Bolder Initiatives Needed on Pakistan Floods


Angelina Jolie has traveled to Pakistan in her role as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, donated $100,000 for flood victim relief and issued the public service annoucement above.
I strongly support what she and others like Richard Holbrooke, George Soros, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are doing in trying to raise the profile of this crisis. But even with Clinton and Holbrooke on board, the U.S. government is still not doing as much as it should in terms of contributing at a systemic level to helping the Pakistanis and Indians turn this nightmare into a strategically significant trust-building event.
David Rothkopf has written a compelling call for bolder initiatives related to the Indus River Valley and how to use this as both a way to provide vital relief and to change the toxic political dynamics in the region.
In particular, Rothkopf anticipating President Obama’s coming trip to India writes:

The U.S. and the international community have responded generously in the wake of the Pakistan flood crisis. America’s $7.5 billion aid effort* is a step in the right direction. But it is only a tiny fraction of the several tens of billions that are needed to better manage and preserve the water resources in this fragile, vital region. Further, it is clear that money alone will not solve the problem. Existing treaty relationships between India and Pakistan on the use of the water from the Indus are being strained to breaking by dam projects and shifting demand.
Perhaps this is one of those moments where it might be possible to harness the awareness raised by the current disaster and the sensitivities heightened by rising tensions to produce a different kind of response, one that if managed properly could also produce much larger benefits.
Few relationships on the planet are as important or as potentially dangerous as that between India and Pakistan. Further, as we have seen in Afghanistan or in the recent Mumbai terror attacks, it is a relationship with growing ramifications and multiplying risks. Seeking to stabilize it — daunting a prospect as that seems given its history — must be a top foreign policy priority for all the world’s powers.
Further, for the United States, for whom both countries are increasingly important to a host of our international interests, playing an active role in resolving this distant and growing resource crisis is not only in our direct national interest, it could be a model for helping to address a proliferating set of similar challenges that seem likely in the very near future.
*TWN notes that only $50 million of this five year, $7.5 billion total package of US aid has been authorized for flood relief.

The U.S. response needs to be more pivotal and robust. This crisis will be remembered for generations by Pakistanis — and the long term positives that could emanate from a robust, humanitarian response combined with an international TVA-like commitment to managing this watershed could neutralize the current high-fear, tense regional dynamic.
Recently when I ran into Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke, he mentioned the texting “donate option” to Pakistan flood victims through the UNHCR which Angelina Jolie mentions above, but it is:

Text “SWAT” to 50555 to donate $10 to UNHCR for urgent flood relief in Pakistan

More soon.
— Steve Clemons


6 comments on “Bolder Initiatives Needed on Pakistan Floods

  1. Don Bacon says:

    Alienating a few friends? Pakistanis hate the US. Pew Global Report, July 2010: “Roughly six-in-ten (59%) Pakistanis describe the U.S. as an enemy, while just 11% say it is a partner.” I guess you mean the 11%.


  2. JohnH says:

    RIP: US Strategic Opportunity in Pakistan Flooding Relief.


  3. Don Bacon says:

    It’s not like the USA actually has the money, or that Pakistan with a GDP of $166 billion is less broke than the USA (current account balance: Pakistan -$6bn, USA -$380bn). –wiki
    Pakistan is the primary client of China, not the USA, and China has put up a pittance for flood relief for their neighboring client country. So Uncle Sam gets taken to the cleaners once again, this time for a country on the other side of the world that supports the killing of US troops.


  4. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Oh, and why the hell not??? I’m sure some corrupt son-of-a-bitch would LOVE to see us pour money into another foreign bottomless pit where the natives will see but a small portion of our largess.
    And Holy Cow, its not like anyone HERE needs the money since we now know what a non-event the Gulf spill was. Hell, we oughta nominate that little Napoleonic shithead Hayward for Sainthood!
    Fuck yeah, maybe we can put Bremer back to work and have him manage the funds, I mean hey, we might as well give him a second chance at building a nation of corporate maggots, eh? Besides, we made ‘ol Musharif rich to the tune of ten million a month so he could harbor Taliban bigwigs, so why not spread the wealth around some??? Perhaps we should pay off the ISI for their role in 9/11 too, eh?? I mean gee, did Mahmud Ahmed ever get a paycheck from us for helping to sponsor Atta???
    Count me in. But is it ok if you use my money earmarked for Israel and divert it to Pakistan???? I realize that its not as exciting to buy tents and bandaids as it is to buy clusterbombs and white phosphorous, but hey, lets give it a shot. By the time the money runs through the gambit, and everybody’s taken their cut, we oughta be able to buy a tent or two, eh???


  5. Don Bacon says:

    Never before has the USA openly partnered with and given substantial financial support to a country that is engaged in supporting the killing of US troops.
    From General Stanley McChrystal’s assessment report of Aug 30, 2009: “Afghanistan’s insurgency is clearly supported from Pakistan. . .and are reportedly aided by some elements of Pakistan’s ISI [Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence ].”
    Some call it treason.


  6. Warren Metzler says:

    I object to Mr. Rothkopf. To use infrastructure aid to get governments to operate the way you want is no different than to use military force and military aid to achieve the same goal. It is time the US wakes up, looks at the history of all such government actions (ours and other countries throughout history), and recognize it never works as intended.
    Just as each person is unique, and makes all her choices as a result of her inner workings, so each country (being a collection of persons) is unique and makes all her decisions based on the collective mind-sets of its population. The sooner we give up trying to form the world in the image of our “brilliant” foreign policy types, and military types; doing so because we realize it is always wasted efforts, and that our desires are never visions of reality; the sooner the world will begin to move in a direction of facilitating all people to achieve their full potentials.
    If, from a purely generous heart, our government decides to donate an infrastructure project, great. But not from a “we get to be as we wish” view. That always backfires.


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