Petting Snakes

* CHANGE! Now even the Guardian is mocking Obama.

Ralph Peters, NYP

NO matter how gently you pet a snake, it’s not going to love you back. And faith-fueled fanatics always show their fangs in the end.

Nobody seems to learn. Again and again, states imagine that they can use and control Islamist extremists. Then the terrorists turn against their “masters.”

That’s what happened Monday in Pakistan, when Muslim militants brazenly struck a police academy near the Indian border — far from the lawless tribal regions. The terrorists killed seven cops and two civilians. Nearly a hundred officers suffered wounds during the siege.

The terrorists blew themselves up, rather than be captured. They knew Allah would welcome them. The one captured fanatic meant to die.

Pakistan’s homegrown jihadis began with local takeovers in the back country. In response, the government — which had backed the Taliban in the hope of controlling Afghanistan — tried to cut deals.

But the deals only helped the extremists, ceding them territory. Their attacks spread to major cities, such as Peshawar and Quetta. Then terror crossed the Indus River into the heartland. Benazir Bhutto was assassinated. Islamabad’s Marriott Hotel suffered a catastrophic bombing. Even Sri Lanka’s visiting cricket team was marked for death.

Now the terrorists have reached right across Pakistan to mount a frontal assault on a police academy. Give ’em credit — that took guts.

And fervor. Fired by visions of serving an angry god, the terrorists are sure that they’re bound to win, that all those of weaker belief will fall before them. Nothing short of death will make them quit.

The story isn’t new. The US supported Muslim fanatics against the Soviets in Afghanistan. At the time, it seemed awfully clever. After all, the mujahedin were the baddest hombres in the Hindu Kush, willing to fight on after others quit.

Of course, we didn’t take faith’s power seriously. We still don’t. Washington continues, frantically, to deny that belief has anything to do with religious terrorism.

Inevitably, the serpents bit those who imagined they were pets. We’re stillgetting fanged. The Saudis, who funded al Qaeda enthusiastically, learned to their horror that even their own abusive Wahhabism wasn’t cruel enough for Allah’s avengers.

Not so long ago, some Israelis hoped that the newborn Hamas would be a useful tool to weaken the PLO’s grip on the Palestinians. The bad news is they were right.

The phenomenon shows up in secular history, as well. During the Weimar Republic, German conservatives were confident that they could exploit that down-market ex-corporal and his Brownshirts, then brush them aside. (Slow learners, the same Germans had viewed Lenin and his Bolsheviks as useful mischief-makers.)

Never underestimate a fanatic’s fanaticism.

Dealing with religious extremists is the toughest challenge of all. They have one great advantage over the rest of us: True believers submerge their lives in their cause. Our own leaders — or Pakistanis or Saudis — may act in the national interest, but they’re always aware of their personal interests, as well.

Faith-inspired terrorists are not only willing but often impatient to die for their cause. That trumps working overtime in Washington.

When dealing with those who believe they’re on a mission from their god, our cult of negotiations plays into their hands. They’ll break any agreement, when the time is right. A deal isn’t a deal. Unbelievers have no standing.

Nor is this only a problem for the Muslim world. Indian politicians have unleashed Hindu extremists and may find their rage uncontainable one day. Any politician, anywhere, who thinks he can exploit religious fanatics with impunity is dancing with cobras.

Pakistan can no longer get the serpents it nurtured back into the basket. Even Iran may find that the Shia terrorists it encourages may fail to be charmed by Tehran’s magic flute when a crisis comes.

When governments seek to manipulate religion to their own ends, they’re not just playing with fire. They’re playing with hellfire.

Ralph Peters’ latest book is “Looking for Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World.”

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