Tough Love Diplomacy
October 31, 2009
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The trust deficit has surged after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s three day tour of Pakistan, the response to which was lukewarm at best. Interviews with diplomatic sources in Washington, D.C. and media coverage of Clinton’s visit demonstrate growing frustration with the Obama administration, which may result in a reassessment of its Pakistani interlocutor.

Although American officials publicly praise military operation in South Waziristan, in private they sing a different tune; their assessment of ”alignment” is rather pessimistic. Stories leaked to media consistently allege that al-Qaeda leadership is still enjoying safe haven in Pakistan.

American TV networks looped a statement by Secretary Clinton’s over and over, which almost accused Pakistan’s government of providing this protection to al-Qaeda leadership.”Al-Qaeda has had safe haven in Pakistan since 2002….I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and couldn’t get them if they really wanted to,” Mrs. Clinton told a gathering of Pakistani newspaper editors. This statement reflects the best possible opinion of Pakistan available in Washington, D.C.; other government sources and media influencers confidently contend that the Pakistani establishment is protecting al-Qaeda.

Clinton’s statement may have been a justified expression of frustration with an ally that has not delivered adequate results. But Pakistanis are equally disappointed with the United States and for the first time in six decades are demanding accountability.

In a very condescending act of “tough love diplomacy,” the White House backed the Secretary Clinton’s blunt statement, questioning Pakistan’s willingness to hunt down al-Qaeda terrorists even as it moves against other extremist groups in its tribal areas.

When asked if Secretary Clinton’s remarks were ”appropriate,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said today: “Obviously the United States has great concern about extremists in Pakistan. And we will continue to — continue to discuss with them what can be done. And those remarks were appropriate.”

A section of the American media is commending Secretary Clinton for taking the gloves off and delivering a no-holds-barred message to Pakistan that it must step up its efforts to apprehend al-Qaeda terrorists and demonstrate a real commitment to democracy. Those who support her directness argue that this gives Pakistan’s leaders a much-needed dose of reality.

Pakistan-U.S. relations have not been this tenuous before, and the Obama administration is frustrated with the outcome of the Kerry-Lugar bill. “No one had anticipated such negativity,” said an American official who did not want to be identified. “We thought Pakistanis [would] celebrate the passage of this bill. This is what we were told by representatives of Pakistani government.”

Pakistani government representatives from President Zardari to Foreign Minister Qureshi and Ambassador Hussain Haqqani further down the chain assured Americans that Pakistanis would be jubilant; KLB was suppose to heal all wounds, rectify all wrongs and erase memories of the past from the consciousness of the masses.

I remember when President Obama announced the Senate had passed Kerry-Lugar bill at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in September. Attendees cheered so loud we could hear the thunderous applause from outside.

Later that same day, Richard Holbrooke told Pakistani journalists at the Roosevelt Hotel’s media center that the House will approve the bill within a week. A Pakistani anchor who was visiting with President Zardari screamed “Insha Allah” so loudly it was embarrassing. She acted like a bagger waiting for alms.

But as we have subsequently learned, Pakistanis are inherently anti-imperialist and if the Pakistani army can find a leader like Chavez, everything could change overnight.

The Kerry-Lugar Bill’s failure has been the Obama administration’s biggest setback thus far; its development has been very similar to what happened in Iraq.

In 2003 Americans were expecting roses as they walked victoriously into Baghdad. They thought the Iraqis would welcome freedom from the tyrannical rule of Saddam Hussein. Bush’s administration did not anticipate the scale and speed of hostility so soon after the fall of Saddam’s regime.

During her trip, Secretary Clinton repeatedly said the U.S. wants to partner with Pakistan on more than just the military front, but qualified that statement by saying the government in Islamabad will have to be America’s partner in tracking down and capturing the terrorists who masterminded the September 11 attacks, among so many others throughout the world.

Clinton herself defended the bluntness of her remarks in an interview Friday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” saying, “Trust is a two-way street. There is trust deficit.”

She is absolutely right. Americans will not so easily believe Zaradari, Qureshi and Haqqani’s words in the future.

American analysts are asking President Obama to drop the “democracy” mantra and work directly with Pakistan’s army. Obama is also being asked to provide economic support and help strengthen Pakistan’s civil institutions simultaneously conveying an inflexible and clear message that there are no free lunches.

Pakistanis have options too: They can storm, form, norm and perform. After venting frustration over KLB and drone attacks they must normalize and start delivering what America wants.

Or they can find a left-leaning leader within Pakistan’s army and bring about peaceful and secular revolution without foreign aid.

The third and easiest option, to maintain the status-quo, letting Mullahs and extremists take over our lives, is NOT an option.

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There are 17 comments

  • Jamaal Baluch says:

    When Clinton arrived, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said: “This visit of yours will build bridges.” As you artcile points out that was not the case. Instead, in two town halls, Hillary Clinton and the Pakistanis questioning her appeared to talk mostly at cross-purposes.

    She talked of America’s sincere interest in bringing security and prosperity to Pakistan. And we grilled her about why the US is using drone aircraft to fire missiles that has killed 1000s of innocent citizens and that the strikes are a violation of national sovereignty.

    Yes, Pakistan wants accountability… America has squandered our sacrifices.

  • Mansoor Raza says:

    When Bill Clinton favoured Pakistan with a brief visit as the president of the United States, he took time out of his five hours of trip to go on the state broadcaster PTV to admonish, heckle and lecture us, we the natives of Pakistan. His wife Hillary Clinton also administer us a severe taunt during her just-concluded visit. Best information, she blared, was that al-Qaeda was “somewhere” in Pakistan and it was unbelievable if nobody in the Pakistani government knew where they were and could have been caught if the government wanted to. But if it comes to her information, the less said the better. The 9/11 terrorist strike’s perpetrators had been planning it in German city of Hamburg and training in US aviation academies, yet the mammoth American intelligence apparatus boasting over two dozens of agencies had no clue whatsoever of it. That should be enough to tell of her information’s health. Obviously, her information is all conjectures. And if it comes to that, one can very well say al-Qaeda is ensconced in New York or Washington with the same authority with which she has claimed it to be holed up “somewhere” in Pakistan. But if it is, who is to blame? Al-Qaeda was not even known to this country, as indeed not to the world at large, prior to the 9/11 strike. Then, Americans had led a coalition of armies to invade Afghanistan, not just to oust the Taliban but primarily to dismantle al-Qaeda and take out Osama bin Laden dead or alive. Yet they didn’t put enough boots on the ground to mop up fleeing al-Qaeda rumps and plug borders not to let them escape. For this operational foible verging on outright cowardice of American and their allied invaders, al-Qaeda rumpus sequestered inside Afghanistan to stay embedded with their Taliban friends who had returned to their abodes to live with their families and tribes, and outside. Scores of fleeing al-Qaeda fighters and their leaders who had sneaked into Pakistan have been rounded up over the time. But instead of drawing it kudos, this has come to be held up by Americans and their western allies as well as by compulsive Pakistan-bashers to project tendentiously as if Pakistan has throughout been al-Qaeda base. There indeed is too much of stink to their discourse. Know this. Since long before the 9/11 episode, American sleuths were on Osama’s trail. Yet they couldn’t capture him during or after Afghanistan’s invasion. More curiously, even as they brand him as their top enemy, Americans wound up in 2005 their special task team assigned to capture him dead or alive. They could have even taken him out, if their intelligence is so perfect as Hillary claims it to be, in their so frequent drone attacks on our territory, in which they kill so many of our innocent children, women and their kith and kin. It indeed could only be a queer kind of al-Qaeda that Americans and their close western allies claim to be ensconced in our territory. They assert it poses a serious threat to their security and so want it to be finished off to secure their streets. But it is the streets of Pakistan, not of Washington, London or Brussels, this monstrosity is soaking with our innocent people’s blood with its wickedness. So whose proxy is this monstrosity really? If some sense and wisdom is left to our Islamabad hierarchy, it must open up its religiously sealed lips and speak out, at least now. The American lords’ and their western sidekicks’ words do not square up with ground realities. The Quetta Shura, this hierarchy must know, could be this century’s biggest pretence, given the fact that the whole lot of Afghanistan’s Pakhtun land has been a free area under Taliban’s sway right from the day of invasion, seeing ever not even a slight sign of the occupiers’ soldiering. Taliban leaders thus had had never needed foreign sanctuaries. The revival of talk of this CIA-invented contrivance by Americans, Hillary included, now should tell this hierarchy which way the wind is blowing. The Obama administration is struck deep in an Afghanistan quagmire which has no easy way out. Soon it will need whipping boys and scapegoats to slap its troubles on. Not to let Pakistan become another Cambodia for frustrated American invaders is what this hierarchy owes to our people compulsorily.

  • Malik Rashid says:

    The second option provided in the conclusion, a Chavez type military leader taking over the country, fails to tell us how to expect such a phenomenon in this specific case. Pakistan’s army officers trained for jihad and imposing Allah’s will on its people can take over power as easily as they have done in the past. To expect that a left-leaning individual could command them is like expecting a lion to rule the ocean. Pakistanis deserve to be accepted as humans and medieval mindset of oligarchy must change. The perception that democracy is against muslim culture is strengthened by such recipe. As for the first option, Pakistanis should exclude the venting part from their psyche. Your boss was rude so you must slap your wife or child is a pathetic way of life. So take the storm out and rearrange as ‘norm, form and perform’. Normalise the security situation, stabilise democracy and strengthen civil institutions and perform to the best interest of the people.

    Mr. Mansoor Raza- Do you not remember reading about Osama bin Laden in Karachi eveningers prior to 9/11? I remember the ridiculous coverage. A news-item just before 9/11 claimed that Osama had a plastic surgery to change his face. Due to some twist of history, muslim-obscurantism and Pakistan army lost their favorable position in the eyes of US. Do we must resurrect the army and their religious cohorts, or, we try the long, painstaking path of establishing a democratic, civilian rule?
    Respect. Peace.

  • Karamat says:

    If you want Chavez- it will not be a general. Look somewhere below. Also, there needs to be a revolutionary process in place. See below from Venezuella Defense:

    Hugo Chavez graduated from the Venezuelan Academy of Military Sciences in 1971 as a sub-lieutenant. He received his sword from President Carlos Andres Perez. While in the military he led a kind of double existence, in sympathy with communist rebels, but at the same time obligated by the organization to which he belonged to support the then current Venezuelan government. The military unit to which he had been assigned was sent to Sabaneta to put down a Maoist uprising.

    In 1977 his unit was transferred to Anzoategui, another Venezuelan state where there was fighting with guerrillas. In 1978 he went to Maracay. It was here that he began to make speeches and meeting with revolutionary elements. In 1979 he went to Caracas, assigned to teach at the Venezuelan Academy of Military Sciences where he had graduated some eight years before. He taught military ethics.2 He began to cultivate a following among younger officers in the military.

    In 1982 he made a speech in Maracay that was suppose to honor the hero Simon Bolivar. The speech took on an anti-government form. Afterwards, he and several other officers went to a tree and repeated an oath similar to one Bolivar had made to liberate the people from their oppressors. Hugo Chavez made the same oath. The next year he formed a radical organization he called the “Bolivarian Revolutionary Army – 200” (Movimiento Bolivariano Revolucinario -200 or MBR-200)3. The oath, translated to English:

    The men who took Bolivar’s Oath at the “Saman de Guerre” and created the Bolivarian Revolutionary Army – 200 would be the nucleus of a group dedicated to bringing down the government by a coup, to set up a socialist military government. The coup attempt would be made ten years later in 1992. Chavez used the ten years leading up to this event to carefully prepare, plan, and recruit. He continued to teach at the military academy until 1984. From here he was assigned to a motorized squadron in Elorza close to the Columbian border. The move was precipitated by rumors that he was teaching radical doctrines to the young students.

    Because of his attitude, Chavez worked his way slowly up through the ranks and was seldom given combat troops to command. In 1986 he was promoted to major, and in 1990 he was put in command of a civilian affairs garrison and promoted to lieutenant colonel. In 1989 he was taken into custody and charged with conspiring to assassinate the president of Venezuela, Perez. Fortunately for Chavez an influential General sympathized with his plight and gave him backing. Instead of being tried, he was given command of a parachute brigade of six hundred troops in Maracay.4 It was from this position that Chavez would launch his long planned coup.

  • Malik Rashid says:

    Karamat Saheb
    Thanks for explaining the rise of Chavez to power. I would like to add that Chavez has been ruling the country through popular votes in favor of his reforms proving the point that there is no alternative to democracy.

  • Karamat says:

    Rashid Sahab- democracy is over-rated. Americans used to complain about the lack of democracy during cold war. Many more countries may have so-called democracy now but there are also 1 billion poor, hungry and vulnerable. democracy the it is practiced is a capitalist construct.

  • Malik Rashid says:

    Karamat Saheb
    With due repect, democracy is the only political system that empowers individuals within a society. After more than seventy years of communist dictatorship Russians came to realize that individual freedom and freedom of expression is necessary for existence.

  • Mansoor Raza says:

    My dear Rashid Bhai, democracy is quite possibly one of the most over-rated concepts in the modern lexicon of government and collective rule. The fact that it might still remain one of the better possibilities in how a people devise that illusive means with which to tolerate one another — without constant struggle, strife, and screaming among themselves — is only marginally relevant. Main point is that the informed, influencial, powerful and prejudiced elitists have no intention whatsoever of having commoners tell them what to do. Many Marxists have questioned the ability of democracy to cope with entropic times.

  • Malik Rashid says:

    Dear Mansoor
    History dealt a blow to the international communist movement when Soviet Union transformed into Russian federation. The imperialist assault was only one factor. I have interacted with Russians who lived and studied in Russia during these changing times. The experience gives us some lessons. One I conclude is to substitute ‘proletariat dictatorship’ with ‘Democracy of the poor’. This is a lesson we learn from our Marxist comrades in Latin America. Besides Venezuela and Chile, other countries in South America have also elected left-wing governments. This change in perception has not been incorporated yet by some left-wing movements in South Asia. People will wage war to bring oppressive governments down but the replacement should not be a dictatorship. Instead a non-elitist democratic government that uses resources to address the poor and working classes would be the right option. Such a government has a better chance to survive and grow within a global capitalist system that pervades the world today. Isolationism leads to deterioration in the conditions of the poor. This is my half cent on democracy and socialist movement today. Strong communist party like China’s should also look into democratising through their own established apparatus or a wealthy economy could end up being kicked and dismembered as a useless oligarchy. Respect. Peace.

  • sami kakar says:

    You have rightly pointed out the strained relations of Pakistan & America. But I recoiled when you wished to have a leader like Chavez. The present political structure of Pakistan does not allow any space for such dreams. Complete structure is corrupt. Nawaz will replace Zardari. Qureshi will be replaced by some other Qusuri. This will go one and on until this cursed land disintegrates (God forbid). Low literacy rate will keep haunting the dreams of a prosperous Pakistan. Illiterate and wealthy politicians would not ease their grip from jugular of the people. And yes off course we have our army. It will continue to play the arrogant role of a king maker. Generals would not stop thinking that they know above all. Mullahs will like always play for the filling of their bellies. Stop dreaming.

  • vikram says:

    This is one of the better debate I have seen here. I want to say something about Pakistan army but will not because I know it will distract from this conversation.

    As an Indian citizens, I will my Pakistani neighbors plenty of luck.

  • vikram says:

    correction ….

    As an Indian citizen, I wish my Pakistani neighbors plenty of luck.

  • Naveed Khan says:

    Its easy for American to pass bills and attack with drons. This war is not fought in USA, if it is then We ask Americans about relationship.

  • Anthony Welsch says:

    Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tense exchanges with Pakistani civilians exposed the confining limits of her office. While she scored points back home by standing up to angry Pakistanis who confronted her about drone-launched U.S. missile strikes, her blunt questioning of the resolve of Pakistan’s government exposed American impatience with the country’s incremental steps against terrorists. But her extraordinarily public approach to diplomacy — for better or worse — reflected not only her personal style but also President Barack Obama’s promise to reach out openly to friend as well as foe. What remains less clear is whether Clinton’s hot-button politician’s persona works any better at producing international results — let alone clarity — than a more classic diplomat’s cooler tact.

    There were no breakthroughs, and it’s too early to know how her public and behind-the-scenes performances in Pakistan, Abu Dhabi, Israel, Morocco and Egypt will play out. But Clinton emphatically followed through on a pledge she made last month when she said the time had come for the U.S. government to communicate more aggressively abroad and challenge U.S. critics on their own turf.

  • Fizan Ali says:

    I’m sure the Iraqis would have welcomed Americans with roses after they caused the death of nearly 100000 Iraqis which included women and children and same is the case here in Pakistan, we don’t welcome people who kill 1000 of our countrymen with remote controlled missiles.
    We don’t welcome people who support Israel’s bombing on Palestinian civilians killing 500.
    I don’t think America has any right to try and bring peace in other countries or any region when they can kill 2.2 million Vietnamese in their country, when they can bomb Laos and Cambodia killing 1.2 million people.
    I don’t think America has any right to stop other countries like Iran from developing Nuclear power when itself it’s got enough Nuclear bombs to blow up the Planet !
    When Americans can drop Nuclear bombs on two big cities full of INNOCENT civilians killing 140000 and 80000 people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I think they lose all rights to care for other people’s matters !

    If there are terrorists in Pakistan then let us deal with them because they hurt us more then they hurt Americans, we see 9/11 every week here.

    Only 3000 people died in 9/11 the biggest terrorist attack ever !
    10000 Palestinian have been killed since 2000
    American troops have killed over 4 million people
    Hitler killed 11-17 million people during the Holocaust
    Joseph Stalin starved 14 million people to death
    World wars killed 76 million people !

    I’m sure no Muslims, Muslim countries or terrorists were involved in any of these massive killings ! Adding up to 1/6 th the world population !

    I can’t believe the Irony. As far as I’m concerned most Americans are nice people BUT American military, Government etc are just bullies to whom every one has to listen to no matter what they do, Because they’ve got enough to blow up our Planet !

    See my blog post for references: http://www.iswhy.info/2009/10/top-10-killers-of-inocent-people-see.html

  • Mukesh says:

    @Fizan Ali: fizan tell me who were the people who were there in mumbai caught on tape killing people it really must be hurting when the time to be accountable has arrived when one breeds snakes he should be ready to be bitten

  • Sami Kakar says:

    The plight of Pakistani nation is not only due to the army interventions but our politicians have a fair share in it.Infact i suppose that our politician is probably the root cause for military interventions.Starting from Bogra to Bhutto & from Nawaz to Shujaat they all some way or the other paved a path for the Generals to topple the governments. Bhutto was indeed an intelligently wily politician but had an authoritarian approach. This is not only the case with Bhutto only. Almost all political leaders have this second nature. But at least Bhutto knew how to lead the nation and that’s what he did quite brilliantly. Than comes our Generals. Let me make it clear that our army is the protector of our country. When we talk about the despotism, we should bear in mind that we are not targeting our Army. We need to exhibit the atrocities of Generals. This was once the case in Afghanistan when people started criticizing Army instead of pointing out certain Generals. And there went the nation embracing a civil war for more than 3 decades. Indeed the White-American mentality is to keep us a parasitic nation. And there is no difference with a black president. The tragedy is that others are telling us how to make things better.Americans,Indians,French,Britions and ironically even Sri Lankans.The other day a minister of Sri Lanka offered Pakistan help to quell the religious insurgency.Is,nt it funny?.Sri Lankans had to face the Tamil Tigers for more than 30 years and managed to get things straight somehow. Pakistan is one of the largest exporters of ammunition to Sri Lanka.Clearly Pakistan’s military assistance enabled Sri Lankans tip the Parbakaran saga. And now Sri Lankans are offering us help. I just pray we get a devoted leader someday and things will be ok with a wand.

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