Friday, November 28, 2008

The Perils Of The Middle Way

It's a classic dynamic: Rivals inch toward understanding, if not yet friendship. Bitter anger gives way first, perhaps, to exhaustion and then the glimmer of a possibility of the hope of peace. Always good news -- except for extremists who for whatever reason find the idea of accommodation or compromise intolerable.

In March, teenage seminarians in Jerusalem were the victims of an attack that seemed calculated to destroy any progress being made by Israelis and the Palestinian Authority.

Similarly, the week's attacks in Mumbai (in which innocent Jews also died) seemed calculated to drive a new wedge between India and Pakistan, who had come to the brink of nuclear war after terrorists attacked the Indian Parliament in December 2001. India had blamed elements of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence. Both sides finally backed down. Now prodded by the U.S., which wants him to worry about al-Qaeda instead of India, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has been making determined overtures, mindful of his country's desperate economic straits as well. Reports the New York Times:
A businessman at heart, Mr. Zardari understands the benefit of strong trade between India and Pakistan. Now on life support from the International Monetary Fund, Pakistan would profit immensely from the normalization of relations.
But some people don't want normalization. They want their enemies humiliated and killed and their every ambition for revenge and power realized. When India quickly implicated Pakistan in the Mumbai attacks, the cycle seemed bound to recommence.

The on-line Times (its site is mucked up, so I can't link) now reports that Pakistan's ISS chief is heading to India to assist in the investigation, an extraordinary, encouraging move. Sometimes extremists make the middle way impossible. But sometimes they fail, and the world gets a little better.

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