Friday, May 9, 2008

Bush's Intensifying Confrontation with Islam: Pakistan's Turn

On May 5, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte gave a short address at the semi-official National Endowment for Democracy (NED) on Pakistan. The money quotes were:

...let me be clear: we will not be satisfied until all the violent extremism emanating from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas is brought
under control.
It is unacceptable for extremists to use those areas to plan, train for, or execute attacks against Afghanistan, Pakistan, or the wider world. Their ongoing ability to do so is a barrier to lasting security, both regionally and internationally. Pakistan’s Government must bring the frontier area under its control as quickly as possible and we are certainly prepared to provide appropriate assistance to the Government of Pakistan in order to achieve that objective.

And, in response to a question from the audience:

we want to be supportive of the Government of Pakistan’s efforts to
enhance the standard of living, the level of development of that region, and we’re very supportive of those efforts. In fact, we have a five-year, $150 million a year program to support the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. But when it comes to the issue of international terrorism, we don’t think that area should be a platform from which attacks can be conducted against other parts of Pakistan, nor do we think it should be a platform for the conduct of attacks into Afghanistan across the border, where we have, of course, great interests in the stability of that country and we have our own troops and other NATO troops
stationed there who end up being the victims of some of these attacks. And of course, we don’t want to see the tribal area being used as a platform for plotting and executing international terrorist activity against the West. So any kind of agreement or understanding which might be negotiated, we would have to look at in the light of those imperatives for United States policies.

Pakistan, you have been warned!

Background on both Negroponte and the NED.

Beyond the specifics of U.S.-Pakistani relations, it is instructive to place this speech in the broader context of Bush Administration policy during his final year in office. As I wrote in mid-March:

"To understand the dynamics underlying contemporary global political strife, it is essential to comprehend that choices exist. Bush could try to leave office on high note by leading the world away from the law of the jungle toward mutual understanding. Annapolis was the wave of a hand in this direction, though it was clear from the start, given Bush’s refusal to invite two of the key players – Hamas and Iran, that it did not constitute a sincere effort at a new direction.

Alternatively, Bush could pull back and allow others freedom to maneuver. Since the neo-con policy of force is not working, perhaps others have better ideas. Intentionally or not, the effect of the NIE was to put Europe in the driver’s seat in terms of leading the charge against Iranian nuclear program. Beyond this, for every Islamic problem facing Bush, local initiatives to resolve the situation peacefully exist but are being blocked by U.S. policy....

There is little indication, however, that Bush will consider these alternatives. Rather, if various disparate pieces of recent evidence are put together, the resulting pattern suggests that in the waning months of his administration, Bush means to intensify American pressure on the Islamic world, further promoting the emergence of an Islamic political fault line that will split Moslem societies even as it leads to more severe confrontation with the West. If the policy of force has not worked after six and a half years, then apply more force!"

Those comments preceeded the decision of U.S. proxy al-Maliki to attack al Sadr, the decision of the U.S. to send its troops into Sadr City, the recent U.S. missile attack on Somalia, the intensified U.S. rhetoric of recent weeks blaming Iran for its self-inflicted problems in Iraq, and the decision of the pro-U.S. Lebanese regime to intensify its confrontation with Hezballah this week by cutting its phone lines. Now, it's Pakistan's turn.

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