America on Road to Verdict – A Split One
(This article was originally written for Defence Journal)
By Jehangir Khattak
Pakistan has frequently been mentioned by almost all the candidates from both sides of the political divide. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s name has never been mentioned in a manner that would make most Pakistanis proud. The candidates cite the example of Pakistan while discussing the rising threat of religious extremism in different parts of the world. The candidates’ strong rhetoric in their plans to “deal” with Pakistan has attracted at times pretty strong reaction from Pakistan’s Foreign Office. While politicians like Mike Huckabee lack international vision, their foreign policy outlook remains a guessing game. And whenever they spoke on international issues, those were nothing short of gaffes.
The assassination of Pakistan’s former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, on December 27, 2007, was the first major incident that evoked response from all the presidential candidates. The candidates’ varying responses exposed their command on foreign policy. So striking were these responses that top American dailies like The Washington Post wrote a special editorial on them under the caption “The Pakistan Test.” These reactions not only demonstrated the candidates’ understanding or otherwise of international issues, but also their ability to handle them. The astonishingly naïve reaction came from none else but Mike Huckabee who wanted a crackdown on illegal immigrants from Pakistan in the United States following BB’s assassination. His unimaginative approach did not end here. He, in the course of his comments, tried to make his audience believe that Pakistan is still under martial law.
Equally disappointing was Senator Barak Obama who has so far treaded a tough line on Pakistan. Obama has time and again expressed his resolve to hit terrorist targets, if any, on Pakistani soil without seeking Islamabad’s permission. Obama’s somewhat unilateralist approach towards Pakistan is in virtual contrast to his international outlook which advocates more inclusiveness and greater openness. Unlike the current Republican administration’s policy of not negotiating with its foes, Obama is promising talks with countries like Iran. In Pakistan’s case, Obama, who is promising change in Washington, is propagating something that would maintain status quo in the American line of thinking. Former Director George Tenet, in his latest book At the Center of the Storm, best explains this thinking. He says, “…we must not fall prey to typical American impatience and rush into ‘solutions’ that only make matters worse.” The Illinois Senator’s assertions on Pakistan have disappointed and even antagonized many of his Pakistani-American admirers.