Monday, May 28, 2007

The Price of Peas and Soldiers in Pakistan

A recent news blip about the "war against terrorism" in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area deserves some mention on our blog (it was front page in the NY Times and even the source of a segment on Wyatt Cooper's Primetime CNN news show, but was not connected to anything of importance and then dropped).

The U.S. government, on top of its other extensive aid to the Pakistani military dictatorship, is giving the Pakistani military an extra one billion annually as "compensation" for its campaigns against Taliban forces using Pakistani territory as a base to attack Afghanistan (in the 1980s, of course, this region was the center for multi-billion US-Pakistani actions directed largely by the CIA to train, arm, and protect, right-wing Afghans to attack the Soviet supported Communist government in Afghanistan). Out of those "successful" actions both the Taliban and Al Qaeda eventually came.

Today the actions however aren't so "successful." The Pakistani military seems to be looking the other way where Taliban activity is involved. Also, sections of Pakistani Intelligence particularly, who were backers of these right-wing elements a generation ago, along with the military, may still be on their side.

Some believe that the Musharaf dictatorship is running an old-fashioned scam on the U.S. government, launching some high profile attacks and arrests to keep the money flowing while it does nothing most of the time except hope that it can keep on spending its ill gotten gains.

Some, including prominent Democrats, have even suggested that the Bush administration hold the Pakistanis accountable--have some "pay for performance" standard that connects the payments to Pakistani military achievements, a sort of "merit pay" system based on body counts that the Bush administration has rejected,even though it, in the tradition of conservative "free market" economists, enthusiastically supports "incentive pay" systems for public and private sector workers and has fought to institute such programs against trade union opposition through the country.

Economists sometimes use the term "the price of peas in Pakistan" to get students to think about economic interrelatedness. Perhaps we can use the "price of counter-insurgents in Pakistan" to deal with the question of political-economic interrelatedness on Memorial Day, 2007.

A "war against terrorism" is essentially a permanent and endless war in which Memorial Day will be every day as it has been in Iraq unless the political economic questions that led to the conflicts are addressed.

The Pakistani government is an enemy of India, the orchestrator of a "terrorist" campaign in Indian Kashmir for over half a century, an Islamic clerical state that along with Saudi Arabia was one of the only states on earth which recognized the Taliban regime at the time of the September 11 attacks.

It was an "ally" of the U.S. ruling class for over forty years in the cold war against Soviet, Communist, left, and non-aligned states and forces in Southern and Western Asia. While it continues to receive large quantities of U.S. aid, it is no ally today of even the U.S. ruling class, but a state whose regional ambitions foster terrorism while it seeks to survive by placating both the U.S. government and the extensive and powerful right-wing clerical elements within its ranks.

It also continues to receive "aid" from Saudi Arabian sources to develop "religious education," i.e., fundamentalist primary schools that serve as recruitment centers for groups that carry out terrorist activities internationally. That the Bush administration dares to give substantial economic and military aid to such a regime is an example of its arrogance and its belief that it can do anything it wants and get away with it.

If the U.S. has an ally in this region in "the war against terrorism"it is India, which has been and is a major target of terrorist attacks. If the U.S. has a democratic ally in this region, it is India, which has free elections, an independent judiciary, and no history of military dictatorship beyond a very short "state of emergency" period in the 1970s under Indira Gandhi which she ended (none of the Pakistani military dictators who have been in power most of the time since the 1950s voluntarily gave up power and at present the leading jurist in Pakistan, seeking to limit the power of the present military dictator, is facing trial and imprisonment on what most Pakistanis and virtually all international observers know are crude trumped up charges) qualifies it to be considered the largest liberal democracy on earth.

The Bush administration's "special relationship" with both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia while it spends hundreds of billions of dollars in the "war against terrorism" is a stark example of its "Wag The Dog" foreign policy. It, this memorial day, is another reason why we should all commit ourselves to making 2008 Memorial Day, the last memorial day of right-wing Republican rule, so as, to paraphrase Woodrow Wilson's WWI slogan, to make our country and "the world safe for democracy."

--Norman Markowitz

No comments: