Pakistan’s Turn to the Dark Side

Source: ARY News

Source: ARY News

If the recent foreign policy developments for Pakistan did not have you worried, then it is time for serious reflection. Ever since President George W. Bush left office, you can feel a distance between Washington and Islamabad. The differences between the two countries were particularly seen at their worst when Pakistan decided to carry out nuclear tests in 1998 during the term of the Clinton administration.

While Pakistan and China have always had very strong ties since the 1970s, but nothing like the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has ever been seen before. It promises great prosperity for the future, but skeptics see it as yet another neo-colonial scheme in the region which could bring more harm than good. Not to mention the control it could possibly offer to the Chinese authorities in Gwadar.

Of course, the irony is not lost on the Pakistani left progressives and former communists who have been struggling against the military establishment since the 1950s. They recall how Afghan Jihad was mobilized by Pakistani military and masterminded by American National Security experts, out of fears of Soviets reaching the shores of the Persian Gulf. They also recall the harsh bans they had to endure during the Cold War years.

But let’s face it. The CPEC is too grand to be said no to. The magnitude of the project is so grand that even India would have agreed to it, had it been a primary beneficiary. The fact that Pakistan is turning to partners other than the United States and Great Britain for its economic and trade development sounds perfectly fine. Though you can’t help but wonder if the economic development comes at the cost of military alliances and other illegible footnotes.

Especially since the killing of Osama Ben Laden at the hands of US Navy Seals in Abbottabad, a humiliating episode for the Pakistani state, Pakistan’s position in the Western alliance has never been more precarious. The difference of interest between Washington and Islamabad on military action against certain militant groups in Afghanistan and within Pakistan have even worsened the tensions in the Obama years.

With the gulf of military cooperation apparently widening with a more disinterested US administration, Pakistan is apparently seeking new avenues with more sinister powers. On the surface, it was a welcome development that President Zardari paid a rare visit to Moscow in 2011 and that for the very first time, the Russian military participated in joint military exercises with Pakistan on Pakistani soil. Such an occurrence would have been unimaginable in the 1980s.

There is only one problem. Vladimir Putin and his open intimidation of the Western world. Not only that, his close association with Iran and the brutal Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad. At a time when Aleppo has become the greatest battlefield for the conscience of the world, it may not be the best time to favor Russia over the Western world. So let’s just hope the military exercise is just a harmless affair of two old rivals on the road to friendship.

Probably it has been a long while that Pakistani nationalist commentators have been dreaming of Pakistani statesmen standing up to the US authorities on an equal standing. Even though we have had a tradition of strong diplomatic figures from Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to Abdullah Hussain Haroon. So you could expect that Senator Mushahid Hussein Syed’s recent comment at a Washington think tank about the United States no longer being the superpower of the world would see much appreciation.

The only problem is that the statement of the Prime Minister’s envoy could be tantamount to an needless provocation. It could work all very well in terms of harnessing diplomatic leverage and probably it would be unwise not to make soft threats, but if behavior such as this is overdone, it could surely affect Pakistan’s future with the Western world.

Furthermore, it is important to choose your words. Not sure how calling the United States “a declining power” is so flattering, no matter what your objectives are. It has only been a slight sign of Pakistan drifting away from and slipping into the Chinese and Russian camp, other than the usual cockiness of Senator Mushahid Hussain, who is free to get carried away after retirement as much as he wants. It is just that the China-Russia camp does not offer the best of values in human civilization.

It is only a fair point to make that it takes two to tango. Perhaps the United States does not require the partnership of Pakistan as it used to during the twentieth century or perhaps it is sick and tired of nurturing the Pakistani military without the satisfactory fulfillment of its objectives. However, the United States still favors Pakistan enough with its more traditional and liberal politicians largely refraining from supporting a Liberty Caucus resolution in the Congress to declare Pakistan a terrorist state.

Even though the situation is far from being apocalyptic, the direction Pakistan is heading is certainly not that bright. There is nothing wrong in stating that we are living in a multi-polar world today, neither is there any harm in pursuing trade and commerce ties with the likes of China and Russia. But it would be wise not to burn bridges with long-time allies, whose values and humanitarian record we need to identify with more than authoritarian powers.

On the other hand, Pakistan’s greatest strategic concern India has been significantly improving its diplomatic standing in the West, even reaching out to Israel, since the fall of the Soviet Union. At the same time, India has not been alienating rival China and old ally Russia in its pursuit toward a freer and more vibrant economy and strong defense. Pakistan surely needs to take its diplomatic lessons from its bitter rival, despite India’s petulant insistence to isolate Pakistan diplomatically. At least the missed diplomatic opportunity with Israel cannot be emphasized enough.

As citizens, we can only hope for Pakistan to pursue more liberal and democratic policies and to stand with global forces representing such values than otherwise.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.
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Why the Enemies of Islamic State Outside America Should Root for a Republican President in 2016

Source: Daily The Nation

Source: Daily The Nation

Do you believe that the votes of American citizens matter in shaping the future of the world?

Do you also happen to believe that the United States has been following a disastrous foreign policy over the years, creating more chaos than good?

If yes, then chances are that you must blame the 2003 invasion of Iraq for destabilizing the Middle East.

I do too, and that is why I think people sharing these beliefs, and those who want to destroy the Islamic State should root for a Republican President in 2016.

We don’t just need a hawk in the White House, call the candidate a neo-conservative, if you like, but one who is interested in completely eliminating ISIL and one who believes in establishing a permanent ground force in Iraq. I very much wish Hillary Clinton would be that candidate, but the sort of focus and commitment that you can expect from candidates on the Republican side.

I also believe that it has been the foreign policy of President Obama which has led to the current chaos that Iraq and Syria are in. Ever since the rise of ISIL, we have seen President Obama rejecting and belittling the threat has only made matters worse, and only recently he has taken stricter military action.

President Obama relies mostly on air power and drone warfare for his war strategy. Just as his presidency was a reaction to the war overdose during the term of George W. Bush, he probably is allergic to the idea of deploying ground troops as an occupying force.

At this point in history, the world needs the moral leadership of the United States to get rid of this horrific state of affairs in the Middle East. A lot of US citizens assert why the United States should be a part of a regional sectarian conflict. They are right. The United States does not have to be the sole participant of dealing with ISIL, but it must lead the world to that goal. However, that requires a leader that could rally the world around the cause as George W. Bush did during his term.

The world is prepared to take on ISIL, even including Saudi Arabia and Iran, despite their clash of interest in terms of the balance of power in Iraq and Syria. The problem is that the lives of the people of the Middle East cannot be left at the mercy of terrible authoritarian regional powers such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, who both have a record of backing terrorist or militant groups for their own political advantage.

Now that Iraq and Syria have reached this state, long term NATO forces must occupy these states in order to ensure the stability required by the citizens migrating to other parts of the world. This is why Western forces have been stationed in high risk regions such as South Korea. The need for such forces is far greater in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan than anywhere else. Such relative stability has been brought in Afghanistan and Iraq was relatively stable as well when George W. Bush left office.

I only wish the Democratic Party had brought more ideas about fighting ISIL in this race. Both the candidates have expressed commitment to fight ISIL, but the issue is given very low priority in the Democratic forum of ideas and is barely even discussed. Sadly, Hillary Clinton’s election would simply mean the continuation of the foreign policy of President Obama for at least 4 more years. If Bernie Sanders win, who knows what the US foreign policy would be. The stakes are too high for any such choices.

Quite frankly, if it were not the issue of foreign policy and ISIL, I would hardly see any reason for someone outside the US to have their interests attached with a candidate. Particularly at a time when a more aggressive US intervention in the Middle East is the need of the hour and one that involves ground occupation. I am sure that the people and leaders of the rest of the world, including Europe and the Middle East, would be watching the 2016 race with similar concerns.

There used to be a time when the Democratic Presidents used to initiate military action abroad, from FDR and Harry Truman to JFK and LBJ. Not that I miss the Democrats being the internationalist hawks, which they still are, but the approach of the political parties have changed since then. Especially since the war overdose of Bush 43 Presidency and President Obama’s allergy to troops on the ground as a reaction.

While most people would like President Obama’s approach, the world cannot afford it. At least, the Middle East cannot afford it any longer. A President with more assertive military leadership and one who seriously believes in destroying ISIL is needed to bring the Middle East back to order.

I know how some people are worried about the immoral and dangerous prospects of a conservative Republican President, but the only immoral and dangerous force that I see in the world is the Islamic State. And the closer the next President is to George W. Bush in approach, the better are the odds of eliminating it.

Let’s get rid of the Islamic State first. Then we can return to our lovefest with the Democratic candidates.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Trivializing The ISIS Threat

Source: RT.com

Source: RT.com

Regardless of the factors leading to the creation of the Islamic State or ISIS, there is little debate that it is a disturbing entity.

Even the most shameless Sunni apologists of the terrorist entity could feel some disturbance at their gruesome abuse of the local people in Iraq and Syria. Their treatment of the Yazidi women has particularly been the most chilling for the global conscience. To add insult to injury, they have been systematically wiping out the archeological treasures of the region, which should alarm anyone who treasures human civilization.

This is not an ordinary political and military force and is one that threatens human civilization as much as the more recent menaces in history such as the Nazi Germany, if not worse. This only necessitates forceful and meaningful military action against them involving boots on ground, without which the complete annihilation of ISIS is not possible. Unfortunately, neither President Obama nor any other global power seems to be interested in doing so, primarily because none of them is directly threatened by this terrorist state yet.

The unwillingness to take military action against ISIS is usually met by the resistance due to the fatigue from the several American military operations in the Middle East and around the world. The opponents of military intervention have a point, and for many years, I have held the same position. We should also recognize that many are being very consistent in their criticism of US military intervention over the years, and deserve respect for their intentions and ideological position.

The caucus of the anti-military constituents is significant in the United States and in most Western countries including UK and Canada, despite the widespread dislike for ISIS. The influence of such public opinion makes a possibility of action against the ISIS particularly difficult. But what is even worse, such political narrative often cynically trivializes the ever-growing threat of ISIS, when awareness for the support of more comprehensive action is badly needed.

Probably the main reason for the resistance to military intervention against ISIS among Western liberals is that North America and Europe have no direct threat from it. Fortunately, conservative politicians and voters in the United States are not only concerned about the ISIS threat but are also very much willing to support boots on ground.

Sadly, the opposition to comprehensive military action against ISIS has been simply reduced as a partisan election issue. The choice of not taking comprehensive military action against ISIS is a purely ideological and partisan position of liberal politicians, instead of a defensive strategy. However, President Obama certainly considers it the best way to go.

Conservative US senators such as Lindsey Graham and John McCain make sense in their criticism of President Obama’s recent decision to deploy less than 50 special operations troopers because of the half-hearted nature of the measure. While it is encouraging that the President finally realized that the ISIS threat deserves some boots on grounds, especially to assist the Kurds who are putting up an active resistance, we are a long way from a meaningful remedy.

The possible involvement of ISIS in bombing down a Russian airliner over the Sinai desert, as suspected by US intelligence, is only reflective of how dangerous ISIS and its affiliates have become. It clearly shows that the ISIS, if allowed to grow stronger and more influential, is not far from harming Western interests directly, if the misery of the Kurds, Iraqis and Syrians is not enough to fight this fire. Incidents such as these only strengthen the case of building an international coalition to fight the group, which is the right way to deal with the crisis.

The half-hearted approach adopted by the current US administration to deal with the threat of ISIS is not helping the situation. With a departing President looking to build his legacy as a peacemaker, it is unlikely that the current administration is going to commit to any major campaign. There is not much to expect from a Defense Department that considers the Sharia-enforcing Afghan Taliban as a partner for reconciliation anyway, something for which Pakistani government has been blasted since the Soviets left Afghanistan.

But probably what is even worse is the contribution of liberal and faux pacifists to trivialize the threat of ISIS for partisan purposes in political discourse. While it would help them win an election, it is not going to help in building the necessary public support for taking on the crisis created by ISIS, as was in the case of the operation against Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001. ISIS is far worse than both the Taliban and Al-Qaida and a Democratic President may very well require that support in 2016.

What the liberal and isolationist ISIS cynics don’t get is that whatever way we see the problem, there is no real solution but to deal with it through full throttle military action. Whether ISIS is created due to the actions of the wars started by Bush 43 or a by-product of President Obama’s military strategy in Syria, there is no choice but to deal with the crisis.

You cannot expect to have diplomatic negotiations with the Islamic State as in the case of Iran.

A version of the post was published in The Nation blogs.

The Stain on the Peacemaker’s Legacy

Source: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images, Politico

Source: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Every one of us can recall the larger than life election campaign of President Obama in the 2008 Presidential elections. The campaign stirred so much hope for change, that it inspired the entire world. Apart from the fact that the first African American was about to be elected for President in American history, the world saw this refreshing liberal leader as a new beginning for world peace, progress, and prosperity.

To a great extent, he has delivered on many of his promises. To many others, he has been a terrible disappointment, which of course is going to be the case if you try reconciling his too-good-to-be-true campaign with the reality. He got rid of Osama Bin Laden in a heroic operation in Pakistan and eliminated several Islamist terrorist through targeted drone strikes. He had a major healthcare reform act passed, albeit highly partisan, and just recently designated new national reserve areas in three states.

But his role as an international peacemaker was sealed with the conferring of the Nobel Peace Prize on his election in 2009. He truly broke the ice with his historic decision to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, probably his greatest foreign policy legacy, and is trying his level best to conclude a civilized agreement with Iran concerning its nuclear program at the cost of Israel’s satisfaction. If we ignore his aggressive drone warfare throughout Middle East and Southwest Asia, he certainly looks like an American President who has actually been a force for peace for a change.

But I wonder if many historians would count the rise of ISIS, or ISIL as he calls it, among his lasting legacies as well.

Despite the fact that many of his supporters and the Democratic leaders would dismiss the very mention of this notion and quickly transfer the blame to the policies of his predecessor, the explanation is far from enough.

Obviously, you cannot expect a President in the last year of his Presidency, when he is busy building his legacy, to start a war. That’s something for the next President to worry about. But it is a fair question to ask if he has done enough.

In my humble opinion, the answer is certainly no.

There is no doubt that America is war weary, and they certainly do not want to have anything to do with a war that does not concern them directly. They are right. They should not have been in Iraq in the first place. The sacrifice of thousands of US and allied veterans for their service must not be forgotten and must be appreciated. But at the same time, it should be kept in mind that the problem of ISIS would not have surfaced without the vacuum of power created by Western intervention in the region.

The arming of the Syrian opposition to intensify the Syrian civil war probably contributed as much to this development than the 2003 invasion of Iraq, if not more, though the Shia-leaning central government of Iraq and lack of political understanding in this regard by the Bush administrations are also cited as factors. But what if President Obama would have refrained from fulfilling his campaign promise of withdrawing troops from Iraq? It only would have been the right thing to do in this context.

But what is the use in bickering over the past, as well as the cause? Because either way, it’s the Western intervention that caused the problem, whether due to the actions of a Democratic President or a Republican.

The point to concentrate on is if we want to do something about this problem today, as most Republican leaders are urging, and rightly so.

If you really want some insight into President Obama’s mind and how he has approached the ISIS crisis, hear or read his statement at the Department of Defense press conference on the issue.

His comment about the ISIS problem conceded that “ideologies are not defeated with guns, but better ideas.” It is hard to disagree with his statement, but President Obama must realize that ISIS is not just an ideology. The ideology we are confronting here is militant Islamism. ISIS is a very real political group which is gaining ground every day, and which can only be defeated with military power, not just better ideas.

Nobody wants to look like President Jimmy Carter, who struggled with the Iran hostage crisis in the very last days of his Presidential term. Therefore, ISIS is at just about the safe distance to accord neglect of any remedial action, something to be taken on by the “next generation” in this long battle. The hints toward that direction are not hard to find in the statement, apart from a complete lack of sense of urgency to tackle the issue.

Besides, actively taking on ISIS would be against the Obama doctrine of no boots on ground and relying heavily on drone warfare and other airstrikes. This makes perfectly good sense, but if only it had been good enough to deal with the severity of the threat of ISIS. It calls for forming a global coalition as rallied by President George W. Bush in the aftermath of 9/11 terrorist attacks, hopefully under the United Nations, and with a permanent troop deployment. If US troops can still be stationed in Korea, Germany, and Saudi Arabia, why not in Iraq where they are needed the most?

But in his urge to be the great global peacemaker, to be the great American President who didn’t go to war, and the great liberal statesman who made the world a better place, not worse, is he leaving us with probably the worst entity imaginable just to undo most if not all of that good work?

Yet the very fact that President Obama is a force for peace in the world is a big question mark itself.

A version of this post was published in The Nation blogs.

 

The Fucked Decade

Source: Some 9/11 Conspiracy Theory Website

W I T H O U T   P R E J U D I C E

I never thought I would have to see such a time in my life, as neither would have you. Nobody told me. Maybe Nostradamus did, but even if he did, which can be highly debated, who listens to him anyway? But imagine this. It was a decade of wars and countless terrorist attacks, which cannot really be excluded from the wars, and perhaps just near or around or more than or less than a million people dying because of it and it is still going on. The best part is that most people don’t even know who they are fighting. Or what.

Of course you cannot expect just anyone to know that. Only President George W. Bush knew who and what, and he told us.

It was the decade of Terror.

Who is hiding terrorists? Afghanistan? Saudi Arabia? Yemen? Somalia? Egypt? Gaza Strip? Pakistan? Good chance, we are told that Ben Laden was killed there. Is Iran terrorist? No, they just officially threaten to bomb Israel. These guys seem to be all over the place. They were certainly not in Iraq or were they? No one really knows for sure. Ah, Iraq. They found nothing in Iraq they told us (except oil and sand) and poor Saddam was found in a manhole and was executed through the Law of Justice. There is a good chance that they are in the North Western parts of Pakistan. Actually that is one place we are sure of. But they don’t seem to die and fade away even after a decade. Actually they seem to be receiving their funds for the war quite regularly. Nobody knows how. Maybe the local mosque charity funds.

Source: xinhua.net

No one even knows for sure what the terrorists really look like but this is what we know. We are told that they are like the scary people in the Al-Qaeda videos. Heavily bearded, or not. Many 9/11 hijackers were clean shaven, but scary nevertheless. Sometimes covering their faces, as in burkas, which is precisely why the French banned it, waiting for others to follow. And some may wear that Jihadi piece of Arab headgear-cloth thing in the manner of Yasser Arafat, but that’s too obvious. They speak Arabic mostly, but may as well not, as some are the Pashtun Taliban and the Punjabi Taliban and the Chechen and the Uzbek and the Pakistani and the Indian and from many more countries, and they sometimes seem to be carrying a book with cryptic messages. They are known popularly as Islamists or Muslims who want to take over the world, so at least we get the direction.

The only problem is that it is hard to determine which Muslims want to take over the world and which don’t and it would be difficult to know if they are lying. The problem is that there are 1.57 billion of them, that we know of. It is a really difficult situation.

But here is the bottom line.

Body Count. (Civilian, I think)

9/11 (2001) – 2,977

Afghan War (2001 – ∞) – 14,000-34,000 (No one really knows for sure)

Iraq War (2003 – ∞) – 98,170-654,965? (No one really knows for sure)

Business as Usual (2001-2011) – 37,154-? (Various Countries) (No one really knows for sure)

Current Status. (Rough Estimates)

War: Still going on, indefinitely.

Goals:    Destroy Al-Qaeda – Somewhat. No one really knows for sure.

                Destroy Afghani Taliban – Not achieved, at war.

                Destroy Pakistani Terrorists – Not achieved, at war.

                Destroy Saudi Terrorists – Oh wait.

                Kill Ben Laden – Achieved (At least they are not looking for him anymore)

                Kill Al-Zawahiri – Rumors. No one really knows for sure.

                Kill Mullah Omar – Rumors. No one really knows for sure.

                Kill the New Al-Qaeda Deputy – Not achieved.

                Kill the Next Al-Qaeda Deputy – Not achieved.

Future Plans: No one really knows for sure.

I am not saying the wars were not justified. All wars are it seems.

Everything is the terrorists’ fault anyway.

All I am just saying is that it has been a fucked decade.

This is what it will go down in history. A Fucked Decade.

Just an objective fact. Not concerned with the politics.

Not saying that the earlier decades were any better.

Gulf and Balkan Wars of the 90s, Iran-Iraq and Afghan Wars of the 80s

Cold War. Vietnam War of the 60s and 70s, Korean War of the 50s

World War II, the Holocaust in the 40s.

But this has been the fucked decade because it indirectly affected almost everyone.

PATRIOT ACT. TSA. Policing. Global Recession. The rest is your imagination.

I guess an overwhelming majority will agree.

A lot of nice things happened in this decade too.

Like the iPhone and iPad were invented, and Spain won the Soccer World Cup.

The major social networking websites were launched, if that is a good thing.

But all in all, it really has  been a fucked decade.

For some countries, more than others.

You would not know if you are not living in one of those, or maybe you do.

I am just glad that I made through it in one piece.

If anyone you know who didn’t, I’m sorry.

In the end, let us just hope for our dear lives that this is not the fucked century.

I have a bad feeling in my gut that it is.

No one really knows for sure.