The HKS Citizen (Harvard Kennedy School)
October 26, 2010
By Sanjeev Bery
Over the last two months, the US government has dramatically increased drone missile strikes in Pakistan. Unfortunately, mainstream US newspapers have not shown the inclination to ask tough questions regarding the change in policy.
In a replay of the softball coverage that preceded the second US invasion of Iraq, some of the biggest US newspapers are once again showing how easy it is to embed a pro-government bias in their reporting. The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and The New York Times have all covered the news by mostly quoting US officials while ignoring critics. Continue reading “US newspapers ignore drone missile critics”
Alternating between criticism and praise, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi spoke about US-Pakistan relations at the Harvard Kennedy School on Monday, October 18th. Qureshi was at HKS on the eve of a US-Pakistan strategic dialogue with senior US officials in Washington DC.
In his comments, Qureshi offered blunt criticism of the history of US foreign policy towards Pakistan. “We see half a century of indisputable, empirical evidence of the US dancing with dictators who subverted human rights, using our people and soldiers as surrogates in proxy wars,” he stated.
It’s a situation Andrew Wilder, F89, F96, knows all too well. A research director for the Feinstein International Center since early 2007, he managed humanitarian aid and development programs in Afghanistan and Pakistan for 10 years … Born and raised in Pakistan, Wilder came to the United States to attend college.
According to Wilder:
The more money we try to spend in this environment, which has very limited human resources and institutional capacity, inevitably money overflows into the pockets of corrupt officials. Our aid programs are actually fueling the corruption, which is de-legitimizing the government, which is fueling instability.
The latest news on US-Pakistan relations shouldn’t surprise anyone. According to the Associated Press, former Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf used billions of dollars in US military aid for everything but the paymasters’ intended purpose: fighting Taliban militias.
None of this news, however, is likely to generate much Pakistani sympathy for American taxpayers. What American officials refer to as “anti-American sentiment” is actually a deep resentment of U.S. government involvement in internal Pakistani politics. It is worth noting that U.S. funding for Musharraf marked the third time we have supported Pakistani dictatorship in the country’s 60 years of history.
It is precisely this past that has come to haunt both Pakistanis and Americans today. The intersection of dictatorship and dollars has resulted in a Pakistani military that does not answer to the country’s civilian leadership. Every time American taxpayers financed an alliance with a Pakistani military dictator, we also forced Pakistani reformers to take a backseat.
Thank you for posing some tough questions that deserve deeper discussion. To complicate matters, I would like focus a bit more on your question six — the nature of America’s “moral obligation” to protect, among others, Afghan women from Taliban oppression.
The fear of a return to Taliban misogyny should be weighed against the reality of significant misogyny in the policies being put forward by the Karzai government. After all, it was the Western-backed Afghanistan regime that recently produced legislation allowing husbands to starve sexually unwilling wives. Continue reading “A response to Mr. Finel”
Many proponents of escalation in Afghanistan highlight the American moral obligation to the Afghan people, in particular to Afghan women certain to be oppressed by a Taliban resurgence and the large number of men and women who have worked with American forces who would likely be targeted for retribution. What is the nature of this moral obligation? Is it absolute? Are there steps we could take to mitigate the consequences short of providing a permanent guarantee of human rights in the country?
It isn’t a pleasant question. In asking it, we must also keep in mind that it was the Western-backed Karzai government that produced legislation allowing husbands to starve sexually unwilling wives. So in considering our moral obligation, we should also remember that U.S.-backed Afghan elites are making their own deals within the same misogynist political culture. In effect, the U.S. goal of building a stable, non-Taliban Afghan regime may itself result in a perpetuation of misogynist governance and human rights violations.
The Guardian (UK) has done a video report on how U.S. soldiers feel about the Afghan soldiers they are tasked with building into an army. The piece hints at a broader reality: it is a bit difficult to build a national military on another nation’s behalf.
Supervising Afghan soldier to reporter (translated):
THE U.S. media have become obsessed with Pakistan of late, fueling a sense of panic that we must do something quickly to save Pakistan from crumbling.
True, violent tragedies seem to occur in Pakistan regularly, overtaking headlines before the prior ones register. But the most important policy the U.S. can implement as Pakistan takes on big challenges is to step out of the way.
In a memo e-mailed this week to Pentagon staff members, the Defense Department’s office of security review noted that “this administration prefers to avoid using the term ‘Long War’ or ‘Global War on Terror’ [GWOT.] Please use ‘Overseas Contingency Operation.’ “
“France recognises that having al-Qaeda operate safe havens that can be used to launch attacks is a threat not just to the United States but to Europe… In fact it is probably more likely that al-Qaeda would be able to launch a serious terrorist attack in Europe than in the United States because of proximity.”
At least we are getting some variety. Under the Bush Administration, it was all Al Qaeda, all the time.
Did they shake hands? Did they chat? Was there a peck on the cheek? As with all first dates, it depends on who you talk to.
The New York Timesreported that a pair of top diplomats from the U.S. and Iran had a polite chat at an international conference on Afghanistan this Tuesday. According to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:
“It was cordial, unplanned and they agreed to stay in touch,” Mrs. Clinton said to reporters at the end of the conference. “I myself did not have any direct contact with the Iranian delegation.”
But not so fast. As the BBC later reported, an Iranian government spokesperson denied the whole thing:
“No meeting or talk, be it formal or informal, official or unofficial between Iran and US officials took place on the sideline of this conference…We categorically deny the reports published in this regard.”
One thing is for sure. The delicate dance has begun.