Sunday, November 15, 2009

US and Pakistani Distrust, Palestinian End-Around

Helene Cooper
Jonathan Turley
David Ignatius
Frank Rich

"Among the cherished prerogatives of members of Congress is the right to second-guess."  - David Ignatius
“Do you want Americans fighting and dying for the Karzai regime?” - Matthew Hoh

A few days ago I had a link to the lengthy Seymour Hersh article in the New Yorker about the probability of securing Pakistan's nuclear weapons if things fall apart and it looks like extremists will take over and have access to those weapons. The main problem we have, and it's the main problem we have with our allies the Pakistanis, is that we don't trust them and they don't trust us. There is a history of failing to live up to promises made, and even giving them $1.5 billion in bribes seems to make things worse.

Pakistan developed nuclear weapons because of their institutional paranoia over India. They seem to have collective guilt ever since their nation was carved out of Indian territory, and the fear that at any minute India will invade them to take over again. India developed their nuclear weapons in 1974, Pakistan in 1998. There were three attempted attacks on Pakistan's nuclear arsenal in 2007 and 2008. We fear what would happen if extremists, either the Taliban, al Qaeda, or rogue members of the Pakistani military got control of a nuclear bomb. A senior Pakistani official said in an interview, when asked about the Americans wanting more information on their arsenal: "Even if there was a military coup d’├ętat in Pakistan, no one is going to give up total control of our nuclear weapons. Never. Why are you not afraid of India’s nuclear weapons?” the official asked. “Because India is your friend, and the longtime policies of America and India converge. Between you and the Indians, you will fuck us in every way. The truth is that our weapons are less of a problem for the Obama Administration than finding a respectable way out of Afghanistan.”

There seems to be a lot of nationalistic pride about having nuclear weapons. Another official said: "... both sides are lying to each other.” The information that the Pakistanis handed over was not as complete as the Americans believed. “We haven’t told you anything that you don’t know,” he said. The Americans didn’t realize that Pakistan would never cede control of its arsenal: “If you try to take the weapons away, you will fail.” They keep the missiles deep underground in a series of tunnels, mostly to keep the information of where they are away from the prying eyes of US intelligence.

Most of the Americans working with the Pakistanis don't trust them, they speak with a forked tongue, kimosabe... An assessment of one special forces officer is: "I have met and interacted with the entire military staff from General Kayani on down and all the general officers on their joint staff and in all the services, and I haven’t spoken to one that “loves us”—whatever that means. In fact, I have read most of the TS [top secret] assessments of all their General Officers and I haven’t read one that comes close to their “loving” us. They play us for everything they can get, and we trip over ourselves trying to give them everything they ask for, and cannot pay for." A senior Bush administration official who dealt with Pakistan puts it more bluntly: “If a Pakistani general is talking to you about nuclear issues, and his lips are moving, he’s lying,” he said. “The Pakistanis wouldn’t share their secrets with anybody, and certainly not with a country that, from their point of view, used them like a Dixie cup and then threw them away.”

A lot of the distrust stems from the perception that the Americans left and deserted its allies after the Soviet failure to take over Afghanistan. There is also the habit of telling people what you think they want to hear, instead of the truth. We can thank the intelligence networks for this, constantly playing the Great Game for global one-upmanship... On their side, the Pakistanis have a history of ripping off their business partners, giving them fake intelligence and selling inferior goods. We can thank them for doing this to Iran and North Korea, constantly selling them old, out-dated nuclear components and faulty information on how to refine the fuel, until Iran caught on and went to China and Russia for better deals.

As long as we are infidels, we will never get a fair shake in the Muslim world. Days after Hamid Karzai "won" his re-election, he was publicly being derogatory towards NATO and the Americans. His attitude prompted the American ambassador to cable Washington, saying to be wary about sending more troops to support such a duplicitous leader. Karzai hates us for talking in public about his government's corruption, especially Joe Biden and Richard Holbrooke.

The US is caught on the horns of a dilemma. If we keep funneling money through the central government, most of it gets ripped off by officials. If we stop, a central Army won't get built and sinks back to control by warlords. The current strategy is to do more on the local level, trying to bypass Karzai, and befriending local leaders to bribe and build up their economies independent of central control. Its part of counterinsurgency strategy, but it may all fall apart as soon as the Americans withdraw, like so many alliances that were made in Iraq. As soon as we turned our backs, members of the Anbar Awakening were no longer paid by the Iraqi government, jailed, or hunted down and killed.

So it looks like there is a shaky relationship, fed by the horrors of war. We will never get rid of the Talibans by killing them off, the Afghanis and Pakistanis have to deal with it themselves, and we have to trust them to do it their way, which is the same way that is counterinsurgent strategy: giving people a better way of life and education so that they won't choose extremism. Oh yeah, and don't send Joe Biden anytime soon...

forcing the issue...
The Palestinians have decided to bypass the stalled talks with Israel, and are going to the United Nations to ask for their official support for a Palestinian state: "Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said officials plan to ask the UN Security Council to back a set of guidelines for a Palestinian state.

But he said there is no timeframe for the initiative, which would include the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem - areas captured by Israel in the 1967 six-day war. "Now is our defining moment. We went into this peace process in order to achieve a two-state solution. The endgame is to tell the Israelis that now the international community has recognised the two-state solution on the '67 borders."

Of course, the Israelis don't want to be forced back to the table, saying that the ploy won't work: "I think the Palestinians should know that unilateral actions will not lead to the
results they hope for." Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have been trying fruitlessly to get the talks started again, but are being ignored by both parties. Critics see this a major failure of foreign policy, but American Presidents have been trying to facilitate this process for over 40 years, and the most successful to date was Jimmy Carter. To be honest, until a more liberal Prime Minister and government gets elected in Israel, and Hamas grows up and learns more responsibility, the Palestinian question remains stuck in the mud, sinking slowly into the setting sun. So right now all that one can do is keep trying to get the antagonistic parties back to the room with the meeting table, because there must be a pony in there somewhere...

pressuring Congress to do the right thing...
Barack Obama did right by the victims of the Fort Hood tragedy, by asking: "Congress to hold off on any investigation of the Fort Hood rampage until federal law enforcement and military authorities have completed their probes into the shootings at the Texas Army post, which left 13 people dead.

From his airplane flying to Singapore, he told the squirmy dogs to "resist the temptation to turn this tragic event into the political theater." He said those who died on the nation's largest Army post deserve justice, not political stagecraft. "The stakes are far too high," Amen to that brother, but will Joe Lieberman and others too enamored with themselves pay attention?

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