It is true that the Pakistanis have finally woken up to the dangers of their equivocal relationship with fundamentalist groups, and have taken serious military action against the Taliban. But they have done this in a way that has caused both civilian casualties and dislocation on a scale that may eventually rebound against them.
Great. So not only is there a gargantuan humanitarian emergency in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, but the after-effects of this mass human displacement could, quite naturally, eventually blow back in the faces of both Pakistan and the United States. I’m sure most, if not all, of the displaced Pakistanis are glad to see the Taliban finally booted out, but they also can’t be too happy about being forced to leave their homes because of the government’s rather heavy-handed military operation. And this is something to be very careful about.
The other point of not here is that, while critics are busy chastising the Obama Administration for not showing strong enough “solidarity” with Iranian protesters, this is a case in which some choice words about protecting civilians, given to an ostensible U.S. ally, could actually make a difference. I’m not saying that a wave of Barack Obama’s magic wand could ameliorate the displacement crisis caused by the Pakistani military operation (the U.S.’s own hasn’t done so great in the civilian protection department next door in Afghanistan), but this is certainly an example where the U.S. has some amount of real influence on the lives of human beings, as opposed to in Iran, where political posturing is the only thing that’s really at issue.