Pakistan's Swat valley is quiet once again. Often compared to Switzerland for its stunning landscape of mountains and meadows, Swat became a war zone over the past two years as Taliban fighters waged fierce battles against Army troops. No longer, but only because the Pakistani government has agreed to some of the militants' key demands, chiefly that Islamic courts be established in the region. Fears abound that this means women's schools will be destroyed, movies will be banned and public beheadings will become a regular occurrence.
The militants are bad people and this is bad news. But the more difficult question is, what should we--the outside world--do about it? That we are utterly opposed to such people, and their ideas and practices, is obvious. But how exactly should we oppose them? In Pakistan and Afghanistan, we have done so in large measure by attacking them--directly with Western troops and Predator strikes, and indirectly in alliance with Pakistani and Afghan forces. Is the answer to pour in more of our troops, train more Afghan soldiers, ask that the Pakistani military deploy more battalions, and expand the Predator program to hit more of the bad guys? Perhaps--in some cases, emphatically yes--but I think it's also worth stepping back and trying to understand the phenomenon of Islamic radicalism.