On the ideas that follow us, one decade to the next….

Detente’s greatest achievement was the opening of consistent contact between the United States and the USSR in the early 1970s—a gradually intensifying engagement on many levels and in many areas that, as it grew over the years, would slowly but widely open the Soviet Union to information, contacts, and ideas from the West and would facilitate an ongoing East-West dialogue that would influence the thinking of many Soviet officials and citizens.

From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider’s Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War by Robert M. Gates. (I am currently reading this book).

Indeed Washington’s on-again off-again attention to the region, driven by relatively short term developments like the Soviet-Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the war against terror, makes Iranian and Chinese overtures appealing to Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Myanmar.

A Sino-Persian grab for the Indian Ocean? by Jamsheed K. Choksy (Small Wars Journal)

Earlier this month the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, twisted his mouth into the shape of a pretzel to explain why it was okay for the U.S. to support Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal but not okay to support North Korea’s arsenal and Iran’s nuclear ambitions. He also saw no problem with the United States as much declaring war on India when he sympathized with Pakistan’s need to use nuclear weapons against India in order to feel safe.
Then Americans wonder why Pyongyang and Tehran laugh at Washington’s lectures on nuclear proliferation. The leaders of both regimes have been doing clandestine nuke business with Pakistan for decades. They know Pakistan is the biggest nuclear weapons proliferator on the planet — and so does Mullen, who is the highest ranking military officer in the USA and as such is the principal military advisor to the President of the United States, the National Security Council, and the Secretary of Defense.
That’s not the half of the double standard America has practiced with regard to Pakistan. Barely a day goes by that the American news media doesn’t warn of the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran because of the regime’s end-of-time religious views, which American news analyst John Batchelor has termed “hallucinatory.”
It doesn’t get more hallucinatory than the views of Pakistani media mogul, Majeed Nizami, the owner of the Nawa-i-Waqt, The Nation, and Waqt TV channel. During a recent speech at a function given in his honor he declared that Pakistan’s missiles and nuclear bombs were superior to “India’s ghosts,” and that unleashing nuclear war against India was imperative. “Don’t worry if a couple of our cities are also destroyed in the process.”
That would be the same Nation newspaper that cites the United States government as being behind every terrorist incident in the world, including the Times Square attack.
If you think Nizami is an isolated nut case, you don’t know much about him, or Pakistan. He is the true face of the most powerful factions in Pakistan including its military leaders.
But in the view of the U.S. government and news media it’s okay for Pakistan’s military to hold hallucinatory views whereas it’s not okay for Iran’s leaders because, well, because.
It’s the same for anti-Semitic views that abound in Pakistan. In the same article that discussed Nizami’s view that nuclear Armageddon was the ticket to peace in South Asia, Pakistani journalist Shakil Chaudhary reported on a June 18 column in Nizami’s Nawa-i-Waqt paper in which Lt. Gen. Abdul Qayyum (ret), former chairman of Pakistan Steel Mills, approvingly quoted Adolph Hitler as saying: “I could have annihilated all the Jews in the world, but I left some of them so that you can know why I was killing them.”

He ain’t heavy, he’s my genocidal, hallucinatory, two-faced ‘ally’ by blogger Pundita.

Why do you suppose certain factions in DC appear so adamant on retaining Pakistan as a “strategic asset” post 9-11 and post Abbottabad? CBz blogger Joseph Fouche recently posted a nice piece about the tendency for some to see patterns and intrigues when mere muddle may well explain reality. Sadly, I am prone to this….

So what exactly is our muddle? Is what I’ve posted above overstated and alarmist? State and USAID want to keep its various lucrative aid programs? The Pentagon/DOD want to keep its favorite “proxy” Army for future use against any kind of “sino-islamic” alliance – or Russia or Iran? Tons of money (supposedly….take all of this with a grain of salt) sloshing around DC from various foreign entities, such as the Saudis or the Pak Mil/ISI? Plain old strategic “incompetence” typical of a big, energetic and free-wheeling democracy?

What other rationales might be keeping warring DC factions up at night? Placating the Saudis and keeping the oil flowing? Monitoring Pakistani nukes? (Okay, this one for sure). Preventing even more proliferation via Pakistani-Saudi transfers?

The world is three dimensional and complicated with various currents pulling our policy makers in different directions. I’d be delighted to hear creative thinking on any of these topics by one of the Republican presidential candidates. Your thoughts? Opinions? Relevent anecdotes, articles, films, or books?

Help a gal out, people.

7 thoughts on “On the ideas that follow us, one decade to the next….”

  1. And on that thread CBZ blog leader Jonathan posted the following:

    It’s always been a question of relative costs, not double standards.

    We invaded Iraq because Iraq was dangerous, we wanted to punish Saddam Hussein, and there appeared to be no less-costly alternative to invasion.

    We haven’t attacked Iran, because while Iran appears to be dangerous the cost of military action by us appears to be high, and we have held out hopes for the effectiveness of less-violent alternatives.

    Similarly, we haven’t attacked Saudi Arabia, because we think that we can protect our interests more cheaply by coopting rather than conquering the Saudis.

    And similarly, we have avoided treating Pakistan as an enemy, because we thought that we could do better by maintaining a nominally friendly relationship while keeping an eye on Pakistani Islamists and nukes.

    These have been our rationales and they all make sense. (Whether they have been optimal is a separate question.) We can’t undo wars but we can change our policies as conditions change. The public and wonks alike increasingly think that our relationship with Pakistan no longer serves our interests. Maybe we’ll get it together in time to avoid a debacle.

    The most logical but also the most depressing rationale. We are completely unaware at how bad we are at all of this….

    – Madhu

  2. I suspect there is still a lingering memory of the days when India was an enemy and Pakistan was the helpless victim of Indian plotting. Read “Advice and Consent” by Allan Drury to get the feeling. The older generation of foreign policy mandarins in this country, most of them Democrats, has, like the Bourbons, learned nothing and forgotten nothing since Vietnam.

    India, after all, is free market, a persuasion that is vaguely suspect to the old timers. Pakistan is that most comfortable of allies to them, a kleptocracy and military junta.

  3. MK:

    I think there is some truth to the idea that bureaucracies prefer working with other bureaucracies. I mean, it’s easier in the short term to rent services. In the long term, this has show to be problematic at times….

    This article covers some of why there may be an eagerness to retain an old strategic ally. “Important” borders and stuff like that.

    Funny. I thought people were supposed to focus on saving current American lives, not just plan for future contigencies.


    In addition, polling data suggest that public support for the United States in Pakistan is astonishingly low, civil-military relations are dominated by the military, and elements of the military support the Taliban along with a range of other Islamist militant groups. Because Pakistan has more than 100 nuclear weapons, is currently building them more rapidly than any country on the planet, and already has a population larger than Russia, it is fair to say that U.S.-Pakistan relations should be a high priority.1 In fact, an argument can be made that the association with Pakistan is the most difficult partnership the United States has tried to manage since its alliance with the Soviet Union in World War II.

    The only problem is we have historically – and continue on this – mismanaged things badly.

    Who knows? Maybe even 9-11 is in some part related to that mismanagement. Wonder what declassified documents decades from now will show?

    I’m rambling at any rate and I think I’ve bored our CBz audience with all of this.

    Can’t help it. I tend to take a single issue and “drill down”. That’s just my personality. I know, I know….

    – Madhu

  4. Firstly, prior to the 1980s, the Indians were rather solidly in the Soviet camp. Their entire leadership class had been educated as European socialist who really did take all the Soviet anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist propaganda at face value. The Indian military was built around Soviet technology. After the Soviets and Mao fell out, India began to view China as its primary threat (they fought several border skirmishes) and India clearly viewed the Soviets as more reliable allies against China than the Western world. As a result of all this, India rather consistently took the Soviet side of things up until the invasion of Afghanistan.

    Since the 80s, India has progressively shrugged off its European socialism and become more open, free and prosperous. As a result, it has become a much better ally than anyone else in the region.

    Secondly, Pakistan isn’t really a country except by convention. It is an agglomeration of ethnic, religious, regional and dynastic groups squeezed together by the surrounding polities. We have from time to time allied ourselves with this or that subgroup but at no time have we allied ourselves with “Pakistan.”

    Our “muddled” attitude towards Pakistan and other similar “countries” arises from their lack of true internal cohesion. These “countries” lack any true institutions or laws. Everything is personal and family based. Making a deal with them is akin to going back in time to the era of the War of the Roses and trying to make a deal with “England” by talking to senior members of either the House of Lancaster or the House of York.

    We always get in trouble by deluding ourselves that a “country” on a map actually has all the institutions and behaviors of a Western European descended country does. Most of the time they don’t and we are really dealing with this or that faction or group and our entire house of diplomatic cards will tumble down when one particular individual has a heart attack.

  5. I would also note, cynically, that a big swath of the Washington establishment basis all its power on its ablity to jawbone other nations. They self-interestedly push the idea that treaties and agreements with these factional “countries” have real value that all we need to do is come up with the right combination of slick words and bribes to keep the good times rolling.

    If enough people in America ever decide that all these dialogs don’t produce any real good for anybody, a lot of currently powerful people are out of a job.

  6. Shannon – great points as usual. Although, I will say that our attempts to play one Pakistani faction off the other usually, er, blow up in our face. In matter of fact, the Army controls things pretty well so it is a unitary actor in the ways that harm our interests.

    Regarding your second comment: you are not being overly cynical. I swear, we need a Tea Party for foreign policy. The more I dig around, the more DC bureaucracies seem implicated in our poor decision making. Or at the very least, wasting tons of money on overseas foolishness.

    I am going to make a few notes here in comments so that I may retrieve the links as needed:

    As new Wikileaks reports indicate, despite the help of Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q Khan in building Iran’s post-revolution nuclear program, some top Pakistani officials do not want Iran to become a nuclear armed power. The Pakistani leadership, wishing for their country to remain the only nuclear Islamic state, cooperated with George W. Bush’s efforts against Iranian nuclear development.


    I bet you this nonsense worked on a number of naive Bush administration officials. Hate to say it, but I’m sure that happened to some extent. Pakistan as intermediary is a comfortable place for many of our foreign policy elite – right and left both. (Hate to say it, but some on the right are particularly susceptible. It’s embarrassing).

    Instapundit links to a powerline guest post by Pete Hegseth, whom I admire, but who repeats quite a few canards, IMO.

    “We have to deal with Pakistan in this matter because they have nuclear weapons. If they didn’t, the entire U.S.-Pakistan dynamic would be different. Instead, the most violent and dangerous Islamic insurgents in the world preside in Pakistan, and we are forced to tap dance around the Durand Line.”




    Nope, sorry. I don’t entirely buy that and I think there is evidence that argues against what I would call a foreign policy canard. If you are so worried about nuclear weapons and radicals, you don’t stuff a regime full of aid and then keep absolutely no track of where the money is going. We thought contracting with Musharraff was good enough because we’d done it before, generally speaking, and we prioritized Iran not getting weapons. I can get with that (if one Pakistan-as-proliferator and proxy-generator is bad, two are worse), but we screwed it up because of our old cozy relationships. He played a double game but even where he didn’t, you just can’t work that angle.

    There are too many drivers to radicalism and proliferation outside our weak so-called leverages and “controls.”

    – Madhu

Comments are closed.