Posted by Brad @ 4:08 pm on June 18th 2012

Finding the Low Ground

Quick. Say you’re a Taliban commander in a far flung area of Pakistan. You have control over a large swath of territory, in which American forces regularly carry out strikes and attacks. You finally have a bit of a moral high ground issue, in that many of these strikes kill women, children, and innocents, and finally a groundswell of outrage beyond your little corner of the globe is beginning to build. What’s your next move to take advantage of this relative growth in sympathy and moral credit?

If banning polio vaccines in protest of drone strikes isn’t the answer that pops into your head, you obviously don’t think like a Taliban commander.

P.S. I told you so.

He also said the polio campaign could be a cover for CIA espionage Ė a reference to Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor reported to have helped American agencies identify Osama bin Laden.

This is unrelated to the rather amazing moral “perspective” that the Taliban in this area are bringing. But it does underscore that our consequences have actions, and that the rules and protocols governing war in the civilized world are not useless roadblocks based on antiquated circumstances, but rather very hard won and forward thinking wisdom on efficacy, unintended consequences, and why deals with the devil almost always favor the devil, in the end. There tend to be very, very, very good reasons for the way we do the things we do (or used to, anyway), even if those things directly retard our ability to get immediate gratification for our notions of revenge or even justice. We blithely disregard those hard-won truths at our peril. (or, in this case, at other people’s).


  1. Art Caplan at Penn has a column up noting the relative silence on this matter, and wondering where the world outrage is.

    In reaching his decision to sacrifice the children of his region, Bahadur noted that the CIA had run a phony vaccination campaign in Pakistan to try to obtain DNA from some of Osama bin Ladenís children. The doctor who was allegedly involved, Dr. Shakil Afridi, was recently sentenced by a tribal court in Peshawar to 33 years in prison. Embarrassment over putting a humanitarian vaccine program to use in the effort to find and kill bin Laden may partly account for the relative silence that has greeted Bahadurís ban on vaccination.

    Comment by Brad — 6/19/2012 @ 8:39 pm

  2. Good points, but you forget the part where you’re actually the greater devil. American foreign policy is WAY beyond petty taliban evil. And I know you’re pointing out an overlap here, but your narrative is still too subjective.
    I guess the world outrage is still waiting in line at the western atrocities.

    Comment by fred — 6/25/2012 @ 8:25 am

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