to be succeeding in taking us over and we can't even think of a strategy to counter them, we don't know where we've gone wrong, how to put things right, we haven't had enough time to get our act together...It is panic and mayhem.

NoolaBeulah said...

Don't get me wrong - I agree, Globalisation, or the Modern, is all those things that you fear. It is what the Trotskyists used to call 'continuous revolution'. I don't blame anyone for fearing that. It's just that I don't see much alternative to it.

You shouldn't think it's a comfortable process even in the countries where it originated. Most of us have forgotten now what it was like in the 19th Century. But here, too, the shift from a traditional rural society to an urban, technological one was violent and disruptive. One of the signs of that is the English love of a countryside that so few of us live in. Droves of people (me, included) get out to the idyll we imagine was once there. And there's that ubiquitous word "Community"; its use is inversely proportional to its real presence. It's like the Treasure Hunt of our times: how to find your 'group' in a world that spends so much time going somewhere else.

Hazar Nesimi said...

Coming back to Pakistan: I dont think you realise that majority of people do not support Taliban, quite the opposite. Fiercely Loathing America does not mean being for its enemies. One should understand it, if one wants to think strategically. Turkey is good example. Pakistan and Pakistanis has its own interest which is, now survival, and depletion against India. Taliban - mainly NW Province threatens the existence of the country. 150 million people will not go one way or the other - so the alternative is bloodbath which will make Iraq a child's play. Does anyone want that? Mushy had done a foolish thing by antagonising opposition at the time when support is needed. Shooting himself in the foot, wrong time, wrong place! Democracy or not does not matter, Nothing can solve Taliban question beyond isolating a certain well known region.