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Europe has no Pakistan Policy, US has a Bad One

Former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer writes in the Turkish paper Today’s Zaman:
“US policy toward Pakistan is also dangerously shortsighted and reminiscent of the mistakes the US made in Iran prior to the 1979 Islamic revolution. Nevertheless, the US at least has a Pakistan policy -- which is more than can be said about NATO and Europe. In fact, it is all but incomprehensible that while the future of NATO is being decided in the Hindu Kush Mountains, and while thousands of European soldiers stationed there are risking their lives, Pakistan is not given any role in NATO’s plans and calculations.”
How successful has US policy been?  President Musharraf’s decision to implement martial law--despite US pleas for him not to--has deeply frustrated US policymakers, and set the impetus for the US to modify its Pakistan policy.  Part of this modification is to create a $750 million five-year civilian aid package, to be added to the more than $1 billion in military aid already given to Pakistan annually.  However, the New York Times reports concern in the US Congress about how effective the aid will be:
Weeks before it is to begin, an ambitious American aid plan to counter militancy in Pakistan’s tribal areas is threatened by important unresolved questions about who will monitor the money and whether it could fall into the wrong hands.”
I am not sure which is worse: having no Pakistan policy as Fischer contends is the case for Europe, or having a bad one?  I also wonder whether the new US aid package offers a real change in Pakistan policy at all: is adding more aid to an already bounteous supply going to increase US influence in Pakistan? 

I suppose the argument is that civilian aid will be different from military aid, because it will “win hearts and minds.”

This was exactly the case made by
US presidential candidate Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) in an article he wrote for The Huffington Post back in November.  He argued that military aid to Pakistan should be contingent on sound policy choices from Pakistan’s leadership, while civilian aid should be separate and unconditional so as to demonstrate to the people of Pakistan that the US supports them regardless of how reckless the leadership is. 


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Pamela on :

Well, not unexpectedly, they assassinated Bhutto. Pakistan is a failed state. I'd be more than willing to criticize the Bush admin's policy toward Pakistan as a bad one - the problem is that I have no idea what a GOOD one would look like. gah.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

"They assassinated Bhutto." Since this is Pakistan: "They" could be just about anybody. To be frank: I did not expect much from her. She was not good for Pakistan in the past, and would not have saved Pakistan either. Or is that too harsh, considering she was just assassinated? How PC are we these days? "I have no idea what a GOOD one would look like." Me neither. It is a tough one. Therefore the lack of comments, I guess. I wonder how many experts are thinking hard about Pakistan. It seems there is more interest and more concern about a relatively stable country that might get nuclear weapons in ten years (Iran) than about country that is very unstable and has plenty of nukes. Hasn't Obama said a few month ago that the US should invade Pakistan? Or maybe it was "just" about crossing the border to hunt al-Qaeda. If US special forces are as great as US pundits claim all the time, then they should steal the nukes. This time, Europe would not complain about a violation of international law. Europe did not complain about Israel bombing Syria either. In fact nobody really complained... So, hopefully, US special forces, MacGyver, Spiderman and Jack Bauer have already taken Pakistani nukes out of the country to a safe place. And everybody, incl. the Pakistanis stay quiet about it. Just like Syria has not complained... Hmm, I guess, this is just wishful thinking and MacGyver is still in retired?

SC on :

Joerg, Obama spoke of hot pursuit by US forces into the semi-autonomous tribal regions of the northwestern part of Pakistan. The Pakistanis have made clear that they would consider this an invasion; as indeed it would be. As for stealing Pakistani nuclear weapons there is this: On the news reports this evening it was stated that the US has designed the security for the weapons which are stored disassembled - assuming they haven't squirreled away a few surprises. Theft is made that much more difficult. But this is only a part of the problem. Even if the weapons could be stolen or destroyed there remains the proven capacity of the enrichment facilities they have. Only an all-out military strike is likely to incapacitate this production capacity, but an all-out strike would likely radicalize an even larger percentage of the population - most importantly among the military, security, and scientific (think A.Q.Kahn and friends) circles. It's only a guess, but the fear of a Talibanized Pakistan with access to the wealth, infrastructure and capacity inherent in the country brings a cold sweat to brow of many in Washington. This may be the classic case of the old adage of Sun-Tzu that you "keep your friends close, and your enemies closer". And by the way, McGyver was last seen doing commercials, I think.:)

joe on :

Europe and Germany’s Pakistan policy? Why would Europe or Germany need such a policy? Pakistan is not a threat and besides if you have a policy then there is a degree of responsibility or at least being in a position to receive criticism, neither of which is good. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier recently stated there is not yet any concrete risk of nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands, but said efforts should focus on preventing that from occurring. I wonder what Germany is going to do to prevent this from happening.

Pamela on :

Obama did suggest cross-border incursions into Pakistan to root out the bad guys. That caused some pompous outrage. Too bad we're already doing it. ;). I have no idea who did this, altho AQ has already claimed responsibility. Who benefits from civil war in Pakistan? Certainly the Taliban and AQ in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Taliban in Pakistan are headed up by some guy named Mehsud. They're not having an easy war and they need modern infrastructure of some reasonable caliber to operate. Islamabad has to look like Paris after the wilds of Warizstan province. However, the threat of civil unrest gives Mushariff an excuse to really clamp down. Apparently earlier in the day there was an attempt on another politican's life, whose name escapes me at the moment, so this shows some larger coordination than just taking out Bhutto. I agree Joerg, she would not have been good for Pakistan. If Mushariff can't get a grip on ISI, she certainly would not have. She's more useful as a martyr than she ever would have been as PM. She made my teeth itch talking about Pakistan's poor, given all the money she stole. I'm sorry for the people of Pakistan. I've worked with quite a few over the years and liked each and every one very much. As far as the nukes go - well, one screw up on that front and New Delhi will start delivering some bottled sunshine. It doesn't take a genius to guess that all military leave in India is cancelled for the forseeable future. What a mess.

SC on :

Pamela, I think you're right to think that US forces have operated in the black in the northwest tribal areas and I suspect Bhutto's tough talk on the terrorism and perceived close ties to Washington made her a prime target given that she was expected to do well in the elections. The ISI is THE problem: compromised and corrupt they've had their hands in everything from the decades long civil war in Kashmir, to the nuclear network of A.Q.Kahn, to the Talibanization of Afghanistan, to the continued existence of AQ. And yet, Western powers have no doubt compromised them too. Since I suspect the current policy toward Pakistan may be about as good as it gets, the questions that interest me are these: At what point are the benefits outweighed by disadvantages in the relationship between the US and Pakistan? What would US policy in South Asia and security policy generally look like with Pakistan outside the Pale?

Pamela on :

"At what point are the benefits outweighed by disadvantages in the relationship between the US and Pakistan? What would US policy in South Asia and security policy generally look like with Pakistan outside the Pale?" The benefits are outweighed by the disadvantages under 2 circumstances; Sharif is elected (he's an Islamist): or Pakistan descends into civil war. If either of those conditions obtain, US policy will be a moot point. It will be India calling the shots. The most obvious US move would be to redeploy forces from Iraq to Afghanistan to protect the border, such as it is. Musharraf really needs to grow a pair, and fast.

Pamela on :

Ah. The other assassination attempt was against Sharif, the man Musharraf overthrew and who has also just returned from exile. I'm seeing reports that all flights are cancelled, military are in the streets, much unrest. (Note to self: Make a decision on how to spell Musharraf's name already.) I'm seeing conflicting reports about whether or not elections will go forward on Jan 8.

Kyle - Atlantic Review on :

"I'm seeing conflicting reports about whether or not elections will go forward on Jan 8." My guess is that Musharraf will take any opportunity that he can portray as legitimate to cancel the elections. So long as he can have a justification, any postponement on elections is continued guaranteed rule for him. US presidential candidate Governor Bill Richardson put out an email today with this statement: "Ms. Bhutto's death is a heartbreaking blow, and she will be mourned by freedom-loving people the world over. Pakistan has lost a visionary leader, but the torch of democracy lit by Ms. Bhutto still shines as bright as ever. The Pakistani people will carry on that torch in her memory. I know you share my sincere hope that the United States will take the lead in helping Pakistan forge a true path to democracy. Our next President must diligently pursue efforts to ensure that the dream that Benazir Bhutto gave her life for is realized." It is interesting he committed an entire email to the Pakistan situation... showing that perhaps he will place a lot of emphasis on the country, as is probably needed. Of course, he uses abstract language like "Our next President must diligently pursue efforts to ensure that the dream that Benazir Bhutto gave her life for is realized"... I am not sure how he proposes to actually do this?

Anonymous on :

I agree with you re: how Musharraf will play this. Especially now that Sharif has said he will boycott the elections. Musharraf has no one running against him now unless the PPP can come up with another sacrificial lamb in a hurry. As for Richardson, no one cares what he has to say and he knows it. Consequently, he can say anything and no one will hold him accountable for the practical implications. Eunichs at a gang bang, the lot of them. Bhutto was not a visionary, she was a member of an elite kleptocracy, and she didn't give her life - it was taken from her. What's being played out here in the U.S. at the moment is an email she sent some people back in October, laying this on Musharraf by default as he somehow was negligent in providing the necessary security. Well, she also wanted Scotland Yard and the FBI to investigate the last attempt on her life that killed over 100 people by using a baby as a human grenade. She wasn't stupid. Let's blame Scotland Yard and the FBI. One might, if one were so inclined, ask why such a 'visionary' was willing to create situations in which any reasonable person could anticipate innocent people not only would be endangered but actually slaughtered. Bhutto did not deserve to be murdered. But I don't mourn her. At. All.

Pamela on :

I mistakenly posted the above anonymously - apologies.

pen Name on :

You have correctly described Bee-Nazeer Bhutto. She was not her father; now that man was a visionary and a (small) step in the right direction for Pakistan. As far as I can tell, the Pakistan Military was behind her murder. That military are dominated by Punjabis. They do not like Sindhis ["Sindhis are shitty people."]. And Bhuttos were Sindhis. Additionally, the Military is now fully peneterated by the rigid and narrow-minded Sunni Fundamentalist Generals of neo-salafi ilk. The same people who have been protecting Osam Bin Ladin and other Al Qaeda members so far. Undoubtedly, Sharif has been a Saudi man and much liked by the Military. The muder of Bhutto is helpful to Saudi agenda as well. Pakistan is riven by linguistic and religious divisions - Punjabi, Oathan, Baluch, Sindhi, Nuristani, Muhajir - Shia, Sunni, Ahmadi, (Lahore) Ahmadi, Christain, Sikh, and others. The country side is semi-feudal in the manner of Bihar in India with landless peasants and rich landlords. Limited land reform over since 1970s has not fundamentally altered the situation in the country side. As of now, there is the Baluch insurgency against the government, the Shia-Sunni murder-revenge feud, and the Pathan vs. government insurgency. Additionally, there is also the Muhajir vs. "native" political agitation, the landless peasant frustration, and the grinding poverty of the cities with not much hope. US & EU have very little influence inside Pakistan. I do not think that there will be Civil War in Pakistan as long as the Military can hold together and does not think that it is fighting against the people. That point is not yet reached and will not unless and until some political movement can bring hundreds of thousands into the streets demanding change and then only if they are fired upon by the military forces. I do not see this possibility since there is no such movement in Pakistan that can bring everyone together against the ISI and the Military demanding a new dispensation for Pakistan.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

I have a lot of respect for Richardson. I thought that he is one of the presidential candidates with the most foreign policy experience, but I am having second thoughts, when he says: "Pakistan has lost a visionary leader, but the torch of democracy lit by Ms. Bhutto still shines as bright as ever."

Pamela on :

" I thought that he is one of the presidential candidates with the most foreign policy experience" The man is an idiot and a tedious one at that. He also called for Musharraf to step down. Who does he want to replace him? There's a big difference between having 10 years of foreign policy experience and having the same year's experience 10 times.

Don S on :

"but I am having second thoughts, when he says: "Pakistan has lost a visionary leader, but the torch of democracy lit by Ms. Bhutto still shines as bright as ever."" Bhutto was the best of several bad (or at least imperfect) alternatives. There are no virgins in this kind of thing, but Bhutto was the candidate of the Pakistani 'moderates'. The point Pamela made above asking what a GOOD policy would look like was well-made. It's not the only such situation by a long ways - think about EU aid to Mugabe & Zimbawe or EU aid to the Palestine Authority. I hope the election is postponed to give the former Bhuttoites time to field a ticket. They remain the ebst hope for that country.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

"I hope the election is postponed to give the former Bhuttoites time to field a ticket." Bhutto's will states that her 19 years old son should succeed her... Yeah, great.

Don S on :

Yeah, I agree Joerg. These family-based political parties aren't the thing, are they? Of course the US is one to talk, except that there really is a choice in the US. But access to father's or husband's rolodex is a real advantage....

Kyle - Atlantic Review on :

If you didn't catch it, Foreign Policy has an article about Pakistan. ( The author, John McCreary, did a very good job of stating just how gloomy the whole situation in Pakistan is. And again, did not provide any solidy policy proposals that I could detect. As a couple people have pointed out in these comments, defining what the right Pakistan policy should be is a whole lot harder than complaining about the current policy. Here is how John McCreary concluded his article: "here are only two possible outcomes for Pakistan now, both of which involve Musharraf taking action that brings about his own death or overthrow. One is a praetorian coup from within the military; the other is a popular uprising. Either can result from his mishandling of an important national issue, such as secession by a district or province. You can bet the corps commanders of the Pakistani Army are already calculating the costs and benefits of five more years of Musharraf. Despite the riots in Sindh, there are no signs of a widespread uprising. The most likely scenario is for popular unrest to prompt the Army to oust Musharraf to stabilize the country. (This is how Suharto was overthrown in Indonesia in 1998.) Musharraf has poor judgment and is prone to be more dictatorial and capricious than Pakistanis accept. He will blunder again and thus become the agent of his own political or physical demise. The only question is, will the United States see it coming?" I am not sure these are the only two possible outcomes, although perhaps they are the most likely? For example, Musharraf could still lose the elections, or he could win and stay in power for another 5 years sans assassination/coup.

Pat Patterson on :

Unless my maps are wrong the place of PM Bhutto's assassination, Liaquat Bagh Park, is only a few hundred yards from the prison where her father, Zulfika ali Bhutto, was executed. Rawalpindi was also the headquarters of the PNA which was made up of Islamists and communists (seems they hated Bhutto enough to cooperate for a period of time) violently opposed to the first Bhutto's election as he was seen as a sell-out to India, corrupt and too wordly. This was not a PPP electoral stronghold and she had participated in many other large rallies, once martial law was lifeted, with no incidents. The one city where she and the memory of her father was hated seems the most unlikely place for the PPP to hold a rally. Echoing above, what a mess!

Mr. Bingley on :

You're right to reconsider Richardson. Let’s not puff Bhutto up to be some virgin paragon Queen of Democratic Purity; she was every bit ‘one of the boys’, a ruthless politician who was implicated in the deaths of both of her brothers and had massive amounts of corruption attached to her rule...and that’s what truly scared/infuriated the hardline islamists, as she showed a woman could be equal to a man in every way that mattered to them.

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