There’s an old preacher’s joke about the time Mabel finally dragged her ornery husband Harry to church. When the time for the sermon approached, Mabel was worried that Harry probably would start snoring, which would embarrass her and annoy the parishioners. But a few minutes into the sermon — dealing with the Ten Commandments — Harry broke into a grin, which remained throughout the rest of the service. On the way out of church Harry was heard saying to Mabel: “You see? At least I haven’t made any graven images.”
I think of old Harry every time some politician or pundit makes the comment that “the surge is working,” as if that — even if it were true — is what really matters. Of course fewer casualties matter, to be sure. But in the geopolitical scheme of things, what may matter far more is what’s happening in Pakistan. From today’s Boston Globe:
Sometime in mid-December, as the winter winds howled across the snow-dusted hills of Pakistan’s inhospitable border regions, 40 men representing Taliban groups all across Pakistan’s northwest frontier came together to unify under a single banner and to choose a leader.
The banner was Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or the Taliban Movement of Pakistan, with a fighting force estimated at up to 40,000. And the leader was Baitullah Mehsud, the man Pakistan accuses of assassinating former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
The move is an attempt to present a united front against the Pakistani Army, which has been fighting insurgents along the border with Afghanistan. It is also the latest sign of the rise of Mehsud, considered the deadliest of the Taliban mullahs or clerics in northwest Pakistan…
His organization has claimed responsibility, often backed up by videos, for killing and kidnapping hundreds of soldiers, beheading women, and burning schools that teach girls anything other than religion. He also says he has a steady supply of suicide bombers and strong ties to Al Qaeda.
“Al Qaeda has succeeded in building a base in the last two or three years mostly with help from Mehsud,” said Ahmed Zaidan, a reporter for Al-Jazeera Television in Qatar who interviewed Mehsud three weeks ago. “They are moving freely in the tribal areas where it is difficult for the Pakistan Army to move.”
Forty thousand troops moving freely. Even if that number pales in comparison to Pakistan’s 619,000 active troops, these 40,000 appear to have a huge advantage in terrain. And if they prevail, well, in the words of Ghostbuster Egon Spengler — “It would be bad.” Also bad is diverting the American people’s attention to phony victories and phony threats, just for political self-aggrandizement. Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan — these are the crazies. And they want to take over a land with nukes.