Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tough Love Diplomacy

The trust deficit has surged after Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton's three day tour of Pakistan, the response to which was
lukewarm at best. Interviews with diplomatic sources in Washington,
D.C. and media coverage of Clinton's visit demonstrate growing
frustration with the Obama administration, which may result in a
reassessment of its Pakistani interlocutor.

Although American officials publicly praise military operation in
South Waziristan, in private they sing a different tune; their
assessment of "alignment" is rather pessimistic. Stories leaked to
media consistently allege that al-Qaeda leadership is still enjoying
safe haven in Pakistan.

American TV networks looped a statement by Secretary Clinton's over
and over, which almost accused Pakistan's government of providing this
protection to al-Qaeda leadership."Al-Qaeda has had safe haven in
Pakistan since 2002….I find it hard to believe that nobody in your
government knows where they are and couldn't get them if they really
wanted to," Mrs. Clinton told a gathering of Pakistani newspaper
editors. This statement reflects the best possible opinion of Pakistan
available in Washington, D.C.; other government sources and media
influencers confidently contend that the Pakistani establishment is
protecting al-Qaeda.

Clinton's statement may have been a justified expression of
frustration with an ally that has not delivered adequate results. But
Pakistanis are equally disappointed with the United States and for the
first time in six decades are demanding accountability.

In a very condescending act of "tough love diplomacy," the White House
backed the Secretary Clinton's blunt statement, questioning Pakistan's
willingness to hunt down al-Qaeda terrorists even as it moves against
other extremist groups in its tribal areas.

When asked if Secretary Clinton's remarks were "appropriate," White
House spokesman Robert Gibbs said today: "Obviously the United States
has great concern about extremists in Pakistan. And we will continue
to — continue to discuss with them what can be done. And those remarks
were appropriate."

A section of the American media is commending Secretary Clinton for
taking the gloves off and delivering a no-holds-barred message to
Pakistan that it must step up its efforts to apprehend al-Qaeda
terrorists and demonstrate a real commitment to democracy. Those who
support her directness argue that this gives Pakistan's leaders a
much-needed dose of reality.

Pakistan-U.S. relations have not been this tenuous before, and the
Obama administration is frustrated with the outcome of the Kerry-Lugar
bill. "No one had anticipated such negativity," said an American
official who did not want to be identified. "We thought Pakistanis
[would] celebrate the passage of this bill. This is what we were told
by representatives of Pakistani government."

Pakistani government representatives from President Zardari to Foreign
Minister Qureshi and Ambassador Hussain Haqqani further down the chain
assured Americans that Pakistanis would be jubilant; KLB was suppose
to heal all wounds, rectify all wrongs and erase memories of the past
from the consciousness of the masses.

I remember when President Obama announced the Senate had passed
Kerry-Lugar bill at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in September. Attendees
cheered so loud we could hear the thunderous applause from outside.

Later that same day, Richard Holbrooke told Pakistani journalists at
the Roosevelt Hotel's media center that the House will approve the
bill within a week. A Pakistani anchor who was visiting with President
Zardari screamed "Insha Allah" so loudly it was embarrassing. She
acted like a bagger waiting for alms.

But as we have subsequently learned, Pakistanis are inherently
anti-imperialist and if the Pakistani army can find a leader like
Chavez, everything could change overnight.

The Kerry-Lugar Bill's failure has been the Obama administration's
biggest setback thus far; its development has been very similar to
what happened in Iraq.

In 2003 Americans were expecting roses as they walked victoriously
into Baghdad. They thought the Iraqis would welcome freedom from the
tyrannical rule of Saddam Hussein. Bush's administration did not
anticipate the scale and speed of hostility so soon after the fall of
Saddam's regime.

During her trip, Secretary Clinton repeatedly said the U.S. wants to
partner with Pakistan on more than just the military front, but
qualified that statement by saying the government in Islamabad will
have to be America's partner in tracking down and capturing the
terrorists who masterminded the September 11 attacks, among so many
others throughout the world.

Clinton herself defended the bluntness of her remarks in an interview
Friday on ABC's "Good Morning America," saying, "Trust is a two-way
street. There is trust deficit."

She is absolutely right. Americans will not so easily believe
Zaradari, Qureshi and Haqqani's words in the future.

American analysts are asking President Obama to drop the "democracy"
mantra and work directly with Pakistan's army. Obama is also being
asked to provide economic support and help strengthen Pakistan's civil
institutions simultaneously conveying an inflexible and clear message
that there are no free lunches.

Pakistanis have options too: They can storm, form, norm and perform.
After venting frustration over KLB and drone attacks they must
normalize and start delivering what America wants.

Or they can find a left-leaning leader within Pakistan's army and
bring about peaceful and secular revolution without foreign aid.

The third and easiest option, to maintain the status-quo, letting
Mullahs and extremists take over our lives, is NOT an option.

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