(This is basically the approach that some of the folks commenting at Abu Muqawama would have us take to the entire Muslim world, as far as I can tell, but I sort of digress here.) While I appreciate that this is the law of the land, I wonder how effective we can expect an approach like this to be. Does the Pakistani government imagine that it can solve the challenges of ethnic separatism or any other kind of anti-government rebellion -- particularly narrow, political ones that aren't focused on tribal or ethnic identity -- by declaring a section of the population to be "other," punishable for the crimes of their compatriots? It seems counterproductive to stoke feelings of alienation and separateness from Pakistani identity in people who are predisposed to oppose the government by the simple fact of their isolation (not to mention Islamabad's general indifference to anything going on in the tribal areas so long as no problems emerge). And I know we can say "that's what they signed up for, the tribes want to be left alone, this is part of the trade-off," but is there anyone who believes that this is an effective solution in 2009?
The crackdown on the Mehsuds was spelled out in an order from the top political official in South Waziristan, Shahab Ali Shah, on June 14. Because the Mehsud tribesmen had not handed over Taliban fighters, Shah wrote, he was satisfied that they had acted "in an unfriendly and hostile manner toward the state" and that the tribe's "people and their activities are prejudicial to peace and public tranquillity."
Senior government officials have said repeatedly that their target is Baitullah Mehsud and his followers, not his entire tribe, but Shah's wording was broader. He ordered the "seizure, where they may be found, of all members of the Mehsud tribe and confiscation of movable/immovable property belonging to them in the North-West Frontier Province and the arrest and taking into custody of any person of the tribe wherever he is found."
"They are asking the people who are besieged, the people who have left their homes, 'Why you are not tackling the terrorists?' " said Said Alam Mehsud, a doctor from the same sub-tribe as Baitullah Mehsud. "Just imagine, what a demand. It's like if America asked me: 'Why are you practicing as a pediatrician? Why have you not captured Osama bin Laden?' "As others have said before, those who believe in the usefulness of collective punishment or coercive isolation usually overrate the ability of a neutral or pro-government population to impact the actions of anti-government elements in their midst. When I hear stuff like this ("we'll just crack down on the whole tribe 'til they turn him over!"), I think of the Ann Coulter solution and the band of raving lunatics shrieking about how if there were any such thing as "moderate Muslims," they'd refuse to tolerate the existence of terrorist and extremists.
Do we really think that a family in Gaza can stop Hamas? Do we really think that a pediatrician in Peshawar can capture Baitullah Mehsud? Don't we recognize that coercion is useless when its object is unable to give you what you want? I suppose, considering the political dialogue on the utility of torture, that about half of us don't understand.
UPDATE: Josh Foust is on this too.