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Supporters of Pakistani religious party Jamat-e-Islami attend a rally against Raymond Allen Davis, a U.S. consulate employee suspected in a shooting, in Lahore, Pakistan, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011. Most legal experts in Pakistan's government believe an American detained in the killing of two Pakistanis has diplomatic immunity, but a court should decide his fate, an official said Tuesday. The announcement reflected an apparent bid to open the way to the man's release while dampening public outrage. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)
The A1 story in Sunday's New York Times, written by Declan Walsh, is titled "U.S. Shift Poses Risk to Pakistan." The story argues that, with the United States gradually dwindling down its political and military engagement with Pakistan, the latter faces a highly uncertain future. Walsh tells us that the disengagement will "diminish" the "prestige" and "political importance" Pakistan held as a "crucial player in global counterterrorism efforts" and could very well "upset its internal stability."

It's a piece that is revealing because one voice is noticeably left out of the analysis: that of the Pakistani people. Arguably the most salient fact about the U.S.-Pakistan dynamic is that Pakistanis - you know, the actual human beings who live in that country - despise the U.S. government and think the interaction between the two countries does more harm than good. Gallup conducted polling on these matters in Pakistan last year. An amazing 92% of Pakistanis expressed disapproval of U.S. leadership (i.e. Obama), while 4% approved. In a separate poll, 55% of Pakistanis reported that interaction with the West constitutes "more of a threat"; just 39% thought it was "more of a benefit."

In a surprising development, Pakistanis don't seem to support flagrant intrusions on their sovereignty, drone strikes that kill their fellow citizens, and a corrupt, secretive military government that regularly colludes with the U.S. (as of October, just 23% of Pakistanis expressed "confidence" in their government, which Gallup reports is widely viewed as being "too cozy" with the U.S.).

The Times article does not pay much attention to the thoughts and opinions of the Pakistani people, though. They're background players and largely irrelevant. Walsh instead quotes a single Pakistani academic to support the article's thesis; at other times in the piece he relies on unnamed "analysts" and "experts." The only other individual he does quote on this narrow question of whether or not American disengagement "poses a risk" for Pakistan, a former Pakistani foreign minister, explicitly rejects the notion, saying that "less American involvement is good, not bad."

The article concludes by stressing that, in fact, this alleged "shift" in the U.S.'s posture toward Pakistan is largely illusory, with "few" doubting that America "will remain deeply involved in Pakistan." A former Obama administration official confidently predicts that the "mutual dependency" between the two countries "will not go away." This basically undermines the entire point of the story.

Declan Walsh is a good reporter and he has spent a lot of time in Pakistan. But his virtual ignoring of the Pakistanis' clearly expressed thoughts on these matters is instructive (the extent of the Pakistanis' role in the article is a single sentence pointing out that drone strikes "stoked anger"). Consider the reverse scenario. Let's say Pakistan had been propping up a corrupt military government here in the United States for years with aid and support. Pakistan was violating U.S. sovereignty at will, assassinating residents it considers a threat to Pakistani security, dumping their corpses in the ocean. Pakistan flew robots over American skies, from which missiles were regularly launched, killing American men, women, and children. Now imagine how we would feel if the most esteemed newspaper in the world published an article about all of this on its front page that completely ignored the will of the American public and disregarded our opinions.

Perhaps, when discussing geopolitics, we should consider the views of the populations themselves, and not just governments and elites. It's a radical notion, but it just might make sense.

(Originally posted at

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Comment Preferences

  •  Here's the problem... (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Quicklund, NYFM, gfv6800, cynndara, Rogneid

    once a country aquires nuclear weapons, can the rest of the world rely on the will of that country's people to decide how and when to use them?  As far as I am concerned, who controls those weapons is issue #1 here, and that sucks for the Pakistani people.

    If you are smart enough to positively know the climate is not being affected by humans, then you are also smart enough to develop a fusion reactor which runs solely from water and air….so get your ass moving!

    by quiet in NC on Sun May 26, 2013 at 09:57:42 AM PDT

    •  ^^^ Root Cause ^^^ (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NYFM, VClib, quiet in NC, gramofsam1, Rogneid

      Pakistan's status as a nuclear power - combined with her long tradition of unstable governments - is what puts Pakistan up near the top of the foreign policy priority list.

      It is also a big factor IMO as to why the Obama Administration "surged" in Afghanistan. Sure, part of the was to get bin-Laden. But another part of the calculation was to reduce instability on Pakistan's flank ... and to lower the relative ability for Pakistan's secret intelligence services from their own adventures in Afghanistan.

      It was only a few years ago that the Taliban had advanced to the Swat Valley, only a few-score miles from the capital. Only then did the Pakistani government and Army start fighting back. Without US forces in the region to influence thinking, the seblence of democratic rule in Pakistan might have ended then.

    •  Except the US of course (8+ / 0-)

      We can totally trust those guys to not be violence-loving crazies.

  •  A bit more complicated than might appear (6+ / 0-)

    Pakistan has been held together for most of its history by the heavy hand of its armed forces and ISI whose paranoia about India knows no bounds. That doesn't let the USA of the hook by any means, of course. Pakistan's rulers find it politic to mouthe off about US strikes on militants within its borders, but I suspect that it welcomes them in secret. If it were in fact so incensed by US actions, it could always withdraw its ambassador to the USA or impose other kinds of responses. That it doesn't is telling. Pakistanis have more to fear from their own government than they do ours.

    Voting is the means by which the public is distracted from the realities of power and its exercise.

    by Anne Elk on Sun May 26, 2013 at 09:59:03 AM PDT

    •  Pakistan supports the drone strike. No question. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Anne Elk

      How can I be confident in that? Because drones cannot fly over a country with a functional air force unless that country agrees. Even WW2 era propeller-driven warplanes could shoot down these slow unmanned drones.

      In fact, drones because weaponized exactly because Pakistan approved their use.

      After 9/11 when the US was just getting into Afghanistan, Pakistan forbid US Air Force or Navy planes from flying missions inside Pakistani air space. The government did not want foreign warplanes operating in her skies. It was felt this would appear weak to the Pakistani people.

      So the US went to using these new unmanned drones for recon missions. Pakistan agreed because the original drones were quite, hard to see, and unarmed. But it was not long before Hellfire missiles were rigged to the early drones. These worked so drones started to be designed as weapons platforms.

      Pakistan could legally tell the US to stop flying armed drones just like she told the US warplane missions would not be allowed. But Pakistan has not done so. One is left to conclude that these drone strikes have support within the Pakistani government.

      •  The point of the diary (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        poco, corvo, truong son traveler, Lepanto

        is that we should pay more attention to what the Pakistani PEOPLE support. Forget the corrupt government elites. They're only concerned about holding on to power.

        •  The PEOPLE want several things (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Satya1, gramofsam1, Anne Elk, OIL GUY

          Some want a Taliban government in control.

          Some want to make a few "stans" out of one Pakistan.

          Some want to get the next war with India up and running hot.

          Some want to abandon Pakistan's claim to Kashmir.

          some want closer ties with the US, UK, and the West in general.

          Some want Western reforms, especially in the area of women's rights.

          The thing of it is, if Pakistan wanted best to be left alone the last thing she should have done is build a nuclear arsenal. But she (and India) did and in doing so she put herself (with India) wayyyyy up the foreign policy priority list. That's for the USA and for all nations active in international politics.

          The most hopeful road going forward is not to turn our back on Pakistan and her dysfunctional government, but to remain engaged to bring stability to the region and, over time, better functionality to Pakistani democracy.

          •  Well said (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            gramofsam1, Anne Elk, OIL GUY, Quicklund

            The cultural diversity in Pakistan is much more than most Americans realize.

            I wonder how careful the Gallup poll was to get input from all the main cultural groups withing Pakistan.  In any case, "what the Pakistani people want" is a complex topic.

            I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

            by Satya1 on Sun May 26, 2013 at 12:43:28 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  You said it better than I did. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            We actually have a very big stake in Pakistan. A failed nuclear state is a nightmare scenario. Our efforts should, however, be less military and more people-to-people aid as much as possible. There was an article last week in the NYT on Pakistan's virtually dead rail system, the one the British built. Now, due to neglect, corruption and violence, it is rusting into oblivion.

            Voting is the means by which the public is distracted from the realities of power and its exercise.

            by Anne Elk on Sun May 26, 2013 at 02:03:30 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Strange bedfellows (0+ / 0-)

              It is true the US-Pakistan relationship is sort of forced upon each nation, with neither nation being giddy about the situation.

              but the lack of engagement seems far worse. That India is improving relations w/the US despite the Pakistani/US relationship is a welcome development.

  •  Totally agree - there was a similarly surreal air (13+ / 0-)

    about the way the US occupation of Iraq was covered, as different American talking heads went back and forth over strategy and timelines while you NEVER saw a single consequential Iraqi being interviewed.

    I recent caught a BBC report where the journalist recently returned to Basra, and talked to some of the Iraqis trying to keep basic infrastructure like power generators running. He had interviewed these same people in the early stages of the occupation and they pointed out then and now how much things might have played out differently had the Americans and British focussed on infrastructure - like electricity.

    Instead, as we know, the Iraqi occupation was run as a very bad imitation of British colonialism, except instead of sending out the best of Oxford and Cambridge, America sent out the worst know-nothing Republican apparatchiks to run a grotesque experiment in privatization during a civil meltdown. You could certainly read about it in the UK sources, but you saw nothing of it here.

    When we finally did pull out you still had McCain and co bellowing that we should stay or leave substantial forces behind as though the elected Iraqi government simply did not count.

    This is why I think you calling out the New York Times on this story is vitally important - this absurd hubris (the essential nation mantra) is causing immense damage to real US interests worldwide. We do not get special dispensations to run concentration camps and attack areas of sovereign countries - and one of the key checks on this behavior is supposed to be our media.

    One final point - our media is fully available in these countries, and the obvious conclusion any Afghan of Pakistani would come to is that 100 of their lives is not worth one American life. We're finding out what that means as we withdraw from Afghanistan with our tail between our legs. I don't think it had to turn out this way.


    •  What a (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      great post. Thanks.

    •  When did our tail get between our legs? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      We're finding out what that means as we withdraw from Afghanistan with our tail between our legs.
      This comment does not seem supported by facts in the field.

      Mission #1 is done. Bin Laden is dead.

      Mission #2 is "close enough for government work". Violence is down in Afghanistan compared to past years. Which leaves...

      Mission #3 on schedule or ahead of it. The USA is on track to withdraw by the end date set by the USA.

      Which combines to an age-old custom. Shut down a war, go home and declare victory. This is far from a tail/legs ending. For an example of that, I suggest

      •  Your question is better directed to the Afghan (5+ / 0-)

        women whose rights are about to be rolled back to the 14th century. I'm frankly disgusted at the outcome - Afghanistan was in better shape in the 70's before the Soviet invasion and our attempt to give them their "Vietnam" using Pakistan-based jihadis - including Osama bin Laden.

        So as far as I can see - its mission not accomplished on any level - for the British its their fourth failed occupation in 200 years.

        •  You are absolutely right about Afghanistan (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Lepanto, Quicklund

          in the 70s.  I spent upwards of six months there in 1971 when Nadir Shah was still king.  There were Afghan women working in banks, ministries, the post office, and running shops in all the main cities I was in --Heat, Qandahar, Kabul, and Mazar-i-Sharif.  Sure, there were women in burqas, but those were all lower-class, illiterate peasant women.  Among the educated, a head scarf, usually draped around the shoulders and never completely covering the hair was the norm.  The involvement of women in the country's life increased during the Russian occupation.  This liberalization was one of the motives behind the horrors of the Taliban once the Russians had left.  So far as I"m able to determine, women have yet to regain much of what they lost -- not even in Kabul.  This is so profoundly sad.  

          -7.13 / -6.97 "The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion." -- Edmund Burke

          by GulfExpat on Mon May 27, 2013 at 12:16:02 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Seems your gripe here is with the USSR (0+ / 0-)

          Fact is, the vast majority of the world population is not going to conclude the US tail is tween the legs because the Soviets invaded in 1979. This is such a minority viewpoint it doesn't even blip on the political radar. And even smaller contingent will equate the contemporary actions in Afghanistan with The Great Game in the 1800s. But this does qualify as a well-informed rant.

  •  So the mission to kill OBL was a (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NYFM, Quicklund

    "flagrant intrusion on their sovereignty"? Pakistan is alot more worried about India than it is the US, and having a decent relationship with the US, both diplomatically and economically, is a very good thing for all Pakistanis. Whether they know it or not.

  •  IMO Americans would cheer if bin Laden were caught (0+ / 0-)

    You make some valid points but you step all over your own message when you suggest the killing of bin Laden and the disposal of his body is a grievous blow to Pakistan's stability and legitimacy.

    I suspect is teh world's most wanted mass-murderer was killed on Amewrican territory most Americans would be happy. As are - I suspect - millions of Pakistanis. No country is full of people who agree 100% on matters. Even 100% don't agree on hating the USA. Believe it or not.

    •  You're right, (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      poco, Deward Hastings, corvo

      it's not 100%. Just 92%.

      •  Maybe you should re-read your own diary? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Satya1, OIL GUY

        That 92% "hating America" figure you cite now was a 92% "disapprove of US Leadership" in the diary itself. Dissapprove of US leadership is a pretty big basket too which can catch any gripe.

        And in your own diary using your own data we have this:

        55% of Pakistanis reported that interaction with the West constitutes "more of a threat"; just 39% thought it was "more of a benefit."
        Hmm. Sounds almost exactly like US presidential Approval polling numbers.

        Is the USA filled with citizens of like political mind, who see eye-to-eye on the key issues of the day?


        No, I see Pakistan like most every other nation, with a deep split in public opinion and one that is much closer than you paint here. And I see this through the looking glass you provided here.

  •  The U.S. government has never cared about the (7+ / 0-)

    people of the countries it destroys regardless the propaganda spread by the NYT.   The NYT is just a sycophant to the government in that regards. This piece is just setting the stage for the new and improved warmonger agenda trotted out by Obama.

    "I'm an antiwar propagandist as accused by democrats. Not even republicans have called me that."

    by BigAlinWashSt on Sun May 26, 2013 at 11:20:35 AM PDT

  •  Time for US to leave the entire region (5+ / 0-)

    Pakistan is an artificial nation created by the departing Brits in response to demands from the largely Muslim colonial army, or at least from its officer corps. That army has been the only consistent unifying force in a land of diverse cultures and languages, and  although authoritarian by nature, does exhibit an occasional tolerance for democratic experiments. On the plus side, Pakistani armed forces have exerted control over their nuclear arsenal as effectively as Israel and India have done with their weapons - and arguably present no greater threat to the region than either of those two nuclear powers.

    As others have commented, some elements in the Pakistani army and ISI certainly welcomed the billions of dollars in military aid and other largesse that comes with being a US ally. And some certainly keep the US fears of terrorism stirred up by covertly supporting the Taliban and Al Queda. None of that is any reason for an endless US presence in that region.

    Tariq Ali's The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power offers a good look at this history and at the negative impact of decades of US involvement in Pakistan.

    If my soldiers were to begin to think, not one would remain in the ranks. -Frederick the Great

    by Valatius on Sun May 26, 2013 at 11:51:46 AM PDT

  •  uh (3+ / 0-)

    "Now imagine how we would feel if the most esteemed newspaper in the world published an article about all of this on its front page that completely ignored the will of the American public and disregarded our opinions."

    Too late, already works that way. The NYT is the spokesgopher for American hegemony now. They are full of crap.

    I assume if we know it, the Pakistanis know it as well.

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