Hammers and Nails in Pakistan

Posted: December 15, 2008 in Uncategorized
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“[W]e need a strategic partnership with all the parties in the region–Pakistan and India and the Afghan Government–to stamp out the kind of militant, violent, terrorist extremists that have set up base camps and that are operating in ways that threaten the security of everybody in the international community…[P]art of the kind of foreign policy I want to shape is one in which we have tough, directed policy combined with more effective military operations, focused on what is the number one threat against U.S. interests and U.S. lives, and that’s Al Qaeda and their various affiliates, and we are going to go after them fiercely in the years to come.”–President-elect Barack Obama, NBC’s Meet the Press, Dec. 7, 2008.

“What is wrong with the violent revolution according to Jesus is not that it changes too much but that it changes too little; the Zealot is the reflection of the tyrant whom he replaces by means of the tools of the tyrant.”–John Howard Yoder, The Original Revolution, p. 23.

“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.'” Matthew 26:52.

Pardon me if I read to much into it, but Obama’s quote above, including words like “stamp out” and “more effective military operations,” seems to indicate he plans on continuing and strengthening our military ties to Pakistan in pursuit of Victory in the so-called war on terrorism. For those who don’t know, we’ve been throwing a heck of a lot of money at Pakistan’s military for use in counter-terrorism operations and not getting a whole lot out of it. From NYT:

The Bush administration is preparing to present President-elect Barack Obama with a lengthy, classified strategy review aimed at reversing the gains that militants have made in destabilizing Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The review contains an array of options, including telling Pakistan’s military that billions of dollars in American aid will depend on the military’s being reconfigured to effectively fight militants. That proposal amounts to a tacit acknowledgment that roughly $10 billion in military aid provided to Pakistan as “reimbursements” for its efforts to root out militant groups has largely been wasted.

I’d say “wasted” is a strong word. They probably used it for a great many good things that they considered worthwhile…like destabilizing their civilian government. See, here’s the problem with dumping money on the Pakistani military, courtesy of Salon.com’s Juan Cole:

“Pakistan’s government has a profound internal division between the military and the civilian, which have alternated in power since the country was born from the partition of British India in 1947. It is this military insubordination that creates most of the country’s serious political problems. Washington worries too much about other things in Pakistan and too little about the sheer power of the military. United States analysts often express fears about an internal fundamentalist challenge to the chiefs of staff. The main issue, however, is not that Pakistan’s military is too weak, but that it is too strong.”

Dumping money on the Pakistani military has not only failed to provide any real solution to terrorism, but probably helped strengthen the hand of the major destabilizing force in Pakistani political life. There will be no “stamping out” of the Taliban via a military alliance with Pakistan because the combat boots that do the stomping often support the Taliban, hence their firing on American troops when American troops tried to pursue the Taliban across the Afghan/Pakistan border. Cole continues:

If Pakistan — and Pakistani-American relations — are to have a chance, it will lie in the incoming Obama administration doing everything it can to strengthen the civilian political establishment and ensure that the military remains permanently in its barracks. The military needs to be excluded from political power, and it needs to learn to take orders from a civilian president. At the same time, Obama should follow through on his commitment to commit serious diplomatic resources to helping resolve the long-festering Kashmir issue.

Obama may be talking the way he’s talking out of political expediency, “looking tough” for the cameras while actually comprehending and planning to deal with the nuances of the internal politics of Pakistan. Robert Gates, whom I thought Obama was wrong to keep on as Defense Secretary, said recently:

“Over the long term, the United States cannot kill or capture its way to victory,” Mr. Gates wrote. “Where possible, what the military calls kinetic operations should be subordinated to measures aimed at promoting better governance, economic programs that spur development, and efforts to address the grievances among the discontented, from whom the terrorists recruit. It will take the patient accumulation of quiet successes over a long time to discredit and defeat extremist movements and their ideologies.”

The fact that Obama keeps this pro-Iraq-escalation SecDef around gives me a slight ray of hope that he gets more than his interviews betray, but if we’re to believe that Obama runs the show and Gates will take the orders he’s given, we should be listening primarily to what Obama says, not Gates. Obama’s statements have me worried that for all the ways he will exceed President Bush, he has not rejected the basic assumption that the violence of the United States or our allies will protect us from terrorism. If that’s the case, Change will have changed all too little.


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