Sympathy for the Taliban

Well, okay, I don’t really think people should sympathize with the Taliban. They’re vicious killers. But via Neil Sinhababu an interesting article tries to take the Pashto agenda seriously on its own terms, rather than merely as a thorn in the side of the United States or Hamid Karzai or the government of Pakistan.

It’s a reminder that it is worth trying to walk a mile in the other guy’s shoes. Suppose you were a member of an ethnic group with a distinctive language and set of cultural practices. This ethnic group lives in a fairly large and yet geographically compact area basically along a mountain range. But instead of there being a state dominated by your people and their values, a line has been drawn straight through the heart of your territory, many decades ago, by imperial powers whose explicit agenda was to undermine the political power of local actors. Consequently, your people find themselves as a large minority in one state on one side of the border, and a rather small minority in the other state on the other side of the border.

Meanwhile, thousands and thousands of miles away on the other side of the planet lies the mightiest empire the world has ever known. Its population dwarfs yours. Its economic might dwarfs yours even more. It heads a military alliance whose members include virtually every other wealthy and powerful country. It accounts for half of global defense spending. And it insists on viewing success of your group’s military organizations as constituting a direct threat to its interests. I wouldn’t be thrilled about the situation.