NY Times: Pakistan Not Sufficiently Grateful for U.S. Air Raids
Today's New York Times story titled "Pakistan Reported to Be Harassing U.S. Diplomats" highlights the hypocrisy of the Pakistani government in accepting U.S. aid and military support while refusing to renew visas of U.S. personnel and subjecting American diplomats to routine vehicle checks. Certainly Pakistan's government doesn't have to accept the billions of dollars the U.S. government is giving it. But there is more to this story.
First of all, the U.S. wrote the book on denying visas for opaque, often senseless reasons.
The State Department has a history of denying visas for political reasons, and should not be surprised when other countries do the same from time to time. (I believe denial of the right to travel is rarely justified, but this is an oft-used tool of U.S. foreign policy.)
Second, the U.S. is unpopular in Pakistan because it bombs Pakistanis using unmanned drones and has this year pressured the Pakistani military to take action that led to societal upheaval and mass suffering. This has had the not unforeseeable consequence of making the current Pakistani government's relationship with the Americans somewhat toxic.
But this is mostly missing from the Times story. Only near the bottom of the article do we get any indication of why Pakistanis might not be grateful for the presence of the Americans in their country:
Much of the heightened suspicions about American diplomats appears to revolve around persistent stories in the Pakistani press about the presence of the American security company Blackwater, now called Xe Services, in Pakistan.
The embassy has denied that Xe operates in Pakistan. But those statements have collided with reports that Xe operatives worked for the C.I.A. to load missiles onto drones used to kill Qaeda militants in the tribal areas.
The public distrust toward American officials has led many American diplomats to keep a low profile, and adopt a bunker mentality, American diplomats acknowledge. Americans are warned by security advisers to steer clear of restaurants and shopping areas.
The story only nibbles around the edges of the controversy surrounding President Obama's decision to continue the Bush policy of bombing using unmanned drones in Pakistan. Some such attacks this year were reported to have killed civilians, including children.
Nor does today's story mention the wider turmoil caused in part by American intervention in Pakistan (this from the UK Times in April):
As many as 1m people have fled their homes in the Tribal Areas to escape attacks by the unmanned spy planes as well as bombings by the Pakistani army. In Bajaur agency entire villages have been flattened by Pakistani troops under growing American pressure to act against Al-Qaeda militants, who have made the area their base.
It's not hard to imagine the U.S. public's response if Argentina or France started bombing U.S. territory, then prompted the U.S. military to flatten rural villages, uprooting hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens in the process. But empathy--or even common sense--is in short supply when you're the biggest kid on the block.
The U.S. is acting in its perceived interest (though not its actual interest) in Pakistan but can't reasonably expect the elected government of Pakistan to also act to preserve U.S. interests when they conflict with the government's own political viability. But reporters for the NY Times too often, as in today's story, make the assumption upon which most of U.S. foreign policy is premised: since U.S. motives are pure, whatever is in the interest of the U.S. is also in the interest of everyone else. It is almost comical how infrequently this assumption is challenged in the U.S. press.
Update: This story from the LA Times is a more balanced review of Pakistan's interest in not having its citizens bombed and how a U.S. policy proposal to expand drone attacks "risks rupturing Washington's relationship with Islamabad."
[Image: Predator Drone (US Air Force/EPA)]