With Friends Like These . . .
There is a great post over at TomDispatch by Dilip Hiro on the US-Pakistan relationship. I say relationship, although Pakistan is often characterized as an "ally," because Pakistan is anything but an ally. The US does have allies, the NATO countries, Japan, and South Korea, and we are committed to their defense through formal treaties. But there is a whole other class of countries that are sloppily and/or deceptively referred to as allies. These are countries which besides Pakistan include Saudi Arabia and Israel. These are states which want to enjoy the benefits of being US allies without actually being allies, or even our friends for that matter. There is no mutuality between them and us. They are willing to go along in a limited, highly conditioned way as long as US interests can be used to further their own but stop or work against US interests when they can not be.
It is important to realize that this would be true whether our foreign affairs were run by our current imperial minded elites or not. The difference is not how these states would act toward us, minus our elites, but rather how we, minus those same elites, would act toward them, as in correct but distant.
Hiro's post on the US-Pakistan relationship is so good because it gives a short, and I think too often overlooked, history of the conflicted nature of that relationship. To add to what Hiro has to say, Pakistan is a strongly anti-US, anti-Western country. It's main reason in even having a US policy is to keep the US from tilting too much toward its arch-nemesis India and to use US aid to build up its forces against India. 9/11 and the US invasion of Afghanistan were something of a godsend for the Pakistani establishment, the military, and their intelligence service the ISI. They could play both sides in the conflict. Indeed the last thing the Pakistanis want is a resolution of the Afghanistan war either through a peace agreement or a US withdrawal. If either happened, they would lose their leverage over the US. US aid would dry up. The US would pursue its natural interests in the region which are primarily centered around India. This is why we see all these apparently wildly opposed Pakistani actions. Pre-9/11, they built up the Taliban and al Qaeda. Then they facilitated the US invasion of Afghanistan. Then they gave safe haven to the Taliban and the remnants of al Qaeda, including Osama bin Laden. On the one hand, they support the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan. On the other, they tacitly allow drone attacks, all while railing against them, in their own Tribal Areas. Consider that Pakistan has a population of 173 million, more than half that of the US. It has a 600,000 man army, with a total force size of 1.4 million. The Tribal Areas have only a population of around 3-4 million and not all of those areas are directly related to the Afghanistan conflict. Yet in the 10 plus years since 9/11, Pakistan has never mounted any real sustained effort to control this area. There have only been sporadic operations, often involving a few thousand poorly armed and trained soldiers. It is only a kind of imperial psychosis that has kept a large US army in Afghanistan under both Democratic and Republican Presidents.
Reading Hiro's piece reminded me of how commonplace such poisonous relationships are. Indeed how our policy elites seem to favor them. Saudi Arabia is another deeply anti-Western country. Its education system dominated by religious extremists inculcates such views. It was no accident that 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudis, or that al Qaeda's leader was Saudi and from a prominent family, or that half the suicide bombers in Iraq were Saudis, or that Saudi Arabia (along with other Gulf states) have funded radical madrassas in Africa and Pakistan from which many of the world's terrorists came.
And then there is Israel. Can anyone name even a single instance over the last 50 years where our relationship with that country has actually had a positive impact on our interests? because I can't. I can think of scores where our support of Israel has cost us or got us into trouble but not one where it helped us. Not one.
In any case, this is what got the Hiro piece got me thinking about. Our elites have cultivated relationships with governments dedicated to subvert our interests, the interests that is of the 99%. And they are a pretty ghastly lot. With friends like these, truly, who needs enemies?