The Northwest Frontier is Getting Flatter

StrategyPage has always had great coverage of all things military in South Asia. With all the ink and pixels being spilled about all the things going wrong on Pakistan’s unruly border with Afghanistan, Stratpage has this report of one of the tactics that’s working relatively well –

Pakistani soliders are faced with suicide attackers who “love death more than you love your 5,000-rupee salary, nude pictures of Indian actresses and liquor.” [link]; But that’s part of the plan.

The army can defeat the tribesmen in battle, but it’s guerilla warfare where the tribes have always had an edge. But that edge as disappeared as the tribes became more dependent on outside goods, moved by truck over a few roads. For thousands of years in the past, the tribes were self-sufficient in their mountain valleys. Now, the tribes suffer when the army sets up checkpoints on those roads, and forces the tribesmen to attack the better armed and disciplined soldiers…

When Thomas Friedman turned the memorable phrase, The World is Flat, he was popularizing trends in globalization that many have observed for decades. First, that in modern capitalism, economic transactions now span a larger and larger portion of the world – Pakistani tribals might not be able to place Finland or Korea on a map but they are probably getting accustomed to the convenience of a cellphone. Second – and to the consternation of the Arundhati Roy’s, Naomi Kleins, et. al., the mutually beneficial, non-violent, uncompelled transaction inherent to economic exchange necessarily impacts the cultures on both sides. Certain shared cultural norms are necessary to support a transaction and it’s nearly impossible in the long run to get the benefits of a transaction without being at least partially infected by the new culture.

Thomas Barnett, in analyzing the 21st century faultlines, placed them not between Civilizations but rather between those successfully Integrating and those Not Integrating into the global rule set – namely economics & globalziation. The activities of the Pakistani military along this faultline thus paint a great picture of what multifaceted war can / should look like. Trade has clearly run through the region for centuries but only recently does it involve such day to day pedestrian and yet inherently global goods like AA batteries, gasoline, and the like…

55 thoughts on “The Northwest Frontier is Getting Flatter

  1. Hypertree, you are equating autonomy with authoritarianism.

    For example, if a tribe has been living on the same patch of land for millennia, they have the right to tell oil companies to take a hike when they come drilling, even if that means that the rest of the world has to adapt to having less oil. The “authoritarian” response would be to send paramilitary death squads after vocal critics in that community and force the tribe to abandon their ancestors and traditional way of life to be resettled in an inferior place. In the meantime, the oil extraction (or mining or logging or ranching, etc) will render their original plot uninhabitable. And the appetite for oil will still not be appeased. It’s pretty clear to me who is the bully in this example.

    People do exist who, for a number of reasons, do not want to be appropriated into the dominant economic system. Are you saying that they should be forced to? They are not trying to force us to adopt their way of life–they just want to be left alone. That is hardly authoritarian. I’d say you have it backwards.

  2. Cyrus, You sure nailed it down good in #37. I have nothing to add.

  3. “Barnett’s enthusiasm for bombing and invading as instructional devices is not new, of course. It is matched by the theories of a whole horde of imperial ideologues: from political scientist Joseph Nye, who urges “soft power,� at one end of the spectrum, and Harlan Ullman, at the other, who is tearfully nostalgic for the glazed faces of the shocked and awed survivors of World War II blitzes. Somewhere in the middle is Thomas B., with his map of cores and gaps, marking off the unconnected world like a medieval cartographer solemnly inscribing — “Here Be Dragons.�

    But oddly, as Joseph Stromberg notes, the brave new Barnettian cosmos ends up looking more or less like a map of the bad old colonial one and more or less, also, like a map of global oil reserves.

    But we digress. Here is Thomas intoning his creed:

    Whether we realize it or not, America serves as the ideological wellspring for globalization. These united states still stand as its first concrete expression. We are the only country in the world purposely built around the ideals that animate globalization’s advance: freedom of choice, freedom of movement, freedom of expression. We are connectivity personified. Globalization is this county’s gift to history… More important, to abandon globalization’s future to those violent forces hell-bent on keeping the world divided between the connected and the disconnected is to admit that we no longer hold these truths to be self-evident: that all are created equal, and that all desire life, liberty, and a chance to pursue happiness… (p. 50)

    In saecula saeculorum. Amen.

    But, then follows Barnett’s 10 commandments of globalization based on “economic security workshops” conducted at Cantor Fitzgerald:

    1. Look for resources, and ye shall find.
    2. No stability, no markets.
    3. No growth, no stability.
    4. No resources, no growth.
    5. No infrastructure, no growth.
    6. No money, no infrastructure.
    7. No rules, no money.
    8. No security, no rules.
    9. No Leviathan (US superpower), no security.
    10. No will, no Leviathan. (pages 199-205)

    Which of course boils down to — No McDonnell Douglas, no McDonalds, a la Friedman. “

    Plugging the Gaps in the Global Map by Lila Rajiva

  4. “I’d take any claim of “Afghan warriors’ valour” to beat back others with a pinch of salt.”

    Exactimundo. One keeps hearing the baloney ad nauseam that afghans have never been conquered. Which is a big fat lie. They are among the most conquered people around. Greeks, Huns, Arabs, Turks, Mongols among others have managed to subdue them completely. The most common afghan name “Mohammad Khan” stands as proof of their subjugation at the hands of conquerors from the south-west (mohammad: arab) and from the north-east (khan: mongol).

  5. “I’d take any claim of “Afghan warriors’ valour” to beat back others with a pinch of salt.”

    The same goes for Punjabis. If Afghans were Hindostan’s gatekeeper, Punjabis were surely its doormat. ;)

    Hey, this forum does ensure anonymity, doesn’t it? And where’s the 7 foot tall Scythian guy when you need him?