The latest news on US-Pakistan relations shouldn’t surprise anyone. According to the Associated Press, former Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf used billions of dollars in US military aid for everything but the paymasters’ intended purpose: fighting Taliban militias.
None of this news, however, is likely to generate much Pakistani sympathy for American taxpayers. What American officials refer to as “anti-American sentiment” is actually a deep resentment of U.S. government involvement in internal Pakistani politics. It is worth noting that U.S. funding for Musharraf marked the third time we have supported Pakistani dictatorship in the country’s 60 years of history.
It is precisely this past that has come to haunt both Pakistanis and Americans today. The intersection of dictatorship and dollars has resulted in a Pakistani military that does not answer to the country’s civilian leadership. Every time American taxpayers financed an alliance with a Pakistani military dictator, we also forced Pakistani reformers to take a backseat.
The Huffington Post
by Sanjeev Bery
In the 48 hours since President Obama’s speech in Cairo, Israeli journalists and pundits have had a lot to say. Their comments offer insights into U.S. foreign policy that many American observers might not get at home.
Some were particularly struck by Obama’s implicit linkage of Palestinian aspirations and other global struggles for freedom. In the liberal newspaper Ha’aretz, journalist Akiva Eldar wrote:
The Huffington Post
by Sanjeev Bery, Sahar Shafqat
It is always easy to tell someone else what they need to do. Just point your finger, clear your throat, and boldly offer your advice. Don’t worry about the realities of history — just speak your mind.
In his recent essay, “The Dilemma of the ‘good’ Muslim,” Deepak Chopra is guilty of exactly this. He ignores the complexities of history and blithely proclaims that Muslims should take responsibility for a whole host of enemies: oligarchs, military regimes, anti-Semites, jihadis. Chopra declares: “We — and here I mean the entire world — need the vast majority of Muslims to wake up and then to stand up.”
Among the many factors at play in the growth of the Pakistani “neo-Taliban” is the story of poverty and a failed government response to basic human needs. With the global recession underway, things have only gotten only worse for those near the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder in Pakistan and elsewhere.
As the World Bank puts it:
“Estimates of the additional number of people trapped in extreme poverty in 2009 as a result of the financial crisis range from 50 to 90 million.”
With that in mind, it can be easy to view this weekend’s IMF/World Bank meetings as good news: lots of talk of providing money to Pakistan and other developing nations to help during the recession.
Unfortunately, the IMF is talking about providing loans.
That means more long-term debt for the very nations that can least afford to pay it off. To make things worse, many of these loans are likely to come with the kinds of conditions that will further limit social welfare spending.
Amidst all the buzz around new U.S.-Cuba relations, Chris Matthews found a way to sound the old Cold War alarm. Avoiding the messy details of real history, Mr. Matthews criticized President Obama’s call for a new U.S.-Cuba relationship:
Well, I just am not a Castro fan. You know, he [Castro] bought the wrong ticket. He bet on communism. He bet on the Soviet Union. If that side had won, he would be marching through Fifth Avenue, overseeing the executions in Central Park….So, I don’t really want to help Castro.
Summoning ghosts from the 80’s flick Red Dawn, Matthews revealed a history of Cuba that never existed. There was never such a “bet” to be made. Continue reading
Good reporting on U.S. foreign policy requires good reporting, period. As newspapers shrink and reporters get laid off, accurate American discourse about our actions in the world becomes less likely.
The best (worst) example is Iraq. Even before the Obama Administration began, flagging public interest intersected with shrinking media budgets to result in Baghdad reporting cutbacks.
In less expensive parts of the world, we can expect more of the same. As newspapers go belly-up, the pool of funds available to hire foreign correspondents is declining as well. Citizens of the Superpower who depend on mainstream media are going to have even less information about America’s global footprint.
But instead of watching our for-profit media institutions go out of business, maybe we should stop thinking of them in business terms. Liberal media critic Eric Alterman just published a fine column on a topic getting increasing play in some circles: the nonprofit newspaper.
Until recently, a fundamental reality has been missing from U.S. media coverage of the “drug wars” in Latin America. Time and again, our headlines have pointed to the scary “other” — the corrupt Mexican police officer, the Colombian drug trafficker, the peasant farmer who ekes out a living growing a poisonous crop.
A case in point: Mexican Drug Cartel Violence Spills Over, Alarming U.S. (NY Times)
You don’t have to dig into the article, just take a look at the headline. The scary violence of America’s next-door neighbor is suddenly threatening us.
In this telling, we Americans are the besieged victims — the people who are subjected to a flood of poison from violent smugglers and cartels. But this approach only works if one ignores basic economics. The narrative of “governments vs. traffickers” or “U.S. vs. foreign cartels” misses the point.
The drug war is best understood as a battle of dollar versus dollar — a bloody war between the dollars of U.S. taxpayers and the dollars of U.S. consumers.