October 25, 2009

NO ONE EVER LEARNS FROM HISTORY:

History's road to Waziristan (David Ignatius, October 25, 2009, Washington Post)

The tribes of Waziristan have been resisting outsiders ever since the British first reached their borders in 1850. The initial battles established a pattern that has been repeated ever since: The Mehsuds and Wazirs, the fiercest of the tribes, would repel those encroaching on their territory; the British would launch punitive raids. The tribes would bloody the British in battle and refuse concessions, whereupon the colonial troops would retreat. The modern Pakistani experience has been very similar.

The British launched at least six punitive expeditions into Waziristan from 1850 to 1880. Their frustration was exemplified by an 1860 assault by more than 5,000 British Raj troops down the same roads the Pakistanis are following today. The Mehsuds refused to negotiate, even after the invaders destroyed the homes of the tribal leaders. Eventually the British gave up and marched back out.

The tribal maliks prized their independence as part of the code of honor known as Pashtunwali. For the British, this obstinacy made Waziristan, as one colonial officer wrote, "a land of insolence." But a 1921 British history of military operations there conceded: "The Wazirs and Mehsuds operating in their own country can be classed among the finest fighters in the world."


One of the great delusions shared by both Islamicists and neocons is that these tribal leaders, who haven't even evolved to the nationalist stage yet, will set aside their eternal enmities and unite under a transnational banner carried by Arab intellectuals. Us policy should be to force Afghanistan and Pakistan to forsake any claims of sovereignty to these regions where they manifestly don't exercise any in practice and to divide the tribal areas up into their constituent parts. Make their tribalism work for us.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 25, 2009 9:25 AM
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