The American Moral Leader

Source: New York Times

George H. W. Bush, the 41st American President, was no ordinary politician or public servant. More than a surviving World War II veteran, Congressman, Ambassador, CIA Director, and Vice President, he was a man who knew the importance of doing the right thing, despite the odds. Whether it cost him political mileage and popularity, though at one time he enjoyed an approval rating of 84%, and whether it meant turning popular opinion against him, he stuck to what he believed was in the best interest of the American people, the American Empire, and, most importantly, democracy.

This is the reason why I think George H. W. Bush is one of the most important Presidents of our times and is surely one of my favorites. He took it upon himself despite strong opposition on Capitol Hill to initiate action against Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait and managed to build an international coalition. He also showed the world of the right way to do it through the Security Council and withdrew once Iraq surrendered in Kuwait, even though criticized for letting Saddam regime survive in Baghdad, probably unfinished business that his son would complete in 2003.

His realization to do the right thing also guided him to be open to bipartisanship, leading to a number of important pieces of legislation like the Clean Air Act and balanced budget deals despite his unrealistic campaign promise of no new taxes. He was not exactly a libertarian Republican out of touch with fiscal realities, after all, a hint many might get if they revisit his primary run against Ronald Reagan in 1980. He was also instrumental in negotiating the landmark North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, later to be concluded by President Bill Clinton.

While his approach to domestic issues can be considered rather vague, emotional, and hollow, with perhaps an exaggerated focus on “a thousand points of light,” one which a progressive Democrat could easily destroy as Clinton did in 1992, his vision for the world was unmistakably clear and resolute. Something that the opposition has barely had an answer to since Ronald Reagan. Carrying forward his legacy, George Bush knew what he was doing from the moment he took the oath.

In today’s America that is rapidly falling into the pit of isolationism and nationalism that borders on fascism, the words and actions of President George Bush remain as relevant as they were at the end of the Cold War. A great moment in history, albeit inevitable but one that he worked on in the Reagan administration. He had warned us about the threat of rising terrorism. He had warned us about the threat to liberal democracies. But most of all, he told us about the value of freedom, free speech, and free markets. The ideals of republicanism.

It is important to remember President George Bush because he was a great Republican leader. A party of great ideas that has descended today in petty populism and defending a disgraced Presidency. It is important to remember his stress on a gentler and kinder Republican party in which conservatism need not be synonymous with heartlessness. Today, people are reminded of his Presidency as a time of decency compared to the vicious circus of the Trump administration.

But most important of all, he took action when it mattered. One of the most underappreciated aspects of his leadership was his brilliant foreign policy and its continued legacy in terms of American leadership. He offered his internationalist vision of a new world order that aligned with American values and interests, something which appears to be fading since the end of his son’s term.

Having inherited massive deficits from President Reagan, his fiscal pragmatism, despite his rather misleading rhetoric of “read my lips,” his bipartisan budget deals helped pave way for Clinton’s golden fiscal era of budget surpluses. His letter to President Clinton initiated a beautiful Presidential tradition, indicative of his bipartisanship and fair-mindedness. Many liberals praise him today, but his legacy is still as misunderstood as the more liberal side of conservatism is. That precious centrism is sadly evaporating from the American politics which is giving way to more vicious, albeit passionate, forces on both extreme left and right. What remains underappreciated is the commitment of centrists like him to find the most reasonable path to social harmony and economic prosperity. This talk from Council on Foreign Relations featuring Jon Meacham and John Sununu sheds light on areas often ignored about George Bush.

George Bush for all his qualities and an extremely qualified resume, remained flawed in his handling of domestic affairs, inappropriate in expressing empathy at times, failing to inspire when the economy was down, and being convincing enough to retain the Presidency. However, his name will always remain a shining beacon of a quality that America has been losing for the past decade.

America’s moral leadership.

What Has She Done?

Source: Niklas Elmehed/Nobel Media/nobelprize.org

Source: Niklas Elmehed/Nobel Media/nobelprize.org

So what has she done?

That pesky Malala.

What has she accomplished to deserve the Nobel Peace Prize, you are asking? Especially, since she said she didn’t deserve it.

Here is what she has accomplished what I or any of you could not have.

Despite being a little girl, she stood up to a very clear and present threat from the Taliban, which actually jeopardized her very existence.

In case anyone had any doubts, the Taliban actually ended up shooting her in the head and it’s a fucking miracle she’s even breathing.

They still vow to go after her.

She just had to speak out an innocuous little thing to get all this attention that she just wanted to go to school. Yes, that’s all what it has been about.

But it snowballed into something gigantic thanks to the ignorance of her haters.

You think it’s all obvious? No, it’s not.

But she won the prize also because she was important enough for an activist to address the United Nations Youth Assembly. She has also been active for causes such as speaking for the Nigerian girls abducted by Boko Haraam and addressing the concerns of Syrian children refugees.

She is not just a local figure anymore, but a global figure.

What really matters is  that the world sees her as a global ambassador for education, for girls especially.

Now why girls? You know, why be a sexist? But you have to be, because in her culture, people do go out of their way to target women like her. To deprive them of education.

Now when does it prick the most that she has won yet another prize valued by the West? Well, when you constantly apologize for the Taliban, Islamism and obscurantist misogynistic forces.

But it probably happened for a plain reason that Malala has become a Gandhi like figure to the West. Right up there with the likes of Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa, and even Gandhi was not awarded this prize, thanks to his shocking Holocaust satyagraha statements.

And this is precisely why Malala is important to the world now, even if she is of no consequence to the social conservatives and Islamist nationalist conspiracy theorists in Pakistan.

So don’t be surprised if you find completely irrelevant babbling complaining why Edhi not receiving the Nobel Peace Prize is such a disaster (as if they cared about that too) and sharing articles making ridiculous comparisons with a random girl testifying against drone strikes backed by an American congressman.

Source: Daily Telegraph

Source: Daily Telegraph

Which reminds me that part of why Malala is condemned is because she is backed by Western powers. Hell, even President Obama met her with his entire family. He never did that for the Pakistani Prime Minister. That’s really fucked up.

She even had the courage to criticize him to his face about the drone strikes of the Nobel Peace Prize recipient President.

But that’s how powerful Malala has become.

Maybe she has sold her soul to the devil.

I never really had tremendous respect for the Nobel Peace Prize anyway, because I had read somewhere that only a devil would put a prize on peace. Maybe George Bernard Shaw’s statement, not too sure.

But  I was greatly impressed when I saw the likes of President Carter, President Sadaat and Prime Minister Begin winning one for the Camp David Accord of 1979, and when I saw Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat receiving it.

You know, bitter adversaries working hard to attain some peace. Back then, I really found this shit inspiring. That part I still admire though.

But overall, the idea has been pretty empty and meaningless. You know what they say, hey, that’s the award that President Obama got for who knows what. And oh, even Henry Kissinger received it.

Must be something evil for sure.

I know this one, like all of them, is highly political. But who gives a fuck. Somebody said something nice about Pakistan.

But if I ever was delighted for a Nobel Peace Prize, for the first and most probably the last time, it is for Malala Yousafzai.

——————————————–

Donate to the Malala Fund please. 

Farewell Tribute To Cameron Munter

Source: US State Department

While it sounds rather ridiculous for commoners to be interested in the office of diplomats, I mean what and who comes and goes, there are certain individuals that come across in this profession every now and then which are hard to ignore. One such person has been Ambassador Cameron Munter who has served in Islamabad from October 6, 2010 until he announced his early resignation on May 7, 2012 and left for the United States on July 24, 2012. Charge d’ affaires Richard Hoagland is performing stand-in duties for him.

Now I write this as a Pakistani national and someone who at least aspires to be if not is a citizen of the world. But even regardless of these viewpoints, I see the term of Ambassador Munter, a Californian who loves desi food, in Pakistan rather charming. I know it has been a while since he gave up his position, which happened in July 2012 actually, and this post has been overdue as I have been looking to write about it ever since.

I have observed Ambassador Munter to be by far the most interactive, publicly outreaching and friendly American ambassador in my living memory. The rest of them were either too dull or too cruel or too quiet in public. Of course, they all must have been heard loud and clear in the offices of Pakistani decision makers. Even if there were other ambassadors who had been as much active, certainly no one would have been so much outspoken and accessible to the media.

This is important because his term in Islamabad was marked by one of the most turbulent events in the history of Pakistan-US relations, especially due to the US Navy SEALs raid on Abottabad to assassinate Osama Bin Laden, the secret memo affair, the Raymond Davis killings and the continued drone strikes in the tribal areas, which have become a trademark of the Obama administration warfare.

Not to mention the NATO attack on Pakistan Army Salala checkpost on the Afghan border on November 26, 2011. I recall Munter appearing frequently in popular Pakistani talk shows and expressing his regret over the unfortunate incident while still not using the word “apologize”, which was clearly deliberate, with great emphasis. Tough job. We witnessed that thin line between being sorry and apologizing. Such is the nature of US-Pakistan diplomatic relations.

As a matter of fact, he handled affairs in one of the toughest conditions that a diplomat could ask for, when anti-American sentiment in Pakistan was on the rise. Similar difficulties were faced by his Pakistani counterpart Hussain Haqqani. Here is Munter’s last appearance on Pakistani TV.

Pakistani media had actually been hailing Munter for leaving his office for being disturbed at the continued drone strikes and avoiding an apology for Salala despite the public outrage in Pakistan, which is denied by the US Embassy in Islamabad as he is said to have stepped down for personal reasons, but there has been consistent rumor about that in the media throughout the latter part of his term. Even foreign media reported it, which really makes you wonder about its validity because usually you can safely consider what the State Department is telling you to be lies unless it is about attacking some country.

I am not sure how much a diplomat should be involved with his assignment emotionally, especially when it comes to the military objectives of a campaign, and we are not even sure if Munter was, but I can acknowledge that Munter was apparently more human and more humane of any of the US ambassadors that I have noticed. His public relations were at least, and that is what matters at the end of the day. The general public is least bothered about what goes on behind closed doors.

However, I am not sure if it is necessarily a good thing for a diplomat. I guess in the ruthless and Machiavellian world of diplomacy, you need to focus on your interests and objectives and get the cold hearted kill and go on your own way. I do not doubt Munter’s abilities as a diplomat a bit, but then again there is no reason to believe that he succumbed to his emotions at any time.

But he was certainly sincere in making an attempt to reach out to the people of Pakistan, and to improve bilateral relations.

That is important.

I don’t care if he was fine with the drone strikes or not. I also don’t care if he agrees with Obama’s warfare or not.

But what I care about is his gestures of friendship and I think that must be reciprocated.

Ambassador Cameron Munter, you will be remembered.

I am sure you won’t forget Pakistan.

Remembering Richard Holbrooke: The Diplomat Who Ended a War

 

Richard Holbrooke (1941-2010) - Source: WikiCommons/USFG

One of the most prolific, multi-dimensional and influential diplomats in the recent US history, Richard Holbrooke, passed away on December 13, 2010. He was the US Ambassador for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Richard Holbrooke died after he had suffered a torn aorta. He was 69 at the time of his death, and his memorial service was held on January 14, 2011.

There can be two kinds of people who could have problems with people admiring Richard Holbrooke. The people who have problems with anyone making efforts to stop wars, and those who are blindly Anti-American.

But not everyone criticizing the US policies is Anti-American. I am a critic of US policies as well, but that does not make me Anti-American, because if that is not the case, then I am Anti-Pakistan too, because I criticize the Pakistani government and some of their policies as well.

But I admire Ambassador Richard Holbrooke.

He helped the United States intervene in the volatile and rather inhumane situation in the Balkans, when the local pressure prevented President Bill Clinton to intervene, especially militarily. It was one of the very few times in history when the United States made a correct decision of intervention, the one which could be considered responsible, if not anything else. Here, the critics could make the point that why the instrument of intervening in foreign affairs is being approved here while criticized at other instances.

It depends on the case and the motives.

Bosnians would have survived without a NATO intervention, maybe not with a separate country, although ethnically cleansed in much larger numbers than what resulted after it. But it is not about having a war, or breaking or making a country. It is about stopping an ongoing conflict, and diplomacy played a much larger role in it than any NATO air strikes. Remember, the UN peace keeping forces were deployed in the region at the time? But some could say that the US used the conflict as an excuse of increasing its influence in the region.

It was an unfortunate conflict which thankfully came to an end, preventing more lives from going to waste.

Of course, war is not something you could be proud of or approve. Richard Holbrooke was apparently not pro-war, he just wanted things to calm down there, and the events led to the conclusion of the Dayton Peace Agreement, which came as a sigh of relief for the war-torn and shattered people of Yugoslavia, particularly that of Bosnia & Herzegovina, who were the primary victims of the Bosnian War, while also not forgetting the people of the Albanian province Kosovo.

While the Serbs would not see the role played by Holbrooke as the one which favored them, but keeping nationalism aside, they should know that it would certainly be incorrect if anyone implies that the Serb people were to be blamed for the actions of the regime of Slobodan Milosevic, who had been coexisting with other Yugoslavian ethnic groups. That idea would be as horrifying as the conflict itself.

One of the signs that Richard Holbrooke was not fond of wars were his last recorded words, which have been frequently broadcasted, published and discussed ever since:

You have got to stop this war in Afghanistan.

A War which has caused thousands of civilian casualties since October 7, 2001, not even accounted for accurately, and has led to the loss of lives of no less than 1,472 American military personnel and 843 soldiers from other coalition countries, according to icasualties.org. To many, it is a war in which the allies are making little progress on the military front, with the war only consuming billions of dollars from the pocket of the American tax-payer.

Maybe it is just to prevent the Taliban from capturing power again, the very same force, which was on the forefront in fighting the USSR in Afghanistan in the conflict that lasted from 1979 to 1989. They were armed by the United States through their allies, especially their regional periphery, Pakistan. But undoubtedly, it is being carried on to protect the US interests in the region.

Many take it as a comic interchange between Holbrooke and his Pakistani surgeon who was sedating him, but I take it as a serious warning from a dying man. You never lie in your deathbed, and especially if you know as much about what is going on as Richard Holbrooke, whose health was eaten up by the pressures and tensions of the assignment of the Special Ambassador to Afghanistan and Pakistan. By the way, he disapproved the public use of the term “AfPak“.

Of course, with such a job as being a diplomat, and participating in and influencing the major decision-making in different points of time in history with leading Democratic figures in office, a person’s record for peace is always considered doubtful by skeptics and critics. But to many, that is not even a question to worry about, just something that I am imagining that some of you could ask.

But Diplomacy is not all about wars, attacking other nations and killing people, it is also about saving lives.  We have little idea how many lives diplomacy saves around the world every passing year, and as you are reading these lines. This is exactly why in this peace, I am not really focusing on the rest of the career of Richard Holbrooke, but the part which he loved to talk about the most. The Dayton Peace Agreement. His memoirs for that campaign are titled “To End a War“. Speaks volumes about how he took it.

Therefore, I find it my duty to talk about his contribution in the Dayton Peace Agreement.

It is written in the Talmud and the Koran.

Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.

Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, a great man and a great diplomat, will always be remembered for saving a human life, in fact many human lives, and therefore, the world entire.

This, I believe, is how he would have wanted to be remembered.