The Side of Pakistan that Infuriates


News that Pakistan has detained five of its citizens who allegedly gave information assists to US efforts to track down and kill Osama bin Laden raises fundamental questions about the solvency of Pakistan’s government and course. These five individuals deserve honors, not harassment.
There have long been doubts about Pakistan’s commitment to rid itself and its region of the scourge of violent, transnational Islamic terrorists — and now in the aftermath of bin Laden’s death, Pakistan seems to be confirming these suspicions by going after those who helped successfully shut down bin Laden.
These trends are worrisome — and America’s Afghanistan War only enhances the strategic dependence of the US and allied forces on Pakistan.
America must draw down the Afghanistan War not only to diminish the sense that the military is fatigued and over-stretched but because it removes constraints on Pakistan’s behavior.
Pakistan is not a rogue state – yet – and there are many in the political and military leadership who are clearly on the side of what is right in trying to tackle Islamic extremism inside the country. However, the US needs more freedom of movement and more options to be able to impose costs for episodes like the detention of those who cooperated in helping to take out bin Laden.
The US cannot gain leverage or get more latitude with Pakistan as long as Pakistan controls the choke points of America’s Afghan War.
— Steve Clemons


10 comments on “The Side of Pakistan that Infuriates

  1. Mathew says:

    Invert Steve’s logic. Imagine it’s 1985. The MI5 and the SAS team up to hunt down IRA gun runners in the United States, including American citizens. Five Americans, of British descent, help provide operational details (movements, locations, and security info) to MI5/SAS on these IRA gun-runners. Almost daily, the SAS kills some of these gun-runners, but unfortunately also kills American civilians, including school children, in predominately Irish-American neighborhoods. Her Majesty’s Government apologizes for the killing the civilians but there is really no way that the gun-runners can be targeted without an undue risk to the SAS, so civilian casualties are regretable, but necessary. The SAS prefer to kill from long distance to reduce the threat to their own men.
    The FBI announces an arrest of the five British-Americans for assisting the SAS. In particular, the FBI focuses on the death of innocent American civilians.
    Amazingly, the British government expresses outrage that America would interfere with their efforts to stamp out terrorism.


  2. Tank Man says:

    Steve, I don’t know where to begin other than to say you are
    out to lunch and drinking the kool-aid! There is plenty to be
    upset with Pakistan over, but detaining alleged traitors/spies
    is not one of them. What country wouldn’t take action against
    citizens collaborating with a foreign power to invade and
    conduct operations which leave them looking like complicit
    incompetent fools for all the world to see?
    Disappointing…you’re better than this rah-rah neo-con Fox
    like analysis.


  3. Bill Pearlman says:

    India is out natural ally here. Pakistan has been playing both sides since the beginning.


  4. rc says:

    I think we might find the change in Pakistan towards the US is running much deeper than many think.
    It is a shame-based culture (do a google) and the loss of face created by the bin laden elimination action is fundamental and organic.
    This recent NYT headline “Pakistan


  5. non-hater says:

    Arguably the US is the rogue state in this case, sending troops unasked into a foreign country to assassinate someone.
    And while it’s not clear to me at all what anyone in Pakistan has or hasn’t done, Pakistan certainly would not be acting in a extraordinary manner if it is questioning a military service member or other government employee that has worked with a foreign state without authorization. People have a right to freedom of thought and expression and action, but it’s not unlimited, and it’s certainly a lot more limited in the case of military service members.


  6. JohnH says:

    It appears that reality is finally settling in both Washington and Islamabad. Washington has long funded Pakistani elites to act against their own national interests. But that is an inherently untenable position over the long term. Now the chickens are coming home to roost.
    As NYU Professor Stephen F. Cohen explains in the Nation, one of the failings of the reset [with Russia] is the “enduring conceit of “selective cooperation,” or seeking Moscows’s support for America’s vital interests wile disregarding Russia’s…As NSC adviser on Russia and reportedly the next US Ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul explained, ‘We’re going to see if there are ways we have have Russia cooperate on those things that we define as our nation interests, but we don’t want to trade with them'”
    Pakistani leaders probably understand Moscow’s reaction well. In fact, Washington’s tendency to micro-manage “sovereign” states is becoming increasingly obvious and odious:
    1- Washington has been active in assuring that both the right President and the right Senators got “elected” in Haiti.
    2- Former Honduran President Zelaya has said that the US Ambassador sought to appoint Zelaya’s cabinet for him.
    3- Formation of a new government in Lebanon was been held up for months by US veto power over the composition of the cabinet.
    The pattern is clear–the US presumes authority to disregard the national interests of others and manage their affairs for them and for the interests of Israel and of US corporations.
    As long as Washington is determined to treat other countries as vassal states rather than partners, we can expect a Pakistani-style backlash against Washington arrogance to spread.
    As a realist, Steve should not have been at all surprised by the reaction of the Pakistanis. They are simply doing what sovereign states should be expected to do. What is surprising is that Steve seems to think that foreign nations should function to pursue US interests without regard for their own.


  7. sanitychecker says:

    I hate it, too, when quislings stop behaving like quislings! Who do those people think they are? Next thing you know, they’ll tell us Pakistan is a sovereign independent country. The nerve!


  8. Cato the Censor says:

    Mr. Clemons:
    Among other things in your post you say:
    “These five individuals deserve honors, not harassment.”
    The excerpt below is from Juan Cole’s blog entry for today and provides a less US-centric view of the situation:
    “The US covert activities in Pakistan have become public and are unpopular among the public, just as the US would not react positively to being spied on, bombed and having rogue operations go bad on city streets


  9. questions says:

    Gates, from WaPo:
    “Gates responded that based on his 27 years at the CIA and more than four as Pentagon chief,


  10. questions says:

    Here’s my pasted in comment about Pakistan from below somewhere….
    Pakistan’s arrests of CIA informants is profoundly interesting. Is this for internal show, is it to teach the US a lesson? Is it internal governance concerns? You can’t really run a gov’t if everyone is leaking stuff all the time, and you can’t really ever run “Pakistan” as currently formulated. Wonder if this was worked out in private, or if it’s really a surprise. With our oddball relations with Pakistan, who knows.
    In light of your comment, I would emphasize that as much as getting bin Laden was clearly in US interests, and in the interests of some in Pakistan, getting bin Laden via leaks from Pakistani officials is not in Pakistan’s governance’s interest. Governance is a separate issue from justice, from the true, the good and the beautiful, from souls and all the rainbows and ponies of the world.
    Just at the US is going after people on the boundaries between leaks and whistle blowing (monkey cage recently covered this), so too is Pakistan.
    It’s possible that these arrests are designed to keep an incredibly divided system in place for a little longer, it’s possible there’s some very quiet US cooperation on this (double and triple and quadruple dealings are not things I typically lean towards, except in the case of Pakistan).
    The regime wants to stay in place, and will do what it has to to maintain that stability. And I would guess that the US wants Pakistani stability, too, even at great cost to justice, humanity, decency, and face-saving at odd moments.
    Even if it means, say, encouraging the leaks and the assassination, arresting the leakers and assassinating them, and doing it all with quiet US cooperation. Remember, they let the drones in and condemn the drones all in the same afternoon.
    Crazy stuff, preserving regimes in nations with these decentralized power structures.
    Someone should build a website that lets people click through the craziest scenarios for how things get done in Pakistan. I’d bet half the clickers would be close to the truth.


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