08/19/2010 06:24 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Pashtun Hearts and Minds

Today there are 20 million displaced Pakistanis waiting in line for food, for help, or any kind of meager international assistance which might drip down to them.

What we Americans fail to realize about this huge environmental crisis and how it impacts what we are doing in that part of the world is given in a series of statistics.

First there are about 42 million Pashtuns who are split almost equally between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pashtuns are highly sympathetic to the aims of the Taliban, and as we fight battles in both countries we find ourselves up against this highly homogeneous, rugged, and stoic population that has very little sympathy with our objectives.

Indeed over 80 percent of Pakistanis--Pashtuns and non-Pashtuns alike--are opposed to our aims and behavior in their country.

So, if we are to continue on blindly in this blunder, our fate seems sealed: endless war, endless insurgency, and an endless siphoning of the American treasury.

But it might be very helpful, psychologically, to think more creatively. Those 20 million Pakistanis who are waiting for food could wake up tomorrow morning to see American servicemen and women in their battle fatigues handing out food, water, tents, blankets and supplies in every long line of displaced people to be found. Instead of being seen as an elitist, faceless force hiding behind drones that come out of the sky to kill people attending weddings, it might markedly help our objective to be seen as flesh and blood Americans making every effort to help people and who care. What a public relations opportunity! What a humanitarian opportunity!

Such American goodwill would not go unnoticed.

Unfortunately Hillary Clinton and Richard Holbrooke appear entirely blind to any of these possibilities.

As we are reminded: "Opportunity is a bird that never perches."

Jerry Kroth, Ph.D.

Dr. Kroth can be reached at

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