Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Audacity Of Imperialism

President Obama has worked hard the past eight months to reassure the rest of the world that his administration would return to traditional diplomacy as the cornerstone of US foreign policy, rather than relying solely on guns and bombs to get our way. He continues to search for ways to engage North Korea and Iran in talks on their respective nuclear weapon ambitions and he has worked with other nations to assist the US in getting these two countries to the table. His State Department, led by Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has worked diligently to repair ties with Asia, Africa, and Latin America, ties frayed by disuse or abuse by the Bush administration.

As welcome and as laudable as all of these efforts are, however, they are being offset by the continuation of the sabre rattling which was the hallmark George W. Bush. The latest incident involves some threats by Admiral Mike Mullin, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, directed toward Pakistan. Needless to say, Admiral Mullin's comments were not well-received by Pakistan.

From an editorial in Pakistan's The Nation:

WHILE the warning by US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen that the US would conduct unilateral strikes inside Pakistan to pursue those who had attacked US citizens is an attempt to mount pressure on Pakistan to expand its military operation from Malakand to Waziristan, it also shows erratic swings in the US policy towards Pakistan. What is more, he exuded confidence in saying that the Pakistan government had no objection to such strikes.

What he means is that the US in the event of some attack either on its citizens or homeland would be launching a ground attack on Pakistan's soil, a strategy that is based on US's perception of Pakistan as a militant safe haven. This, in addition to the predator strikes, makes for a deadly combination that will greatly destabilize the country. The last time the US launched a ground offensive against Pakistan was in 2008 in Angoor Ada, a village close to the Pak-Afghan international border that claimed a number of innocent lives. Admiral Mullen fails to notice a key point that adventurism of this sort constitutes a gross violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity. Repercussions of such a move at a time when a political government holds office would be grave. Keeping in view the ordinary Pakistanis who will hardly ever tolerate presence of US forces, the storm of popular protests and the chaos that would follow it would greatly undermine a nascent democracy and its attempts to take root. ...
[Emphasis added]

Yes, Pakistan has a very leaky border with Afghanistan mostly because of the rugged geography of the area, and, yes, the Taliban have been using that porousness to great advantage. Still, even assuming the US has the right to continue the war in Afghanistan (and I clearly do not so assume), the US has no right to unilaterally invade Pakistan with drones, special operatives, or troops. Admiral Mullin claims that the US has the permission of Pakistan for such actions, but I don't think an after-the-fact "By the way, we hit one of your villages a few hours ago," qualifies as permission.

What is so maddening about this sabre rattling is that Pakistan has finally moved out from under the military rule of the past decades and have in place a civilian government which was duly elected. The Pakistani military still wields considerable power and the current government is weak by comparison, but destabilizing that civilian government by what the people of Pakistan see as further US imperialism does us no good whatsoever, and certainly doesn't help the people of Pakistan.

Continuing the Bush tradition in this area of the world also belies all of the other diplomatic efforts of the Obama White House. The war in Afghanistan is now Mr. Obama's war, and it appears to be as open-ended as Bush's war in Iraq. Both wars were ill-advised, both have no real reason to continue. Congress and the American people need to step in and to reign in the president on this madness.

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