Commentary Magazine


Appeasement in Pakistan

Rarely have we seen the perils of appeasement unfold so clearly as in Pakistan today. In February, the Zardari government signed a “peace treaty” with a Taliban group, allowing the latter party to govern the Swat Valley of Pakistan unmolested. For two-plus months, the Islamists have ruled the picturesque region of northwest Pakistan through the usual a la carte menu of restrictions, prohibitions, and beatings.

“Suddenly” on Sunday, every newspaper seemed to employ cartographers to report on the unstoppable outward spread of Taliban influence in Pakistan: “In short order this past week the Taliban captured Buner, a strategically vital district just 60 miles northwest of the capital, Islamabad,” went the New York Times’s representative formulation.

“Short order” is right. In February the thugs nabbed Swat; by April they halved their operational proximity to the capital with the “captur[ing]” of Buner. Will it be June in Islamabad?

Sadly, American fingerprints are all over this disaster. Obama administration officials in Pakistan privately okayed the original capitulation to the Taliban in February, hoping to create a rift between “Swat’s Taliban” and the  “Tehrik-e-Taliban” that’s been wreaking havoc along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The idea was to simply give the Swat’s Taliban power and influence in hopes that it would abandon its brother contingent’s battle.

This was unadulterated appeasement. It proved to be, “in short order,” both morally disgraceful and strategically disastrous. And to quote London’s Telegraph, “One source suggested it reflected the ‘smart power’ thinking outlined by Hillary Clinton in her Senate confirmation hearing as secretary of state.”

Can Pakistan endure any more of the State Department’s grey matter? Can the U.S.? Can anyone? While Islamists gobble up Pakistani territory and Hillary Clinton returns to the smart power playbook, Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal sits in wait. If the Zardari government cedes control to the Taliban and the country’s rotten Inter-Service Intelligence agency happily hands over the keys to the missile silos, will there be a new less deadly Islamist group to appease in hopes of a new breakthrough?

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