Pakistan, the Taliban, and Hitler's Sneaky Little Game

The recent Taliban developments in Pakistan’s Swat Valley sound a lot like what happened when another oppressive regime  tried to bargain with another country, only to crack the door to its own downfall.


Clever little Hitler, aware of Czechoslovakia’s well-fortified border, came up with his own ingenious solution to break inside. Take up the Sudeten German cause. The Sudeten Germans — a small group between Czechoslovakia and Germany — were already suffering the Depression-era blues and were particularly susceptible to extremist views. It was the perfect ruse.

The gradual escalation of the Czech-Sudeten confrontation resulted in forcing the leader of the Sudeten-German Party, Konrad Henlein, into the arms of Adolf Hitler, who promised to provide an international sounding board for the Sudeten case. Hitler, of course, welcomed the opportunity and did not hesitate to misuse the principle of self-determination as a weapon to further his own Lebensraum policy. The Sudetenland was relegated to Germany in October 1938. The remaining parts of Czechoslovakia were invaded and annexed by Germany in March 1939.

Examining what we already know about Hitler’s totalitarian regime, we are met with the Taliban, a poverty-stricken community of power-hungry men seeking salvation in the form of political autonomy and God. Their scapegoats? Jews, women, non-Muslims, moderate Muslims, and anyone who disagrees with them.

In Hitler’s case, the easily manipulated international powers were myopic, if not completely blind. The Sudeten Germans were humbly asking for freedom, or at least to be under Germany’s control. The question: Make vulnerable a fortified mountainous boundary to an aggressive country hell-bent on war or give a small, relatively unknown people a greater sense of Germanic identity? The answer was simple. After all, it was a carefully constructed marketing campaign.


Hitler didn’t want to give the Sudeten Germans self-determination, just as the Taliban doesn’t want to give the Muslim men and women in Afghanistan and Pakistan the chance to live out a  peaceful Islamic life. The result of international appeasement was that the Czechs were left with an unfortified border and when the Germans lost the war, the Sudeten Germans were also forced out of the very land they had inhabited for centuries. In short, they lost.

Which brings us to the Taliban. Shouldn’t these dusty nomadic fighters carrying rusted out Kalashnikovs and sporting matted beards straight out of the Middle Ages be a dark memory by now? Instead, they’re riding high in a government-condoned safe zone inside nuclear-packed, unpredictable Pakistan. Unlike Germany, which kept its concentration camps under wraps (much like the Taliban keeps its women), we’re all well aware of the Taliban’s horrific enslavement and assassinations of women. Yet these gun-toting rebels have a fair amount of legitimacy close to Islamabad.

What more do they need to do? Open some concentration camps? Or perhaps they need to kill more men. Maybe then more countries will rally together to finally stop this gruesome regime.

Sharia law is currently in place in the Swat Valley. Sharia law used to represent noble Islamic laws meant to protect. Among them, property rights for women and welfare for the poor. Now it means women must obey their husbands and the veil. If you are suspected of adultery, you might be stoned to death. If you are raped, you are a shame to your family and you might be killed. If you are uncovered, you will surely be beaten.


As Lauren Vriens of the Council on Foreign Relations explains:

There are five hadd crimes: unlawful sexual intercourse (sex outside of marriage and adultery), false accusation of unlawful sexual intercourse, wine drinking, theft, and highway robbery. Punishments for hadd offenses include flogging, stoning, amputation, exile, or execution. … Honor killings, murders committed in retaliation for bringing dishonor on one’s family, are a worldwide problem.

It’s important to note that most Muslim countries do not use traditional Islamic punishments. More moderate Muslim countries like Turkey, Jordan, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, and Egypt are in even more danger than the West of having this fundamentalist approach spread like a virus and further disrupt their relative peace. It’s also important to add that although these countries are moderate, honor killings still account for half the deaths of women every year in Jordan. Jordan’s own parliament overwhelming rejected a law that would impose harsher punishments for the men who kill women, claiming that stricter penalties would “encourage vice and destroy social values.”

We seem to think that egregious acts of gender inequality and slavery are only hazardous to those who live under such totalitarian regimes. We seem to think that these problems will go away if we ignore them, but we only have to look at how growing extremism in Saudi Arabia gave us 9/11 terrorists, the war in Afghanistan, and the escalation of violence in Pakistan. Meanwhile, those who suffer the most are the scores of innocent girls and women.


There is no mistaking the fact that the nations with the most stability and least amount of violence are those with the best standards of equality between the genders. Just take a look at Denmark and Sweden.

The Pakistani government can try to appease the Taliban. Politicians tried to appease Hitler. We continue to do the same with Saudi Arabia, a country that has been enslaving its women for centuries. The whole world can do a whole lot of talking and take limited action, but it doesn’t matter which way you slice it. Eventually, the problem will have to be tackled and, instead of pulling a few weeds, we will have to plow the land.


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