Saturday, October 8, 2011

Pakistan, Threats, Diplomacy, and All That

Pakistan had more news and editorial coverage toward the end of September, 2011, than usual. About 50 imams said that Muslims should attack America if this country attacks Pakistan.

I don't doubt that some imams issued that sort of fatwa. Odds are that around four dozen did so: which even in a nation the size of Pakistan is a noticeable number.

This doesn't mean that I've started digging a fallout shelter under the basement, though: or try to make my house vapor-tight. I'm concerned, of course, but after decades of 'death to the great Satan America' stuff, the shock value of what those imams did is somewhat reduced.

Pakistan: Still a Mess

I don't envy the folks who are apparently trying to establish a plausible national government in Pakistan: and extend the reach of their influence beyond parts of Islamabad and a few other cities.

They've got a country with a long and complicated history, where much of the territory seems to be in the hands of folks whose culture hasn't changed much in several thousand years.

On the bright side, Pakistan is better off than Somalia.

For example, a few years ago Pakistan's bosses lied about how they would use money they got from the United States. The idea was that the money would go to Pakistan's military. Instead, Pervez Musharraf and his cronies used it for domestic programs.

I think it's a testament to their character and ethics that they used it for government projects, instead of simply pocketing it. Granted, those domestic projects probably helped their public image: but hey, they've got elections to think of. (October 5, 2009)

Diplomacy, Cultural Sensitivity, and Getting a Grip

Some op-ed pieces1 about Pakistan's edgy imams were drearily predictable:
"...But don't the American's [sic] understand the psyche and character of Pakistan's military/intelligence nexus yet? Rather than spurring the ISI/Army into doing more, this public humiliation will have only further dented the frail ego of the military - an ego that has only just recovered from the dishonour of the Osama bin Laden raid...."
George Fulton, South Asian News Agency (September 29, 2011)
There's something to that criticism.

As I recall, American forces had tried several times to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. Every time, bin Laden had moved before they arrived. American commanders had been sharing information with their Pakistani counterparts. Showing the 'insensitivity' Mr. Fulton deplores, the Americans decided to launch an attack without telling Pakistani officials. Perhaps by coincidence, that time Osama bin Laden hadn't gone elsewhere: and now he's dead.

Pakistani officials were furious. Naturally enough. Rules of hospitality have ancient roots. I think they serve a useful function in society. But somewhere along the line, Western civilization learned that sometimes dealing with serious threats is more important than accommodating a guest.

I'm assuming that someone in Pakistan's alleged government was passing information along to bin Laden's people: but who knows? Maybe the string of failed raids with shared information, followed by one successful raid without shared information, was pure coincidence.

Diplomacy, Assumptions, and 'Natives'

America seems to have finally flushed overt bias, the sort that drips from Chief Justice Taney's opinion in Dred Scott v. Sandford,2 out of its system. It's hard to imagine someone describing folks living in the Darfur region as an 'inferior race,' and being taken seriously. Or avoiding legal trouble, most likely.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that too many folks apparently still see humanity divided three ways:
  • Citizens of my country
  • Civilized foreigners
  • 'Natives'
Old ideas die hard.3

I think old notions about what can be expected from 'civilized foreigners' and 'natives' is behind demands for 'cultural sensitivity.' It's like the old movies:
  • 'He's simply not British.'
  • 'You see, Throckmorton? Typical native superstition.'
  • 'An American! You will realize what's at stake!'
Over-simplified? Yes.

Maybe there are diplomatic reasons for ignoring blatantly unethical, and occasionally self-destructive, behavior on the part of national leaders. Maybe an American official wasn't as suave as possible, dealing with yet one more Pakistani government SNAFU.

But I think it's a huge mistake to assume that 'foreigners' can't be held to the same ethical standards Americans should expect from our leaders. And that it isn't
'tolerant, 'open-minded,' or 'diplomatic' to expect the same standards from foreigners.

Ethical Standards? American Leaders?!

I said that Americans should expect ethical standards from our leadership. Competence would be nice, too. As far as the lot we've got in Congress right now? There's an election coming next year: and that's another topic.

Related posts:
News and views:

1Excerpts from news and views:
"Pakistani Threat Escalates as Imams Call for Jihad" (September 27, 2011)

"The United States' strained relationship with Pakistan has grown more tense after 50 influential imams and religious leaders there threatened a jihad if the U.S. attacks the nuclear-armed country.

"The threat came as Pakistan seemed to speak from both sides of the mouth. Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar insisted to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday that the government is part of the solution in Afghanistan.

" 'Pakistan is willing to do its best with the international partners and, most notably, the governments of Afghanistan and the United States, to acquit itself of this high responsibility (in Afghanistan),' she told the 193-nation assembly.

"But her remarks came after Pakistan warned the United States to stop accusing it of playing a double game with Islamist militants and as it showered praise on China....

"...The religious leaders threatening jihad are associated with the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), a coalition of local groups. According to Pakistani news reports, the council issued a press release declaring that it is illegitimate to call the U.S. a superpower because only Allah deserves the title.

"The scholars urged the Pakistani government to end the country's role in the war on terrorism and to try to establish a new international bloc made up of China, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan....

"...Last week, Adm. Mike Mullen, the outgoing chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, linked the Haqqani network, the most violent faction among Taliban militants in Afghanistan, to Pakistan.

" 'The Haqqani network, for one, acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan's internal services intelligence agency,' Mullen said...."

"Understanding the duplicity"
George Fulton, South Asian News Agency (September 29, 2011)

"The writer lived for several years in Pakistan, working for various TV channels such as Geo and Aaj. He has now moved back to the UK and does freelance consultancy work
The very public spat between Pakistan and the US which emerged last week after Admiral Mike Mullen, a man known for his straight talking, outed the ISI and called the Haqqani militants a 'veritable arm' of the spy agency, has left many analysts perplexed. Why do it? What benefit would America gain from such a public announcement? Perhaps it was frustration on behalf of the Americans. Admiral Mullen is due to retire at the end of the year. Maybe, with his forthcoming demobbing, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff felt able to candidly blow off steam at the perceived duplicity of the ISI? Unlikely. This evidence given to the Senate Armed Services Committee on September 22 was a designed ratcheting up of pressure on Pakistan. The defence secretary, Leon E Panetta, threatened 'operational steps' against Pakistan — a euphemistic term for possible American raids against the Haqqanis in North Waziristan.

"But don't the American's understand the psyche and character of Pakistan's military/intelligence nexus yet? Rather than spurring the ISI/Army into doing more, this public humiliation will have only further dented the frail ego of the military - an ego that has only just recovered from the dishonour of the Osama bin Laden raid. Mullen's announcement will only have helped embolden those anti-American elements within the intelligence services and undermine the pro-Americans within the military...."

"Pakistan won't do more in war on terror: Yousuf Raza Gilani"
AFP, via Economic Times (September 29, 2011)

"Pakistan on Thursday hit back at mounting US demands for action against Al-Qaeda-linked extremists, refusing to be pressured into doing more in the war on terror.

"Washington says it is conducting a final review on whether to blacklist the network linked to Pakistani intelligence as a terror group, which risks then exposing Islamabad to economic sanctions.

"The outgoing top US military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, accused Pakistan of exporting violent extremism to Afghanistan and called the Haqqani network a 'veritable arm' of its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency...."

2 Dred Scott v. Sandford, the slavery compromise, and 19th century treaty violations, are part of America's history. But we do, eventually, correct injustices:3 I think it's a good thing that using phrases like 'inferior races' to describe folks without congenital melanin deficiency is something of a faux pas these days. I also think that too many folks cling to old biases, at least unconsciously:


Brigid said...

Missing single quote, maybe a question mark: "'An American! You realize what's at stake!"

Wait. What? "And that it isn't nice to expect foreigners to act reasonably."

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian H. Gill said...


Noted, and there was a missing single quote. I've re-written both sentences, which may not more closely match what I had in mind.


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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.