Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Marriage Made in Hell

Pakistan and the United States, bride and groom, betrothed in a supposed war on terrorism.   But there never was any love, no trust, hardly any common ground.   It was never more than a transactional relationship.   Was it any wonder that Pakistan opened its boudoir door to another suitor, China?

Even as it delivered cash by the billion to Islamabad, America groused about its bride's infidelities and duplicity.  A marriage made in Hell.

America has proven itself astonishingly clumsy at the "Great Game." It seemed to believe it could buy local allies like Karzai or the Pakistani military but the return on its billions has been decidedly paltry.  America expects a manner of obedient gratitude that is not forthcoming.   America's generosity has been squandered on empty promises and thinly veiled duplicity.

Recently the Chairman of America's Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, told Congress that Pakistan's shadowy intelligence agency, the ISI, actively supports the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network that was behind last week's attack on the US embassy in Kabul.   Mullen claimed the Haqqani group, "acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency."

Needless to say, Mullen's claims were roundly denounced in Pakistan where leaders threatened to sever Pakistan's supposed assistance with America's "war on terror."   Like it or not, America needs Pakistan's cooperation if it is to have any hope of stabilizing Afghanistan without which the Caspian Basin oil and gas reserves will likely fall under Russian control.  Oh, I'm sorry, you didn't think this was about oil?

But if America has fractured its relations with the government in Islamabad and Pakistan's generals, there's always the opposition, right?  Wrong.   In Pakistan the opposition is more anti-American than the government.  One prominent opposition voice, Imran Khan, sums it up this way, "America is killing Pakistan.  We're using our army to kill our own people with their money."

"According to the government economic survey in Pakistan, $70bn has been lost to the economy because of this war. Total aid has been barely $20bn. Aid has gone to the ruling elite, while the people have lost $70bn. We have lost 35,000 lives and as many maimed – and then to be said to be complicit. The shame of it!"'

With American credibility in the Muslim world already reeling from the Palestinian debacle, with Israel isolated, with a new Turkish-Egyptian power base being forged, with Iraq falling into Iran's sphere of influence, with Afghanistan turning into an increasingly bloody and fruitless mess and with Pakistan virtually ensuring America's failure next door, with Chinese influence flowing into America's power vacuum. with America fumbling on Syria and Bahrain, the most relevant question may be when will America find the costs and consequences of maintaining its strategic presence in the Middle East/South Asian regions unbearable?

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