It is amazingly annoying to me that the US plays devil's advocate, politically speaking, so often that one looses track of who our Allies are, and who our Enemies are. Its eerily Orwellian.
Today, Charles Krauthammer wrote an op-ed piece about just that, with regards to Pakistan - US relations. His take is that
"Bhutto (Harvard '73) is a good student of American politics. She caught Bush's democratic messianism at its apogee, the same inaugural address in which he set "the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."
Universal democratization is lovely, but it cannot be a description of day-to-day diplomacy. The blanket promise to always oppose dictatorship is inherently impossible to keep. It always requires considerations of local conditions and strategic necessity."
He continues with:
"Pakistan is not the first time we've faced hard choices about democratization. At the height of the Cold War, particularly in the immediate post-Vietnam era of American weakness, we supported dictators Augusto Pinochet in Chile and Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines. The logic was simple: The available and likely alternative -- i.e., communists -- would be worse. Critics of America considered this proof of our hypocrisy about defending freedom. [article continues]"
In other words we make deals with the Devil when it suits us. Got it. Actually, this is nothing new to me, although I had not been aware of just how frequently we make deals with the Devil.
From a Daniel Markey interview in February of this year, we are to gather the fact(s) that the US worked, trained and funded Pakistan to help fight Soviet invasion.
What Markey fails to mention in his interview is that the US was working with another Chief of Army staff, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq who had - big surprise - placed Pakistan under Martial Law and suspended elections from 1977 to 1985.
"Under General Zia's Martial Law, there was steady economic growth favoring the private sector, and efforts were made to Islamize the political, legal and economic structures. Pakistan gained the status of Most Favored Nation from the United States following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979. Vast amounts of military equipment and aid were donated to Pakistan to help the four million Afghan refugees who crossed into Baluchistan and North West Frontier Province."
The next leader of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif came into his political career under Zia's Martial Law rule as finance minister, and then chief minister. He became Prime minister in 1990 (subsequently losing to Bhutto in '93, then regaining the position in '97) when the US decided not to work with Pakistan any longer because, according to Markey,
"They say we abandoned them in 1990, once the Cold War was over and we no longer needed them to combat the Soviet threat. Against our express wishes, they went ahead with the nuclear weapons program, no longer making it possible to cooperate with them in quite the same way. We cut a number of ties. This included a decision not to deliver the F-16s they had purchased in the early 1990s."
Prior to Sharif being overthrown in a coup in 1999, US - Pakistan relations had cooled to a clear chill, based on the fact that Pakistan had, and some say still do support or sympathize with the Taliban. Pre - September 11th US-Pakistan relations are described as
"Chilly. Experts point out that Pakistan used to be a world pariah: censured and sanctioned for its nuclear ambitions, which culminated in five successful nuclear tests announced on May 28, 1998. It also actively supported the Taliban and was one of very few countries to recognize Taliban rule in Afghanistan as legitimate."
Two years later and post September 11th Pakistan changed its tune to an anti-terrorist stance, siding with the US. Only the initiative to actually seek out terrorists didn't really occur until about 2004, and lasted for about two years before Pakistan gave up, with approval from the US.
From Markey's inteview:
"Of course, immediately after 9/11 you saw a switch, and the immediate response from the Pakistanis was not to make a heavy involvement in that tribal belt region, but to try to use existing mechanisms and existing ties.[...]After a couple of years the United States found that it wasn’t very effective. Many of these tribal agents were not interested in cracking down on the bad guys, so we had a disconnect in terms of interests.[...]While it immediately paid some dividends—they were able to hit some of the bigger targets, some of the obvious training camps and other headquarters, especially for Uzbeks and other foreign militants—the Pakistani military took serious casualties and the longer they stayed, they began to be seen more and more as an occupying force. The army itself isn’t all that effective as a counterinsurgency force. They started to alienate the population to such a degree, it was felt, they were actually counterproductive.[...]In the past five months or so, Musharraf’s government decided this was not working, and we tended to agree."
I don't know if I need to point this out or not - but when a military presence is seen as an intrusive or occupying force, is alienating the inhabitants of the country they are in, has been fighting beyond physical, emotional, and financial capacity - the US thinks it OK to walk away from the fight and try something different.
Let that thought sink in for a moment....
After two years they felt it was OK for Pakistan to go back to softer hitting tactics to fight the war on terror. We have managed to long overstay our welcome in Iraq, long exceeded reasonable financial constraints to fund the war, and soldiers are losing morale left and right, and coming home with serious post war problems ranging from the physical to the psychological. The vast majority of the country wants out of this war - and yet walking away or trying different means would be "Soft on Terror".
More like "Soft on Profits" if you ask me.
Pakistan is under Martial Law again during a time when our government supports them the most. Pakistan still sympathizes with the Taliban. Yet, we support them.
Hmmm.... I'll leave you with the closing statement from Markey's interview, a little something to chew on.
"Why are so many people in the Pakistan intelligence and/or military believed to be pro-Taliban?
There are those who actually sympathize in terms of the goals and aspirations of the Taliban, but I would say that’s a relatively small group. There’s a much larger group who have been sort of whiplashed by the historical changes that have taken place just before their eyes. At one point these folks who we’re calling Taliban, or at least some strain of these groups, were called mujahadeen. When the Soviet army was in Afghanistan, they were regarded as freedom fighters and we supported them with weapons and money. A number of the individuals who are working in the Pakistan intelligence services, but also in the military, very vividly recall that some of these people were allies to the United States. They simply question how reasonable it is to shift gears so quickly and turn against individuals who were once allies."
Edited to add:
I need to add one final thought on this. The US has played this game with Pakistan, with Hussein's Iraq, with Iran, and many other countries. The general idea is that the US aligns itself with countries when it serves our needs, and when it doesn't, we leave their keisters swinging in the breeze, If they really make us angry, we bomb them.
I understand what Krauthammer is getting at, common enemies make for strange bedfellows. What history is showing me however, is that the US isn't a strange bedfellow. It isn't even a sometimes secret lover. Rather, we are an abusive, co-dependent spouse.