Why they fight
The Strategy Page describes what really fuels the Jihad: it isn't religion, it isn't belief, it's money. The Taliban in Pakistan (TTP, or Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) has an economy based on crime. There isn't all much of a difference between the Taliban and bank robbers, except maybe bank robbers are nicer. What is the Taliban into? Rackets.
The TTP have long been involved in criminal enterprises (smuggling, extortion and other crimes not explicitly condemned by the Koran). Tracking down these funds has always been difficult, because criminals have to be good at hiding their cash ... The ISI knows how to hide money, and passed a lot of that knowledge onto the Taliban.
Because TTP groups have long been involved in criminal activities, they have developed ties with major gangsters in the region. These guys want to maintain some contacts with the Islamic radicals, just in case, and help out by sharing their smuggling and money laundering contacts in the Persian Gulf. So for the government to really hurt the TTP financially, they will have to go after the criminal infrastructure the Taliban is allied with. That won't happen, because the widespread corruption in Pakistan includes a lot of connections, and cooperation, between government officials and major gangsters.
Crooked politics and terrorism have long clothed themselves in sanctimony. In fact, a cynic might argue that a good rule of thumb for judging movements is to conclude that the more high minded a cause pretends to be, the more sordid are its actual motives. The FARC, for example, presents itself as the champion of the poor and downtrodden in Latin America. But it's principal business is drugs. Yet the FARC is simply the norm. All kinds of creepy movements and dictators style themselves in the most magniloquent manner. The Times Online recently compiled a list of the 10 most decadent dictators in recent history; vicious men who literally wallowed in wealth and luxury often while their populations starved.
In number 1 spot is Kim Jong Il, the "Dear Leader" of destitute North Korea. This plug-ugly has "super-expensive tastes, with 17 palaces, and collections of hundreds of cars and around 20,000 video tapes. On one state visit to Russia, he reportedly had live lobsters airlifted daily to his armoured private train. He is believed to spend around $650,000 a year on Hennessy VSOP cognac and maintains an entourage of young lovelies known as the 'Pleasure Brigade'" This of course doesn't keep him from being the role model of Jose Maria Sison, Chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines, who himself lives in comfort in the hated West. Sison wrote this fulsome birthday greeting to the Dear Leader, beginning with this disgusting paragraph.
The Communist Party of the Philippines extends its warmest greetings to Comrade Kim Jong Il, General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, chairman of the National Defense Commission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and respected leader of the Korean people on his birthday on 16 February.
The toadying goes downhill from there. Of course Sison pretended to be outraged at Ferdinand Marcos, who occupies number 2 spot in the Times Online rogue's gallery of decadent leaders. "Pretended" is the operative word for revolutionary con-artists whose real motive in storming castles isn't to topple the throne but to occupy it themselves. The decadence of the previous occupants only inspires them to greater heights of megalomania. The rest of the Times list is given below. One common characteristic of these frauds is their penchant for bombastic titles, grandiose settings and fantastic heraldry.
- Nicolae Ceausescu, President of Romania, 1967 - 1989. The "Geniul din Carpati", or Genius of the Carpathians.
- Saparmurat Niyazov, President of Turkmenistan, 1990 - 2006. The President for Life and "Turkmenbashi", or Father of all Turkmen.
- Idi Amin, President of Uganda, 1971 - 1979. The self styled "Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea", "Emperor of Uganda" and "King of Scotland" awarded himself the VC, or Victorious Cross, and CBE, or Conqueror of the British Empire.
- Joseph Stalin, Leader of the Soviet Union, 1922 - 1953. The "Gardener of Human Happiness" and "Brilliant Genius of Humanity".
- Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, Shah of Persia, 1941 - 1979. The "King of Kings" and "Sun of the Aryans" .
- Saddam Hussein, President of Iraq, 1989 - 2003. The Baathist leader with a fondness for gold-plated bathroom fittings, and Kalashnikovs, who rebuilt Babylon with bricks, each stamped with his own name. This was before he was promoted to "Minuteman" by the Left.
- Mobutu Sese Soku, President of Zaire, 1965 - 1997. Siphoning his country's wealth into Swiss bank accounts, he styled himself the "All-Powerful Warrior".
- Suharto, President of Indonesia, 1967 - 1998. The former bank clerk embezzled more money than any other leader in history, according to Transparency International. Hailed in the postwar years as a "nationalist leader", he memorably said of the Japanese Empire while preparing to collaborate with them: "The Lord be praised, God showed me the way; in that valley of the Ngarai I said: Yes, Independent Indonesia can only be achieved with Dai Nippon...For the first time in all my life, I saw myself in the mirror of Asia."
One of the reasons why community organizing guru Saul Alinsky was so obsessed with direct accountability is that he didn't trust leaders. His goal was to empower the small man and direct their efforts towards tangible goals. The process might be slower than entrusting the future to a charismatic leader; but Alinksky wasn't into the vision thing because he knew how easily a vision could become a nightmare.
Today we live in a world where the Filipinos who died in the Bataan Death March can be be dismissed as colonial "dupes" while the memory of Indonesian "nationalists", Korean "Dear Leaders" and Soviet "Uncle Joes" can be artfully preserved and their crimes very carefully excused. And why? Because as the first paragraph showed, there's money in bilking useful fools. Always has been, always will be.