Dealing with Devils
Barack Obama has crossed his fingers and thrown the dice, hoping for an honorable exit from Afghanistan by extending the olive branch to our enemy. Peace talks with the Taliban, Obama says, are "an important first step toward reconciliation."
"The one thing that we do believe," he continues, "is that any insurgent group, including the Taliban, is going to need to accept an Afghan constitution that renounces ties to al-Qaeda, ends violence, and is committed to protection of women and minorities in the country."
It's a shame that we even need to ask this question about a president who we were assured in 2008 was the smartest guy in the room, but does he know anything at all about the Taliban?
The Taliban is not a group with rogue elements that are given to spates of violence, misogyny, and intolerance. Violence, misogyny, and intolerance define the Taliban.
It is an organization that unapologetically promotes the public whipping of women for exposed ankles, the stoning of adulterers, the execution of homosexuals, and the murder of apostates. And while Barack Obama values the "protection of women," the Taliban values acid attacks against schoolgirls and cutting women's noses from their faces. That is their idea of "hope and change" and "social justice."
And beyond that, roadside bombs and suicide attacks against infidels are observations of Islamic law, a religious imperative they call jihad. We call it terrorism. And terrorists, like those in the Taliban, do not negotiate. They demand.
Consider the words of a Taliban fighter in the eastern Kunar province. "When our demands are met," he says, "we will sit down at the negotiating table." That is not at all how negotiation works, so clearly, negotiation is an idea as foreign to the Taliban as women's rights.
"Surrender first. Then we'll talk." This is invariably the terms offered by terrorists, and this was once an understood reality. But "we do not negotiate with terrorists," it seems, is officially an antiquated principle in American leadership.
I, for one, do not believe that Obama is so abysmally dim that he does not recognize these realities. Rather, I think he is so abysmally dim that he thinks it wise to bend with the political winds in the Middle East. Since it seems that some nations in the region have an interest in legitimizing the Taliban, perhaps Obama's agreement to do so will generate some goodwill and endear America to the Islamic world.
Qatar, for example, is a "moderate" Islamic nation which has nonetheless become a broker for the Taliban's international credibility and has opened a Taliban office within its borders that will be the setting for these peace talks. "We welcome the opening of the Taliban office in Qatar," a local Taliban fighter of the southern Kandahar district is quoted as saying. "With the establishment of this office, we want to hold talks with the international community like an independent and sovereign state. We are reaching our goals in defeating the U.S.; now we want our country free from occupation."
In other words, the Taliban craves legitimacy -- something terrorist groups have, until recently, been prudently denied by the civilized world. But what has the Taliban done to earn an offer from the United States to grant it legitimacy? The Taliban hasn't offered a cessation of hostilities or the slightest change of political orientation to further any kind of "peace," nor has Barack Obama's naïve offer compelled the group to do so. As a senior Taliban leader in Pakistan reminds the world, "peace negotiations will have no impact on the Taliban's deadly campaign."
It's hard to imagine an example which more aptly signifies the failures of appeasement, or more accurately encapsulates the failures of this presidency in terms of foreign policy.
The Taliban are not interested in discussing a peaceful resolution, nor are they, the Muslim Brotherhood, or the rebels in Syria interested in conforming to Obama's empty demagoguery and bluster regarding human rights. They are interested only in discussing the terms of our surrender. Which, in a sense, is what Obama is interested in discussing, too, but the Taliban is not allowing him to save the slightest bit of face in doing so. They've burned the olive branch and strapped on the suicide vest -- on the very day of the announcement to open the Taliban office in Qatar as a setting for these peace talks, the Taliban claimed credit for a rocket attack against Bagram air base which killed four Americans.
Even if, as Michael Hirsch suggests in The Atlantic, the Taliban is weakened and will approach the peace talks with interest, what will be the outcome? Hirsch believes that it will be a "victory" for Obama if the Taliban survives but agrees to distance itself from al-Qaeda.
But the Taliban's very survival will be a crushing defeat -- not only for the prospect of human rights in the region, but in terms of suppressing global terror. The Taliban, regardless of what it says to pacify Western leaders about distancing itself from this terror group or that one, will not have changed its political positions on Zionism, Western decadence, or the principles of jihad demanding that they take whatever steps are necessary to bring death to the infidel West.
The Taliban will still be the Taliban. And by our dealing with them, the terrorists of the Taliban will have been granted legitimacy on the world stage. In no estimation can that be considered a victory.