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05/08/2010

Pakistan and the crack epidemic

"We believe the U.S. Is responsible for all of our miseries," the tall, educated Pakistani man said in clear English. And to add emphasis, "We believe this." Maybe more than any White paper or State Dept analysis, this explains the inexorable problem in South Asia. False helplessness.
Extremists operating in Pakistan today, have the expressed goal of, variously, taking over India and turning it into a Muslim nation (remember, Pakistan was carved out of India to give Muslims a place free from Hindu persecution), taking over Afghanistan and re-installing the Taliban, overthrowing the Pakistani government to install a theocracy, and in the case of al Qaeda, to take over the world and force all people to become Muslim (can't fault them for setting modest goals.)
The people who have these goals are a minority, even a small minority. But because moderate Pakistani's are afraid to do anything, and because they consider it India's or Afghanistan, or America's problem, they do nothing. They are simply victims of collateral damage, refugees from a war not of their own design.
The military of the United States can't defeat extremists, but it can cause a bucket load of pain, pain that is felt far beyond the invisible border of the extremists. The pain is shared by moderates like the man who believes America causes his misery. Well,yeah. The pain is shared not just nation wide but throughout the region.
So who can defeat the extremists who wish to take over the world and install a false and harsh interpretation of Islam?
In the 1980's, crack was ravaging New York's neighborhoods and some across the country. Mayor Giuliani and police commissioner Bill Bratton are given credit for ending that surge, but the truth is more complex. Street by street, person by person, people began to see the carnage and horror crack was leaving in their families and neighborhoods. As people turned against crack, they started ratting out the dealers and users and, yes, Bratton was there with a complex and effective strategy to help the good people who wanted safe streets. It worked, and murder and robbery plunged as a result.
Only moderate Muslims, working together to reign in or defeat the extremists can really free the world of the terror of religious extremism. And time is running short. How many Mumbai's will India tolerate before they send troops across the border? And both nations have nuclear weapons prepped and waiting on a hair trigger. Will that be the U.S.'s fault too? 
Joe and I visited a remote, dusty village near the forbidden tribal areas  yesterday. We had no security, and felt we needed none. We were invited to sit and discuss America and Pakistan with a group of village men.  To a person they hated America, blamed us, cursed us, implored america to see the pain we were causing with our military. And then they made a magnificent feast of chicken and pastries and tea  for joe and me, two americans. We broke bread together with these men who hated America but whose religion and human goodness called on their basic civility.  We embraced and shook hands in a grand and beautiful display of how moderates behave.
Its like 2:30 in the morning here in Pakistan and my internet went out hours ago, so I can't look up who said "all it takes for evil to win is for good men to do nothing." And, yes, I should know it anyway, and maybe would if I hadn't been up for 68 hours straight. But his sentiment is crucial here, and not understanding his wisdom could literally cause armageddon some day.

Blame a distant nation, or clean up your own back yard. These are the choices. The stakes are high... And time is running short.

Jim Dolan

Click here to watch Jim's reports from Pakistan

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