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Notes from interventions past

Published Sep 06, 2013 05:12pm


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Like so many other things to fall in its erstwhile lap, the US intervention in Pakistan was a shabby one; without the clamoring drums of a possible US Security Council vote, without debates with the international community. Secret and furtive and game like, the drones first only watched, when no one seemed to object, they fired and now they fire and fire again. Questions of legality have only now, quite belatedly been raised, issues of hegemony, of loss of agency are still unpopular. The drones are fighting terrorism, terrorism is bad and so it is all justified.

At the center of the question of intervention in Syria, however, is the same simplistic moral equation that has governed past exercises of the same sort. The idea that an evil has been identified, and the benevolent goodness of the United States’ power is the salve to heal the wounds it has gashed among the innocent of a country. The deceit of such an equation would not be as lethal as it has become, however, were it not first digested by those within countries themselves. Once upon a time in Pakistan, the very drones so roundly castigated now, were staunchly defended. They were killing terrorists after all, far away on the edge of the country, in a hinterland few had been to and even fewer cared about. Everyone wanted a solution, and things from abroad have been known to work pretty well. Gullible Pakistanis were some of the first to buy the myth of precision and perhaps they could not be blamed too much. A hemorrhaging country after all, cannot be blamed for grabbing a band-aid from whoever is offering it, that it will not stop the bleeding, is a gripe for later years.

In Pakistan, those later years and their results are before us. The precision cure pandered to cure Pakistan’s problems has only bled the country to near catatonia. The demographic changes, internal displacement, economic losses and retaliatory attacks the country has had to bear have crippled the economy, weakened institutions and delegitimised the power of the State. Insurgencies and unrest rage throughout the country, infrastructure lies in shambles and everyone lives from crisis to crisis.

The numerical specifics of the Syrian crisis are different, According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 110, 371 people have died since the conflict began two years ago, the United Nations puts the numbers of casualties at 100,00. Over 40,000 of these are said to be civilians unaffiliated with either the Free Syrian Army nor with Bashar Al Assad’s regime. Those who have lived have fared far worse, according to the UNHCR, nearly 2 million Syrians or 10 per cent of the total population are not refugees. In addition, 4.25 million within Syria are said to be displaced internally within the country.

It is no surprise that the Syrians, so maimed, so caught between the proxy priorities of neighborly meddlers ache for some decisive action. That sort of action, shock and awe, and the brutal bombing can perhaps only be provided by the United States. For Pakistan, newly at the periphery, after more than a decade at the center of strategic questions it may be a moment of respite from the anti-Americanism that has dictated all political agendas in recent times. With American attention turned to Syria, and American presence dwindling in Afghanistan, the consequences of new interventions may grant respite for old ones.

With a new enemy, farther away, the decade of American intervention, the poking and prodding and droning of Pakistan, may finally be at an end. Perhaps wars and interventions end not with a collective reckoning, an embrace of reason and the futility of killing and imagining that killing heals; but only with new wars and new enemies.

Author Image

Rafia Zakaria is an attorney and human rights activist. She is a columnist for DAWN Pakistan and a regular contributor for Al Jazeera America, Dissent, Guernica and many other publications.

She is the author of The Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan (Beacon Press 2015). She tweets @rafiazakaria

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (17) Closed

Sonal Sep 06, 2013 06:07pm

I always find your writing a bit questionable, but this one really takes the cake. The US hasn

Ajay Sharma Sep 06, 2013 07:52pm

Rather than putting all the blame to US, get a dose of reality; Pakistan was in a mess even before the US intervention; It started with the Islamic policies started by Zia and the strategic assets nurtured by ISI; Now that everything is backfiring its so typical of Pak based intellectuals to put all the blame on US.

Syed Sep 06, 2013 07:54pm

Does the author know that majority of the Americans are against this war?

gangadin Sep 07, 2013 04:30am

This article comes across as a superficial college or university student's paper put together by a wordsmith instead of a genuine expert on the subject. Analysis is narrow and conclusion is just an assumption/wishful thinking. This is a totally different war like nothing seen before in the history. I cannot go into any further details here but I don't see an end any time soon, not in my life time.

Raj Sep 07, 2013 12:24pm

The mere fact that Saudi Arabia is willing to fund the Syrian War for the USA, means that the drones attack on Pakistan are likely to continue. Besides, drones do not result in any casualty for the Americans.

george Sep 07, 2013 12:33pm

West must not interfere. Let the Muslim world sort this mess. West get blame if they do interfere, and also if they do not. West will never get appreciation from the Muslim world even when their lives are saved from the barbarians. So why take the trouble?

Javed Sep 07, 2013 12:46pm

The author loved the American intervention to train the jihadis to drive off Russians. The author loved the economic assistance that came along with it. America paid $26 Billion to a country which was willing to sell it's soul for last 13 years. Why blame America when we were selling our morals ourselves. Now that money is in our pocket, blame the Americans and get rid of them. Who will get rid of writers with your thinking. Write if you can think with strategic sanity.

Feroz Sep 07, 2013 03:52pm

Yes, I get the drift, the US is a devil ? Are Saudi Arabia and Iran angels or am I offending your Islamic sensibilities by asking this question ?

Ragu Sep 07, 2013 03:57pm

Pakistan needs to realize that no nation can hide behind lies and deception forever. Drones will continue as long as militants operate and kill others from within Pakistan. Is USA expected to provide billions in aid to Pakistan and also accept daily murder of its citizens by of Pakistani militants? International discussions are desired by Pakistan when faced with the reality of drones. Plenty of soul searching can help Pakistan. Blaming the USA seems like a lame excuse.

Parvez Sep 08, 2013 01:59am

I think you spoke a little too soon ......we have just had two drone strikes in a matter of days. The surprising thing is that the American people, simple and gullible as they are, are not accepting their governments reasoning for American involvement in Syria and still America will do what it will ? why ?

bangash Sep 08, 2013 02:30am

Sounds like whatever little effort Pakistani security forces were making against terrorists, at the constant prodding of the Americans, will also come to an end.

naveed Sep 08, 2013 02:58am

war on syria is very bad for populated countries like 1ST CHINA 2ND INDIA AND REST FOLLOW BECAUSE oil prices will go up and oil buying nations will pay in dollar lol so dollar will get more strong and indian paki rupees will get more weak and your nations poor people will have burden on there daily life expenditures so plz say no to war again syria

Kaka Karachi Ka Sep 08, 2013 07:30am

The writer should not be so optimistic, USA hasn't stopped the prodding and poking of Cuba or Russia or Libya. Yes they are not doing anything on Vietnam. So no body is sure.

Aziz Sep 08, 2013 02:16pm

@Raj: Agreed. But how "willing" the "willing" really is?

We never realise that the dummy cannot talk. Only the ventriloquist does.

asim Sep 08, 2013 11:17pm

It is a wishful thinking on the part of author that drone attacks are going to be stopped. It is a part of bigger plan inch by inch. End is not in near sight.

any one interested in more information, Just google blood lines for new middle east and you will come across what the future looms over.

Muhammad Sep 09, 2013 03:04am

I think the writer is way too optimistic, which is unacceptable these days in Pakistan

AFK Sep 09, 2013 10:55am

Article is amazing, I wish a simple and easy English would work better to understand it well.