Winning: When Reality Gets Too Close


July 19, 2010: The Pakistani Taliban have lost their popularity. A year ago, when the government agreed to a truce with the Taliban in the tribal territories, 80 percent of the population approved. Until recently, most Pakistanis backed the Taliban’s support of the war in Afghanistan, against “foreign troops” and their “puppet government.” Pakistani media made much of Indian aid to the Afghan government. Despite billions of dollars in American economic and military aid to Pakistan, the Pakistani media found the public could not get enough of anti-American stories. Most of this reporting was fiction, largely based on conspiracy theories that the U.S. was at war with Islam and working with India to destroy Pakistan. The sad fact was that Pakistan’s problems were all homemade. This included corruption, illiteracy, abuse of women, persecution of ethnic and religious minorities and support for Islamic terrorism in general.

But after the Taliban got their truce in the tribal territories, they proceeded to persecute the people they controlled to such an extent that most Pakistanis were truly horrified. This despite the fact that the Taliban were acting just like the Afghan Taliban did in the 1990s, and the Iranian Islamic dictatorship has been doing for decades. Something snapped among Pakistanis, and now approval of the Taliban is under ten percent. Many Pakistanis (perhaps a quarter) still back the application of Islamic law to solve the country’s problems, but the actual use of these Islamic radical ideas is much less popular. Nothing like seeing this stuff in action (stoning women to death, banning video, music and dancing) to change your attitudes.

It’s still considered acceptable to support Islamic terrorism in India, or to kill American soldiers. But not as much. As happened in Iraq, reality trumps fantasy when reality gets too close.




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