Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Pakistan Is Not a Strategic Ally But an Irresponsible Client State

Pakistan Is Not a Strategic Ally But an Irresponsible Client State
Posted: 05/ 3/11 06:52 PM ET

Adolph Hitler and other top leaders of Nazi Germany escape into neutral Spain after the defeat of the Third Reich and find a sanctuary in the Pyrenees Mountains along the border with France from which they launch deadly attacks against the U.S. and its allies and attempt to overthrow the pro-western government in Paris.

Would the U.S. allow Generalissimo Francisco Franco to provide a safe haven for Hitler and his associates in Spain and describe his government as an "ally in the fight against Nazism?"

And would the Americans wait for another 10 years before sending U.S. Special Forces to capture and kill the Nazi leader hiding in a mansion a few miles from Madrid and just 800 yards away from a military academy that is the equivalent of Spain's West Point?

Quite unlikely, you say. But then many elements of the strategy pursued by the administration of former President George W. Bush in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington seem as bizarre.

After all, President Bush did allow Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda thugs and their Taliban enablers to flee into Pakistan, use it as a safe haven and as a launching pad for attacks on the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan as part of an effort to topple the pro-American government in Kabul.

And instead of employing its military and diplomatic resources to capture bin Laden and his al Qaeda network in Pakistan and to defeat the Taliban forces hiding there, which would have created the conditions for declaring victory over the al Qaeda-Taliban Axis of Evil, the U.S. ended-up redeploying its troops to Mesopotamia where it wasted precious diplomatic capital and military assets in an effort to oust Saddam Hussein, a secular Arab leader and an enemy of the fundamentalist bin Laden and then occupied and destabilized Iraq.

To apply the earlier WWII analogy, it was as though the U.S. would refrain from finishing the job by capturing Hitler and the Nazis in Spain, and then declares a military victory in the war in Europe and re-directs its troops and resources to "liberate," ousting Argentina's military junta and occupying that country.

Indeed, there has been something very surreal about the notion promoted by the leaders of the U.S. and Pakistan post-9/11 that the two countries were "allies" in the war on terror. That was just not, well, true. Pakistan, who together with Saudi Arabia (another U.S. "ally"), were the two governments who had maintained diplomatic relationship with the Taliban regime pre-9/11, has always regarded Afghanistan's Islamic fundamentalists as close allies in containing the power of India, Pakistan's main strategic adversary.

In fact, according to numerous and credible press reports, academic studies as well as diplomatic documents released by WikiLeaks, the heads of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the recipient of an annual $2 billion from Washington, has continued to provide weapons and financial assistance to the Afghan Taliban while acting as if they were cooperating with the U.S. fight against the Taliban and al Qaeda -- a double-dealing game that fooled no one.

Indeed, that the killing of Osama bin Laden took place "deep inside Pakistan in an American operation, almost in plain sight in a medium-sized city that hosts numerous Pakistani forces," as the New York Times put it, shouldn't have come as a major surprise to the Americans. That bin Laden was hiding in a huge mansion in a town a few miles away from Islamabad and next to what is considered to be Pakistan's West Point was probably known to at least some members of the country's intelligence services.

According to an American diplomatic document released by WikiLeaks, "In Pakistan, Osama bin Laden wasn't an invisible man, and many knew his whereabouts in North Waziristan, but whenever security forces attempted a raid on his hideouts, the enemy received warning of their approach from sources in the security forces."

Whether Pakistan's military and intelligence officials had known about bin Laden's whereabouts remains an open question. But the fact that we are even asking this question should help us clarify one important issue: Pakistan is not a strategic ally of the U.S. but an unreliable client state whose core national interest -- challenging Indian power in Kashmir and elsewhere -- doesn't correspond to U.S. interests in South Asia, which include not only combating radical Islamic radicalism in Afghanistan but also establishing strong diplomatic and economic ties with India, one of the world's rising powers.

Pakistan is a failed state with nuclear military power, whose elites and public are hostile to the U.S. and sympathetic to its enemies. Its leaders want to ensure that the regime controlling Afghanistan after the inevitable U.S. military withdrawal from that country is allied with Islamabad against India. Opposition from India as well as from other neighbors of Afghanistan, including Russia and Iran, will ensure that the Pakistanis will fail in achieving that goal even if and when the last U.S. troops leave Afghanistan.

Some contend that Pakistan is "too big to fail" and therefore requires American support. But, like in the case of the bankrupted too-big-to-fail financial institutions on Wall Street, bailing out irresponsible losers produces a "moral hazard" by providing incentives to them to continue pursuing irresponsible and destructive policies.

Hence, the time has come for moving in the direction of a gradual U.S. "constructive disengagement" from Pakistan, including by starting to slash the huge military and financial assistant Washington has been providing that country and which have been used to perpetuate a corrupt and anti-American political and military elite that has been hosting America's top adversary for the last 10 years.

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Economic realities may obscure Obama victory

Business Times - 05 May 2011

Economic realities may obscure Obama victory

For him, winning 2012 election could prove to be even more difficult than getting Osama


IN THE aftermath of the impressive US military victory in the First Persian Gulf War aka Operation Desert Storm in 1991, then-president George W H Bush seemed to be politically invincible. With his popularity in the public opinion polls surging to the stratosphere - one poll indicated that 90 per cent of Americans approved of his performance in office - pundits on the political right and left seemed to agree that the Republican US president would be unbeatable in the 1992 race to the White House.

Moreover, when the names of some of the Democrats who could emerge as potential presidential candidates were mentioned - including that of the young and relatively unknown former Arkansas governor Bill Clinton - the conventional wisdom in Washington was that none of them had a chance of defeating the victorious War President who had just crushed one of the nation's most hated figures, Iraq's Saddam Hussein.

But around the time of the military victory in the Persian Gulf, America was entering into a mild recession which lasted for about six months. Many companies were forced to lay off a large number of workers who had believed that their jobs were secure. By 1992, interest and inflation rates were the lowest in years, but unemployment rate reached 7.8 per cent, the highest since 1984.

Hence the media switched its attention from Iraq military victory to the problems facing the economy, including the relatively high unemployment rate and the rising level of poverty. And to the surprise of political professionals in Washington, Americans who went to the polls in November 1992 - and they included many unemployed Republicans and Independents - voted for the Democrat Clinton and for the third-party candidate Ross Perot. Mr Bush lost and Mr Clinton won, leading Mr Clinton's political strategist James Carville to make that now-famous statement: 'It's the Economy, Stupid!'

Mr Carville's argument was that no matter how successful a US president would be in foreign policy and national security arena, he or she would end up losing re-election to the White House if the economy was not doing well. In short, Americans vote with their pocket books. And a military victory doesn't help anyone get a job, buy groceries in the supermarket or fill up the petrol tank.

Indeed, Democrats and Republicans are probably considering the lesson of the 1992 presidential election as they try to figure out how the killing of Osama bin Laden by the US special forces will impact the 2012 race to the White House.

As expected, the amazing military operation led to the death of a man responsible for the worst terrorist attack on Americans, helped boost public support for Mr Obama and produced a 'bounce' in his popularity ratings. A poll conducted by The Washington Post and the Pew Research Centre in the immediate aftermath of Osama's killing found that 56 per cent of those polled said they approved of the way Mr Obama was handling his job as president, an increase of nine percentage points over a similar poll conducted last month. Mr Obama's approval rating among independents was now at 52 per cent, according to the new poll, 10 points higher than in April.

That certainly should come as good political news for Mr Obama, who received the worst foreign policy rating of his presidency in a New York Times/CBS News poll last month, with 46 per cent of respondents disapproving of his handling of international affairs.

During more than two years of campaigning and service in office, Mr Obama has been accused by Republicans and conservatives as being indecisive and weak in the war on terror and in dealing with other national security threats, that is he was too much in the habit of apologising for American global sins and dismissing the notion of 'American Exceptionalism'.

Moreover, some right-wing critics suggested that the president was probably not even born in the United States and was probably a secret Muslim who was pursuing an anti-American foreign policy agenda, that 'Obama was Osama's man at the White House', as one conservative blogger suggested.

But after even former vice-president Dick Cheney, one of the harshest critics of Mr Obama's foreign policy, declared that the White House 'clearly deserves credit for the success of the operation', it would be very difficult for other conservatives and Republicans to bash Mr Obama's performance in the war on terrorism (although several right-wing bloggers are already questioning whether Osama was really killed in Pakistan over the weekend).

Yet with unemployment remaining high and with high petrol and food prices adding to the economic misery of American consumers, many Americans are feeling depressed. Indeed, according to last month's New York Times/CBS poll, 70 per cent of Americans believed that the country was on the wrong track.

And according to the poll conducted in the aftermath of Osama's killing, there has been no change in the public's perception of the way Mr Obama was handling the economy. The majority of Americans disapprove of his economic policies.

No one seriously expects a major acceleration in the economic recovery before the 2012. If anything, the bipartisan debate in Washington over the response to the growing budget deficits - including the coming fight over whether to increase the debt limit - is only going to add to the sense of economic discontent among Americans, putting downward pressure on Mr Obama's popularity.

President Obama and his aides may still have an opportunity to translate his impressive victory on national security into electoral gains by highlighting Mr Obama's leadership skills and 'toughness' and help the White House win some political momentum in its dealing with the Congressional debates over the economy. But winning that election could prove to be even more difficult than getting Osama.

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