With a friend like this, who needs democracy?

A repost of my comment at Sepia Mutiny and Chapati Mystery:

On the intersection of U.S. policy and Pakistani politics, I was particularly surprised to read this link off a Pakistani news twitter feed:

Obama calls Zardari, discusses mutual cooperation
Pakistan News.Net / Friday 27th March, 2009 (ANI)

Islamabad, Mar. 27 : US President Barack Obama telephoned President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday to discuss mutual cooperation and the situation in the South Asian region. Obama and Zardari spoke about the “Friends of Democratic Pakistan” forum initiative, aimed at promoting and strengthening democracy in Pakistan, The Nation reports…

Zardari, who launched the initiative of ‘Friends of Democratic Pakistan’ (FODP) in New York in September 2008, will chair the Friends’ Ministerial meeting being held in Tokyo on April 17. The forum consists of 25 countries and multilateral institutions…

What is the “Friends of Democratic Pakistan” forum, and why is Zardari chairing it?

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Dollar vs. Dollar

Until recently, a fundamental reality has been missing from U.S. media coverage of the “drug wars” in Latin America.    Time and again, our headlines have pointed to the scary “other” — the corrupt Mexican police officer, the Colombian drug trafficker, the peasant farmer who ekes out a living growing a poisonous crop.

jd-drug-war-battle

A case in point:   Mexican Drug Cartel Violence Spills Over, Alarming U.S.  (NY Times)

You don’t have to dig into the article, just take a look at the headline.  The scary violence of America’s next-door neighbor is suddenly threatening us.

In this telling, we Americans are the besieged victims — the people who are subjected to a flood of poison from violent smugglers and cartels.  But this approach only works if one ignores basic economics.  The narrative of “governments vs. traffickers” or “U.S. vs. foreign cartels” misses the point.

The drug war is best understood as a battle of dollar versus dollar — a bloody war between the dollars of U.S. taxpayers and the dollars of U.S. consumers.

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Obama’s holiday message to Iranians

U.S. President Barack Obama released the video greetings below to the Iranian government and people.

The Nowruz holiday greetings are a rare opportunity to hear an American leader praising the culture and accomplishments of Iranian society.  More than 50 years after the U.S. overthrew Iran’s democratically elected prime minister, this is a  hopeful sign that perhaps our two nations can find a path to better relations.

Whitehouse.gov links:  video, video with farsi subtitles, text of speech, or Farsi translation

A Letter to an Editor

Response to “Pakistan in Turmoil,” March 15, 2009, by Barbara Crossette in The Nation

Ms. Crossette’s article is strong on explaining political rivalries, but misses an opportunity to reveal the new gains of Pakistani civil society.
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Opinion: Marching for democracy in Pakistan

Viewpoint: Marching for democracy in Pakistan

By Sahar Shafqat

The Baltimore Sun (online)
March 12, 2009

Imagine this scenario: What if a U.S. president, in blatant contravention of the U.S. Constitution, fired every Supreme Court justice because he didn’t like their decisions, and filled the court instead with his own cronies? What if a new president was elected on a promise to restore the rightful judges to their legal positions after he was in office? What would you do if he didn’t follow through on that promise?

That is the position that Pakistan’s people find themselves in today.
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Opinion: “U.S. has chance to help real democracy in Pakistan” | Atlanta Journal-Constitution

U.S. has chance to help real democracy in Pakistan

Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Thursday, March 12, 2009

By Sanjeev Bery, Wajiha Ahmed

Today, a major Pakistani movement for democratic reform will challenge Pakistani President Asif Zardari with a call for government accountability. Known as the Lawyers Movement, this coalition of civil activists will give America a chance to voice support for the strengthening of Pakistan’s democratic institutions.

Members of this movement will begin what they are calling the Long March —- a multi-day walk across the nation that will end in the capital, Islamabad. They are marching to demand a restoration of the independent judges that the former U.S.-backed dictator Pervez Musharraf removed. Continue reading

Arresting Freedom

LongMarchCrackdown

Plain-clothes police officers detain a PML-N protestor outside the Punjab Assembly building in Lahore.—AP/File

Pakistani President Asif Zardari has given his orders, and compliant law enforcement officers in Pakistan are arresting rival politicians and activists.  Team Zardari is taking pre-emptive measures to block Pakistan’s Lawyers Movemnt and allies from pursuing their Long March. Continue reading

Twittering Freedom

As Pakistani President Asif Zardari cracks down on pro-democracy activists, a handful of Pakistanis are posting short bursts of information on Twitter.  You can follow their “freedom tweets” online.  The best tag is probably #Pakistan:

http://search.twitter.com/search?q=%23Pakistan

But you can also go with either of the following…

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McCain’s Simple Narrative

Last Wednesday, U.S. Senator John McCain gave a tough talk at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington D.C. think tank.

His topic was Afghanistan.   His message was that the U.S. is losing the war.

The situation in Afghanistan is nowhere near as dire as it was in Iraq just two years ago …  But the same truth that was apparent three years ago in Iraq is apparent today in Afghanistan: when you aren’t winning in this kind of war, you are losing. And, in Afghanistan today, we are not winning. Let us not shy from the truth, but let us not be paralyzed by it either.

Fine.  Let’s not be paralyzed.  But there is a way in which Sen. McCain managed to avoid discussing the same realities on the ground that everyone else seems to be avoiding.

Let’s just take one issue in particular:  there is no such thing as “the” Taliban.  It might make for easy reporting, but the notion of a single opposition force serves to obscure more than it reveals.

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