Wednesday, January 6, 2010

"Why Does Pakistan Hate the United States?"

Claude Garrod, a man from Davis I've never met but vehemently disagree with when it comes to foreign policy, penned an op-ed in last Sunday's Davis Enterprise regarding Pakistan titled, "Why are Pakistanis angry at us?" I had no plans to read his column.

Mr. Garrod is a member of the Davis Peace Coalition -- a group dedicated to hating America and blaming Israel more than loving "peace". They are in league with our Islamist enemies in Iran and elsewhere. I find Garrod's point of view to be based more on his anti-American prejudices than any keen insight.

However, yesterday, I came across an article in Slate by Christopher Hitchens with almost the same title: "Why Does Pakistan Hate the United States?"

It had not occurred to me before reading the headlines that public opinion in Pakistan was an important question in the least. But since Hitchens -- who I admire, but find overly ideological -- and Garrod -- who I don't admire and find his ideology repulsive -- both thought this was a subject worth exploring, I had to reconsider. Maybe Pakistani opinion matters more than I had thought. I decided to read both pieces.

Garrod starts off with the finding that he has something in common with the people of Pakistan:
... opinion polls taken recently show that Americans are widely disliked and distrusted by Pakistanis. ... a recent poll showed that 80 percent of Pakistanis believe their country should not cooperate with the United States in the war on terror. Only 2 percent believe the U.S. has "good relations with Pakistan." In another poll, only 9 percent support U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan and most Pakistanis believe "the U.S. is the greatest threat to their country."

Garrod tries to explain why the Pakistanis loathe us. To do so, he takes on the voice of three different Pakis. (Never mind that his writing is hokey.)

The first he calls Colonel X, an army officer. Most of his animosity revolves around American friendship with India:
... since the creation of Pakistan in 1947, we've had only one bitter and aggressive enemy, namely India. ... the Indians used their army to occupy most of Kashmir ... they've brutally suppressed the Kashmiris ... the Indians encouraged rebels in East Pakistan, and finally, the Indian military supported the secessionists in order to break our country in two, the eastern half becoming the country of Bangladesh that is now dominated by India. ... You've just signed a nuclear technology deal with India that will clearly help it develop more nuclear weapons aimed at Pakistan but you wouldn't make a similar agreement with us. ...

India is a mess. It has democratic elections but is hardly a democracy. It has some first-rate software companies and more than its share of world class engineers and scientists. But it's hardly a first-rate economy. Yet compared with Pakistan, India is ideal. There is no reason why we should not be friends with India. The Indians, who were dominated by anti-Western socialists throughout the Cold War, have reduced some of their trade restrictions and, since the USSR came apart, reduced some of their anti-Western rhetoric. Our friendly relations with India is based on the fact that India has changed in the last 20 years and that we have a common enemy in the Islamists. No right-thinking Pakistani should worry that Indians no longer get their saris tied up in knots over "American imperialism."

Garrod's fictional voice then focuses on our policy of trying to dislodge the Russians from Afghanistan and the current war against the Taliban:
After the Soviets left Afghanistan, you just walked away from the chaotic mess that you had created in our country and left us to deal with 3 million destitute Afghan refugees in our poor country. ... using your cowardly drones, which put no Americans in danger, you kill increasing numbers of Pakistanis in our western provinces, creating a rising level of anger against our government and military.

Had America never sided with Russia's enemies in Afghanistan, Pakistan still would have had to deal with millions of Afghan refugees. In fact, the problem may have been worse, because the war there would have gone on longer.

The second of Garrod's fictional characters he calls Ahmad Y, a student at Lahore University:
We started with a democratic government, but in our short history we've had four military coups, each of which was encouraged and supported by the United States. Is this how you 'support democracy'?

This explanation is, of course, nonsense. Pakistan has been undemocratic for most of its history because of its widespread poverty, illiteracy, Islam and the dominant position of its military. Garrod, in the voice of the student, in his next sentence admits the undemocratic nature of Pakistan is due to the Pakistanis, not his bĂȘte noire, the U.S.:
Our fundamental problem is that we have a medieval social structure, with a small aristocracy that owns huge tracts of land, and a huge population of poor, powerless tenant farmers, mostly illiterate, with little opportunity for education.

But even that must be the fault of the United States, according to Garrod:
One of the largest landholders is the Bhutto clan, one of whose members you've helped to impose upon us as president.

That is complete horseshit. The Bhuttos (especially Benazir) had popularity in their own right, unrelated to our friendship toward them. The fact that a popular leader was not unAmerican is unfathomable to an America-hater like Mr. Garrod.

The "student" then is upset that the U.S. is not paying for his education. Instead, we are spending our taxpayer money on things which are not his personal priorities:
The U.S. has spent many billions of dollars in Pakistan, but more than three-quarters of it has gone to the army. That may suit American interests but it's not what we need. Right now, one-third of our country's young people (ages 15 to 25) have never been in school.

The third fictional character for Garrod is Mohammad Z, a poor tenant farmer. Like the student, his supposed hatred of America is because we are not giving him enough of our money:

You have done nothing for ordinary poor Pakistanis like me. All your money goes to the army and what's left over goes to corrupt politicians. The landlord takes so much of my crop in payment that I can barely feed my family. There are no schools around here so my children can't read and they'll end up being poor farmers like me. The country needs schools, but you only support the army.

It's worth noting here that a lot of rural farmers in Pakistan are Islamic fundamentalists and supporters of the Taliban. Those are the forces which have been destroying schools where girls attend, in the name of Islam. Thus, the supposition that most of the rural people hate Americans because we have not sufficiently funded their educations is dubious.

Next, "the farmer", decides that his hatred of America is really one about Islam and the Clash of Civilizations:
For years, you've been killing Muslims all over the world — in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Palestine, in Somalia and now here in Pakistan with your damn drone planes. When I was in Karachi I saw some of your shameless women with no head- covering, mixing with men like tramps.

Garrod says these views are not necessarily his own. But he never says where he differs and why. Mr. Garrod, in his own voice, says the fault all lies with the America, not with Pakistan:
Clearly, the U.S. has a major public relations problem in Pakistan, caused mainly by very erratic foreign policies dominated by U.S. electoral politics.

The unexplained last bit about "U.S. electoral politics" is an anti-Semitic comment. Garrod is infamous for his hatred of the role American Jews play in influencing U.S. policy. In essence, his view is that American Jews push the United States to be friendly to Israel and unfriendly to Muslims. And that, ultimately, is why Muslims hate us. (I don't know how he explains why so many Muslims also hate Western countries like France, which share his hatred of Jews and Israel.)

In his piece in Slate, Christopher Hitchens notes that we have a long history of friendship with Pakistan's military; and that cozy relationship caused them to resent us:
The United States made Pakistan a top-priority Cold War ally. It overlooked the regular interventions of its military into politics. It paid a lot of bills and didn't ask too many questions. It generally favored Pakistan over India, which was regarded as dangerously "neutralist" in those days, and during the Bangladesh war it closed its eyes to a genocide against the Muslim population of East Bengal. During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, Washington fed the Pakistani military and intelligence services from an overflowing teat and allowed them to acquire nuclear weapons on the side.

Hitchens suggests the hatred is a form of self-hatred, due to the fact that our support of a client state made them feel like dependent children:
(The Pakistani establishment) hates (the United States) because it is dependent on it and is still being bought by it. It is a dislike that is also a form of self-hatred of the sort that often develops between client states and their paymasters. (You can often sense the same resentment in the Egyptian establishment, and sometimes among Israeli right-wingers, as well.) By way of overcompensation for their abject status as recipients of the American dole, such groups often make a big deal of flourishing their few remaining rags of pride. The safest outlet for this in the Pakistani case is an official culture that makes pious noises about Islamic solidarity while keeping the other hand extended for the next subsidy. Pakistani military officers now strike attitudes in public as if they were defending their national independence rather than trying to prolong their rule as a caste and to extend it across the border of their luckless Afghan neighbor.

Hitchens suggests we abandon our historic friendship with the Pakistanis and focus on our relations with India. He implies that doing so will force the Pakistanis to stand on their own and stop acting like dependent children.
Speed the day when the Pakistanis are ... told that the support they so much despise is finally being withdrawn.

Having read both columns my conclusions is thus:

We are a convenient scapegoat for the Pakistanis. Almost all of the problems in Pakistan are the fault of the Pakistanis. They need to solve their own problems and not turn to others. However, their culture, like in most Muslim countries, is one of blame.

The great attraction of Islamism to so many Muslims is that it points the blame at everyone but themselves. It's America's fault or Israel's fault or the fault of British colonialism, etc. Until Muslims look in the mirror and realize that they need to improve their own schools, free up their own trade, democratize their own countries and liberalize their own societies in order to prosper, they will continue to fail.