"I'm sorry I must leave, but I must do what is asked of me by my God, my Country, and my Corps.. and so, the war blog begins, again." ~B

27 January 2010

To Live or Perish Forever

I just finished reading Nicholas Schmidle's book on Pakistan, To Live or Perish Forever.

Schmidle spent two years wandering around Pakistan, getting the lay of the land, and meeting local political leaders. The book was a quick read, as Schmidle keeps the narrative going smoothly.

Schmidle comes from a military family, one who was serving in Iraq and Afghanistan while he was in Pakistan. Yet he was routinely interviewing Taliban and al-Queda leaders as part of his journalistic effort to discover the soul of Pakistan. Schmidle treats these characters with extreme humanity. Despite his own inner conflict at the idea that many of these people could be organizing attacks that could injure the people he loved, he grew to like some of them, even to the point of considering a few friends.

These high placed contacts, coupled with the people on the street view he gains as he lives, works, and interacts with his neighbors, give true insight into the battle for Pakistan that is playing out.

Will Pakistan be able to hold on to a secular identity in the face of rising Islamist power? Will its many ethnic minorities stay united with Pakistan, or will they seek to control their own fates in nations of their own? Will corrupt intelligence and government institutions ultimately break Pakistan?

These are questions Schmidle doesn't have answers to. But what he does learn makes one point very clear. If peace is to find the region, we must have a greater understanding of the culture, history, and power brokers. We must also think regionally in our strategies. The questions of Afghanistan and Pakistan cannot be solved independently of each other. Gretchen Peters book Seeds of Terror also illustrates this point quite dramatically when analyzing the connections between drugs, money, weapons, and militias that flow through the porous borders.

Good book. Certainly gives you lots to think about.

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