Sunday, August 02, 2009

Pashtun problem

Yglesias links to a good AP article on the Pashtuns in Afghanistan and NW Province, who bear an understandable grudge that the Brits divided Afghanistan from India in such a manner as to split them between two states, and who express that grudge by support for the Taliban, which has always been a kind of de facto Pashtun Independence Front.

The comment thread at Matt's is notable for the sheer lack of political realism, or "dumbassery" for short, of those who think it's bad form to suggest that the Taliban enjoys nationalist support. Y.t. intervenes with ill grace here, noting one reason why the problem is an intractable one:
The Pashtun problem lacks a good solution, which is one reason why Afghanistan/NW Province is going to be a problem area for the foreseeable future. The non-Pashtuns in Afghanistan presumably would not be thrilled to annex the Pashtun part of Pakistan and give the Pashtuns an absolute majority in Afghanistan. The Pashtuns are not going to rest until they’ve got their own little nation-state. It’s the kind of nationalist clusterfuck that makes one reflect cynically on how ethnic cleansing in 1945 (the forced migration of the Germans westward) turned out pretty well, once you forget about those millions of civilians who died on the road.
("I often quote myself," said Shaw; "it lends spice to my conversation.")

Also, tho Steve Sailer is not on my list of admirable people, he does post a couple of good quotes from one of Churchill's early books, including this gem:
Into this happy world the nineteenth century brought two new facts: the breech-loading rifle and the British Government.

The first was an enormous luxury and blessing; the second, an unmitigated nuisance. The convenience of the breech-loading, and still more of the magazine rifle, was nowhere more appreciated than in the Indian highlands. A weapon which would kill with accuracy at fifteen hundred yards opened a whole new vista of delights to every family or clan which could acquire it. One could actually remain in one’s own house and fire at one’s neighbour nearly a mile away. One could lie in wait on some high crag, and at hitherto unheard-of ranges hit a horseman far below. Even villages could fire at each other without the trouble of going far from home. Fabulous prices were therefore offered for these glorious products of science. Rifle-thieves scoured all India to reinforce the efforts of the honest smuggler. A steady flow of the coveted weapons spread its genial influence throughout the frontier, and the respect which the Pathan tribesmen entertained for Christian civilisation was vastly enhanced. The action of the British Government on the other hand was entirely unsatisfactory. The great organising, advancing, absorbing power to the southward seemed to be little better than a monstrous spoil-sport. If the Pathans made forays into the plains, not only were they driven back (which after all was no more than fair), but a whole series of interferences took place, followed at intervals by expeditions which toiled laboriously through the valleys, scolding the tribesmen and exacting fines for any damage which they had done. No one would have minded these expeditions if they had simply come, had a fight and then gone away again. In many cases this was their practice under what was called the “butcher and bolt policy” to which the Government of India long adhered. But towards the end of the nineteenth century these intruders began to make roads through many of the valleys, and in particular the great road to Chitral. They sought to ensure the safety of these roads by threats, by forts and by subsidies. There was no objection to the last method so far as it went. But the tendency to road-making was regarded by the Pathans with profound distaste. All along the road people were expected to keep quiet, not to shoot one another, and, above all not to shoot at travellers along the road. It was too much to ask, and a whole series of quarrels took their origin from this source.
Essay topic: how does Churchill's easy British condescension make him able to respect the values of the Pashtuns?

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