If Pakistanis thought like Americans

Harlan Ulman

Pakistan has concluded that the US and its allies are losing in Iraq and in Afghanistan where the strategy of killing as many Taliban as possible will fail. Pakistani leaders should understand that the next step in improving relations is a serious and full exchange between the two presidents to clear the air

With the US-Pakistani strategic dialogue resuming in Washington today, the relationship could hardly be worse. The trust deficit, already vast, has been stressed to the breaking point by NATO incursions into Pakistan and the subsequent ten-day closure of the major land supply route from Karachi to Afghanistan in retaliation. But there is a grimmer prospect.

Suppose Pakistanis thought like Americans? That prospect could destroy whatever trust and confidence existed between Washington and Islamabad. Consider why.

The Pakistan government understands that the Obama White House believes its civilian government is dysfunctional and could easily fall either through a Supreme Court ruling or a no-confidence vote. It has been told that the Americans regard the political centre of power in Pakistan as resting in the hands of army chief General Ashfaq Kayani and Lt-General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, head of Pakistan’s ISI, who are independent of civilian control. Furthermore, President Barack Obama does not believe Pakistan can deliver what the US wants most, namely active support in taking down the Haqqani network operating in North Waziristan. Last, the White House has made it clear that to gain further US financial and military assistance, Pakistan’s government must attack corruption and incompetence at its highest levels.

Reversing this analysis, if Pakistani authorities were to think as Americans, how would they assess the situation in Washington?

First, President Obama is politically weak and increasingly irrelevant. His performance rating is almost at the same low levels as Pakistan’s government. A potential rebellion was taking place in the White House with key advisors from Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, National Security Advisor General Jim Jones and economic czar Lawrence Summers leaving or being forced out.

Second, Pakistan would predict that Obama and the Democrats will certainly lose control of the House of Representatives and very likely the Senate after the November 2nd elections meaning the US government, already dysfunctional and incapable of producing even a budget or doing the nation’s business, will be in total disarray. Obama could be a one-term president.

Third, Pakistan would see real political clout over Pakistan and Afghanistan resting in the Pentagon. Secretary of Defence Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are controlling that foreign policy. The president is too weak or too afraid of confronting the military as a new book, Obama’s Wars, vividly portrays. And CIA director Leon Panetta likewise dominates intelligence and the secret war against al Qaeda, having unseated his nominal boss Admiral Dennis Blair in a coup.

Fourth, while the White House was very critical of Pakistan’s response to the floods, five years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is still far from recovered. The president’s own internal review of the BP oil disaster response is very critical of the administration. And their Department of Homeland Security is still unprepared for future crises. Yet, they criticise Pakistan!

Fifth, Congress still refuses to grant any textile tariff relief that is vital to Pakistan’s economic recovery. The tilt is towards India and the $ 3.5 billion arms sale irrespective of President Obama’s planned visit there is very provocative. Worse was the refusal of the US to raise India’s flagrant and recent human rights violations in its violent crackdown in Kashmir. And despite promises of funding through Kerry-Lugar aid and coalition support, only a fraction of the money has been delivered — pennies when compared with the hundreds of billions of dollars spent in Iraq and Afghanistan — countries with far less strategic importance to the US and about 1/6th of our population.

Sixth, while Pakistan is attacked for corruption and incompetence, the US is just as bad or worse, as are Iraq and Afghanistan, who seem exempted from criticism. Except, in the US it is called secret campaign funding approved by their Supreme Court. Congress is filled with ethics scandals at the highest levels. The so-called car czar paid a huge fine to avoid charges of wrongdoing as an investment banker. And a candidate for the Senate endorses witchcraft. Is this a serious nation?

Finally and according to its own thinking, Pakistan has concluded that the US and its allies are losing in Iraq and in Afghanistan where the strategy of killing as many Taliban as possible will fail.

Pakistani leaders should understand that the next step in improving relations is a serious and full exchange between the two presidents to clear the air. But thinking as Americans, given the weakness of the administration and the Democratic Party, Pakistanis would conclude that the White House cannot deliver. So why not keep the strategic dialogue on hold and after the Republicans win Congress, deal with them?

Hopefully, the Pakistanis will not think as we do!

(The writer is Chairman of the Killowen Group that advises leaders of government and business, and Senior Advisor at Washington DC’s Atlantic Council).

NOTE:This is a cross post.

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  • Paul Wolf  On October 21, 2010 at 1:23 am

    Are Pakistanis really so worried about improving relations with the US? I sitll think it was a mistake to re-open the Khyber Pass.

  • Salman Abbasy  On October 21, 2010 at 3:31 am

    Very valid points made by Harlan Ulman. Alas! both presidents share lack of full skills for analytical thought.

  • S U Turkman  On October 21, 2010 at 3:58 am

    Its too far-fetched to think Democrats are going to lose their majority in both houses. I think, the writer does not know, Democrats have 59 out of 100 seats in the Senate and contest for only 4 Democratic Seats are doubtful in this Election. In Congress, Opposition needs 15 Seats to have a majority and only 12 Democratic seats are doubtful. So, even if Republicans win all the doubtful contests 100% in both houses, they can not win a majority in either House.
    As far as it goes for Obama becoming a weak President like Zardari, its not possible in USA because Army does not rule USA and the President is Commander in Chief of US Armed Forces. He can dismiss Army Chief of Staff or any Senior General if he starts issuing Foreign Policy statements like gods of Pakistan like above Pak Constitution and Law, Gen. Keyani and other Generals. I guess, the writer does not remember Obama dismissing the General, who was Chief of US Army in Afghanistan.
    The Writer is lying that Obama White House is in disarray and he has no control because Rahm has left to run for Mayor of Chicago and others have been dismissed by Obama, not by other members of Presidential Staff.
    The Author is saying Pak Army should just ignore Obama, wait for next President because he is a Psychic also. He is predicting that Obama would lose next Elections and that means ignore, what USA is saying until January, 2013 or 2 years and 2 and a half months, which is a very stupid idea because ignoring Obama means, USA would be free to decide to bomb Pak Army to Stone Age as a punishment for keep backstabbing for 10 years.
    I think, the writer is a Pakistani using a Christian Name or a Writer putting down, what he has been told by JehaaDis of ISI to put down after getting some good amount of money because not even any reliable reliable Journalist of USA has so far predicted that Obama would lose next Election with this kind of emphatic emphasis though some quite un-reliable crazy US Journalists on Pro Republican Political Party Media ‘Fox’ have been wishing Republican Majority for a while against all odds and Survey Polls.

  • Syed Ataur Rahman  On October 21, 2010 at 6:48 am

    What dialogue between the two Presidents? One is knowledgeable, learned and a President enjoying and exercising full control, unlike what the writer believes. On the other hand Pakistan has a lame duck President who is only interested in saving himself and spending his 5 years in office. He is uneducated, sick and uninterested in running the affairs of the country. He just sticks around and plays local politics. He neither has the intellect nor the capability to understand the art of good governance. He is more interested in playing the Sindh card to perpetuate himself on this nation for the remaining part of his 5 years term. We don’t have to be worried; Pakistan is in safe hands as long as General Kayani leads the talks, which he will despite the presence of the lisping and dim Foreign Minister and a stupid Defence Minister who are both ignorant and untrained. The Finance Minister hopefully will support Kayani Sb in economic matters. We are certain we will come out stronger from the talks.
    I once again caution the readers about the true identity of this man turkman. He is for certain an Indian mole deployed to misguide the readers and to create dissension amongst the Pakistanis and their supporters. Hard luck turkman (why don’t you give your correct name like Shiv Sena Agarwal or Bhashan Singh Chutian). You are well exposed and your tricks will not work on this forum. So lay off or stay and we shall have fun at your cost.

  • Tanvir Ahmed Siddiqui  On October 21, 2010 at 11:59 am

    @ Ata ur Rehman sb: As you rightly said: “I once again caution the readers about the true identity of this man turkman. He is for certain an Indian mole deployed to misguide the readers and to create dissension amongst the Pakistanis and their supporters.”
    I think This man takes a large pitcher of COW URINE and then comes on line and starts vomiting and sewaging out his nauseating inner shit and garbbage of hate on Pakistan..His Hate has made him psychic..

  • Majyd  On October 21, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    Excellent eye-opener by Harlan Ulman. Obama has become an unmitigated disaster. Americans don’t seem to learn. They made the same mistake in electing Jimmy Carter who had never even met any foreign leader. Obama is totally indebted to the American establishment and thus has to obediently toe the line. Obama’s decision making process will lead to a huge increase in the influence of, and support for the Tea Party. This may become dangerous for Americans and most of the world. Meantime, Obama will continue to enrich the military-industrial complex by escalating military engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq while also keeping Iran and. Pakistan within fire range.

    With unemployment in US over 10% and no solution in sight, the American jingoism will spell disaster for its economy. The Secretary of Treasury had to contradict the news that US is contemplating the devaluation of the dollar. US continues to print money and negligently spending on defense.

    Obama, like his predecessor George W, has put American lives and property at risk by adopting this notion that an American Empire can be established thanx to American technological, financial, and intelligence power. Collateral damage, whether American or other nationalities, is inconsequential. Why is there an embargo on televising military funerals? Why no statistics on soldiers injured in war? How many suicides due to pressures of the war? The questions are many.

    Corruption is rising in Iraq and Afghanistan, what to talk about the monumental increase in Pakistan. Karzai and his sibling alongwith cronies are looting and plundering right before the benevolent eyes of the Obama administration. It seems there are authorized American officials sitting in Kabul whose job is to continuously sign blank checks for Karzai and his merry band.

    Obama is going to India as a salesman for US defense industry. The question then is that in his sales pitch, would he do a David Cameron and blast Pakistan on Indian soil, or would he try to initiate some pragmatic proposals to defuse the fire burning up Pak-India relations?

    The imminent expected disaster for the Democrats in November would have far-reaching global consequences. Obama would become weaker and more subservient to American establishment. The rest of his term would be detrimental to world peace. It would be a cold day in hell if Americans elect him again. He has ruined the strength of the Democratic Party.

    This is the time that world leaders counsel Obama to re-think American global intentions. They need to be unified in convincing Americans that there are other solutions besides just military adventures to bring peace and eliminate terrorism. Of course, the decision of the Nobel Prize Committee to confer the Nobel Peace Prize award to a rookie President has bloated up the ego of the resident of 1600 Penn Avenue. Neither has0 he brought peace anywhere nor he has the confidence or vision to bring peace. Americans will rue the day they elected Obama as the most powerful man in the world. Of course, no one can bank on the optimism that the next US President will really strive for peace and not peddle American military ware using American soldiers as fodder. Its time to dig up the slogan of the 1970s. “Make love, not war”.


  • FM  On October 21, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    I think Pakistan is being convinced for which, they are not prepared, with reference to Taliban. Regardless Pakistan will be left out of the ring by the end of the day—— Then Taliban will be our problem and Baby with loose knot of the dog by his Master in FATA etc.

  • Zubair  On October 21, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    So very true on all counts.

  • Inam Khan  On October 21, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    Since more half a dozen Pakistani ministers have descended in New York,a cicrus is going on.13 groups have been formed for discusions with our mnisters Raja Pervez Ashraf and the like to lead parleys on behalf of Pakistan.Talks are not going to get anywhere.At the end Strategic Talks are going end up in the biggest fiasco ever for both Pakistan and American Governments…………………………..Inam Khan

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