Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fitzgerald: "We Walked Away From Them Twice," Or, What Exactly Does Robert Gates Know About Pakistan, And While We Are At It, What In God’s Name Does
Part 6

On August 21, 2009, in the middle of a morning in the middle of a war (allusion-hunters welcome), The Times, that of New York, had an article that ought to have startled. It began thus:

U.S. Officials Get a Taste of Pakistanis’ Anger at America By HELENE COOPER U.S. Officials Get a Taste of Pakistanis’ Anger at America By HELENE COOPER

KARACHI, Pakistan — Judith A. McHale was expecting a contentious session with Ansar Abbasi, a Pakistani journalist known for his harsh criticism of American foreign policy, when she sat down for a one-on-one meeting with him in a hotel conference room in Islamabad on Monday. She got that, and a little bit more.

After Ms. McHale, the Obama administration’s new under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, gave her initial polite presentation about building bridges between America and the Muslim world, Mr. Abbasi thanked her politely for meeting with him. Then he told her that he hated her.

“ ‘You should know that we hate all Americans,’ ” Ms. McHale said Mr. Abbasi told her. “ ‘From the bottom of our souls, we hate you.’ ”

Let’s stop right there.

Ansar Abbasi is not some marginal figure, some crank without a following. You can find out all you need to know about him online. He even has his own website. He’s a journalist, and he has seen a little of the outside, non-Muslim world, having received an education at home at private schools that still retain the influence of their non-Muslim founders. (Muslim elites tend to send their own children to schools run by non-Muslims, such as Baghdad College, formerly run by Jesuits from Boston College, and Victoria College (in Egypt), run by Anglicans, and schools run by nuns for girls. And of course there is the American School in Kuwait City, and so on round the Muslim world.

If they are sufficiently lucky, some of those students manage to study or even live in the West. But the amazing thing is that, while they obscurely recognize -- as Ansar Abbasi does -- that things are ordered far better, in every way, in the Western world, they tend to treat this as merely a matter of money (although the Muslims have received twelve trillion dollars since 1973 alone) or of “modern technology.” But why has no “modern technology” -- not one whit -- come from the Muslim lands? Why has nothing at all of cultural significance come from the Muslim lands in the last millennium -- that is, ever since the non-Muslim peoples who had been conquered had been reduced in influence as, usually, in numbers too? They seem never to consider if, just perhaps, the failures of the Muslim lands -- political, economic, social, intellectual, and moral failures -- are perhaps explained best by reference to Islam itself.

This is something the ansar-abbasis of this world cannot do, for it calls into question their entire beings, and the core of their being is Islam, and the supposed superiority of Islam. What if, in fact, the true explanation for the despotism, economic backwardness, gross legal and social inequality for women and non-Muslims, and civilisational poverty -- in art, music, literature, ideas -- is a result not only of outright bans, in Islam, on many varieties of artistic expression, but on the encouragement, in Islam, of a habit of mental submission, of never questioning any of the rules of Islam? For this habit of mental submission inhibits moral development -- and that, of course, has consequences as well in all areas of life, including the development of science (which is not to be confused with having the money to buy the technological fruits of Western science), and of the kind of questioning that leads to the Enlightenment and to free and skeptical inquiry without which intellectual progress is hardly possible.

And Ansar Abbasi surely knows -- or does he? -- that for fifty years Pakistan, its generals, and its zamindars, have been among the spoiled children of America’s Islam-ignorant and, as a consequence, needlessly expensive foreign policies.

But the beliefs that animated the support for Pakistan begin not with Pakistan itself, but with Turkey. For Turkey was early on seen as a steadfast ally against the Soviet Union, and against the Communism that the Soviet Union was naturally identified with. Turkey became a member of NATO at the urging of the United States, in a kind of prefiguring of American support for Turkish admission to the E.U., over the objections of many, and by now probably most, of the European countries that make up the E.U., and whose fates will be affected far more immediately by the admission of Turkey to the E.U. When, in distant Korea, Communist aggression had to be stopped, the Turks sent a contingent, and that contingent managed, while serving in South Korea, to convert thousands of Koreans to Islam -- which extra-curricular activity failed to attract any notice then, or any comment since.

Turkey supplied the American forces with listening posts into the Soviet Union, and bases that were to be used by American airmen. Even if the government of Morocco were ultimately to force the Americans out of the bases they used in that country, and Khaddafy, when he came to power in 1969, promptly kicked the Americans out of their giant Wheelus Air Base, and even though “our staunch ally” Saudi Arabia regarded American military forces as “blue-eyed slaves” to be “summoned” -- as one Saudi ruler put it, whenever “I want” -- and even though the Americans had never had a base in Pakistan and still today do not have one and will never be allowed to have one, and even though all the plans for American bases in Iraq were finally seen to be completely pie-in-the-sky, at least in Turkey the Americans thought they had a stable and secure ally, one that could be counted on.

But in the spring of 2003, when the Americans wanted to use four divisions to invade Iraq, with one coming from the north, from Turkey, the Turks would not permit it. It should have been understood then that even Turkey, a member of NATO, could not be counted on in any military operations by the Americans, or by NATO itself, against another Muslim country.

Pakistan, however, was given American aid, even though Pakistan was of little use, direct or indirect, during the Cold War, until the moment that the Red Army streamed into Afghanistan, and then Pakistan came into its own, or at least some Americans thought it did. For in helping the muhajideen, including trans-shipping American military aid to the muhajideen, the government of Pakistan was helping the United States, in the view of those Americans, including some in the C.I.A., who were became so hell-bent on defeating the Soviets that they ended up helping many of the same people who later on would promote the Taliban, or even join the ranks of the Taliban, and the Taliban were those who gave aid and sanctuary to Al-Qaeda.

If the Americans had thought for a bit, and read, for example, the Manual on Jihad written by a Pakistani general (Malik), and if they had been more willing to come to grips with Islam, they might have decided that the ruthlessness of the Soviet forces in suppressing Islam in Central Asia, in the “stans” of the Soviet Union, was not a thing to be deplored but to be welcomed, and that government by those who, in the Afghani context, called themselves “Communists” (a word which sometimes merely signaled “secularist”) would not be enough of a victory to give the dying Soviet Union a reprieve from its fate, but at least would not help, and might hinder, the renewal of Muslim power in parts of Central Asia. Sometimes an enemy’s behavior should be recognized as, objectively, furthering one’s own goals. But the Americans in dealing with Afghanistan thought only about defeating the Soviets, and not about what that defeat, and the victory of the muhajideen, might mean.

This inability to think ahead has always been a problem. Had the American government in 1945, just as the war was ending, immediately stopped thinking about the Soviet Union as a necessary “ally” (as it was during World War II), and instantly recognized the malevolent designs on Eastern and Central Europe by Joseph Stalin, and had the Americans moved troops in or at a time of the American nuclear monopoly made other threats, a great deal of anguish, lasting nearly a half-century, might have been spared all the Central and Eastern European countries that came under Soviet domination after World War II. It is just possible that the Soviet Union itself might have collapsed earlier than it did.

It is the same with Islam. The mind-set of American policy-makers has been that of the Cold War, and in the Cold War various Muslim countries, and Islam itself, were seen, not quite accurately in the former case and completely misleadingly in the latter case, as enemies of totalitarianism, Communist division.

Robert Gates is a child of that Cold War. And so are many others in the Administration who did not, in the eight years that have followed 9/11/2009, taken even a month, even a week off, to try to learn about Islam. Washington is full of people who remain confused about the subject, and determined to rely on Muslim advisers, or on the repetition of soothing phrases such as “we must win the confidence of Muslims” or “we must win Muslim minds and hearts.” They do not find out whether or not such goals are either possible or worthwhile, given the kinds of violence we might have to do to our own ideals, and to our alliances, and to our own understanding of what the Western world is, and to the rights of other, but less powerful, Infidel lands. Those less powerful Infidel lands are often deemed expendable by some of the false “realists” who want us to win those unwinnable hearts and minds, or to curry favor with Muslims by paying them in the coin of the security of other Infidels (in Western Europe, or Israel, or India, or Thailand, or elsewhere).

For our own leaders, civilian and military, are willfully ignorant and unable, or incapable, of learning enough about Islam to cease to be taken in by the what should be seen as the most transparent kind of Muslim blague, designed to separate us from ever more of our money and war materiel, and to keep getting American and European concessions, in all kinds of ways, in order that the will-o’-the-wisp of Muslim cooperation and “appreciation” can be (impossibly) obtained.

Here we have, in the meeting of McHale and Abbasi, a distillation of all that we need to know. The United States taxpayers have been paying, and paying, Pakistan since the days of CENTO, when American supplied money and weapons to this country. It was decades of American aid that allowed the I.S.I. to support the metallurgist A. Q. Khan, who in the West -- because of the innocence of trusting Westerners -- stole nuclear secrets and returned with them to Pakistan. Then the Pakistani military used the critical support -- a grant-in-aid, for all you N.I.H. researchers out there -- from the American government to pay for the development and the building of Pakistan’s “Islamic bomb.” It is the existence of a few dozen of those bombs that now causes nightmares in Washington, New Delhi, and all over the Infidel world, both for what the Pakistanis themselves might do, or what a group of Muslim terrorists who might seize, or be handed off, one or more of those bombs, just might possibly be able to do.

From time to time, those who follow closely the Pakistani government finally get fed up. That was why, years ago, the Senate passed the Pressler Amendment discussed in a previous segment of this article. This was why Senator Glenn kept bringing up Pakistan’s continued violations of the solemn promises it had repeatedly made to the American government in order to receive continued aid. But Senators Glenn and Pressler are gone, and so are others, from Congress, who over time had managed to be disabused of any faith in Pakistan or its promises. This changeover of personnel is what allows someone to make the kind of astonishing remark that Robert Gates did a week or two ago, telling the Pakistanis that “we” -- the Americans -- had let down “you” -- the Pakistanis -- by “walking away twice,” but “we” won’t, he assured those Pakistanis, do that again. This is not merely incorrect. This is a statement so wrong, so very much the opposite of the truth, that it displays a kind of weird genius in reverse. It takes real amnesia, the deepest kind, to make such a statement.

When Judith A. McHale agreed to meet with Abbasi -- or did she seek him out? Or did he ask to meet with her? -- was she hoping to find out something about what the locals think? But if she had studied Islam, she would not have been surprised by the viciousness of Ansar Abbasi, because she would have been well-prepared to understand what Raphael Patai has called, in his excellent study, “The Arab Mind,” (one now widely read in Washington), but can be with greater exactitude called the “psychology of the Muslim.” That can be found studied, for example, in the book, now online, of Andre Servier. If you have a grasp of the mental and emotional substratum, not only of this particular Ansar Abbasi, but of the world of Islam, the world of those who grow up in a family, a city, a country, suffused with Islam, from which there is no escape and no relief, then you will possibly become a past master at prying aid from Infidels. But you will also be a past master at retaining your inward hostility that cannot be bought off by any such aid. No gratitude, of the long-lasting and genuine sort, should be expected. Those who have been well-prepared in the texts, tenets, history, and psychology of Islam are the only ones who can make policies likely to be effective. Such policies are likely in the first place to be effective because they will not be directed at goals that are unattainable (making Muslim states into prosperous, unified, well-governed places), and if attained, would have no effect on the worldwide threat to all Infidels, of Islam and those who are prompted by its teachings to engage in the “struggle” or Jihad to remove all obstacles to the spread and then the dominance of Islam.

Abbasi thought Musharraf was corrupt, and he denounced not only Musharraf, but his American backers. Abbasi is consumed with all kinds of hostility towards the non-Muslim world, and his study in England did not lessen but probably increased his rage, his ill-concealed envy, his fury that Muslims do not have the position in the world that is theirs, as he deeply believes, by right. Yet no one would dare tell the ansar-abbasis of this world that the cause of their own distress, in their own countries, is a result of Islam itself. Well, how, really, could he take that in, and recognize the truth of it, unless we insist and insist and insist, and do not waver in our certainty, and force him, then, to begin to recognize that truth, however unpleasant it may be for his self-esteem? I wonder what Lord Palmerston, or Churchill, or Tocqueville, or John Quincy Adams, would have thought about Westerners making policies for dealing with Muslims that were based on a deep solicitude for Muslim “self-esteem.”

No, we Americans are Infidels, and Abbasi, telling Judith McHale that “we” (all Pakistanis) “hate” not just a few, but “all Americans,” was more or less telling the truth. But the next step is up to McHale and her bosses, and that is to finally realize that that hatred is not, in the end, about the pursuit of Bin Laden, or support for Musharraf, or for someone who follows Musharraf. It is about Islam, and about the fact that everything in Islam prepares the mental and emotional ground to ensure that Muslims will naturally dislike, or even hate, Infidels, no matter how much innocent or naïve generosity and goodwill those Infidels display.

And watch out for “Charm” as a weapon of Jihad. Most people, alas, often make judgments about large matters on the basis of the most trivial anecdotal evidence, or personal experience that, if analyzed correctly, would be seen in the nature of things to be deceptive. I am thinking in particular of the Pakistani ambassador in Washington, Husain Haqqani, and his helpmeet, in every sense, one of the very attractive Ispahani girls (the Ispahani family being one of the richest in Pakistan), all of whom have gone to excellent American schools. So use your imagination, with these smooth Anglophones, well-versed in the conversational arts of Georgetown and McLean, with the wife being so able to fit into her jeans (which allows us all to forget about the hundreds of millions of women forced to wear burqas or chadors or even the niqab), and who can allude to a picnic at Lake Waban (Wellesley!). All this can make conversationalists forget all about Muslim strictures on the education of women (enforced violently in Afghanistan), and of a host of legal and social disabilities that Muslimahs must endure, not because of “cultural practices” but because of Islam itself, which clearly assigns an inferior place to women, and spells out the reasons in Qur’an and Hadith, with details from the Sira, the Life of Muhammad, offering illustrative, and illuminating, examples.

Georgetown must get beyond mere “charm.” Then Husain Haqqani et ux. can be enjoyed the way Trollope might have enjoyed them, by engaging with them in outwardly affable social intercourse but at the same time casting a cold unswerving novelist’s eye on how they operate, and what they are attempting to achieve. And that is not money, or social status, as with Trollopean protagonists. Rather, they are attempting to win billions more in aid and military equipment, and above all continued political indulgence, for Pakistan.

I can imagine the two of them at Georgetown parties, seated next to, say, Teresa Heinz Kerry and her morganatic-marriage-in-reverse husband, artfully displaying their Western-educated ways, and in that very display, helping their dinner partners, Americans and other non-Muslims, to forget or not to inquire too deeply into the nature of Islam, and even to forego, later on, trying to find out more about Islam. For Husain Haqqani and his charming wife are there to ‘splain it all, night after night after night.

Judith A. McHale, and Robert Gates, and Richard Holbrooke, and Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama, and a few hundred others in Official Washington, must start hitting the books instead of relying on the likes of those ambassadors who truly do put into practice what the old definition of a diplomat describes: “someone who is sent abroad to lie for his country.” The formula would be more accurate if instead of “country” the word were “his faith.” Because what Ambassador Haqqani does is only what all the Muslim ambassadors do, though since Prince Bandar ruled the diplomatic roost (even showing up at the Pentagon for top-secret gatherings, apparently), it has not been quite the same.

And not only should Judith A. McHale never meet with the likes of Ansar Abbasi again, but if any representative of the Pakistani government ever dares to talk that way, the American interlocutor should walk out of the room, cancel any further meetings, and make sure that the displeasure of the United States, which has been milked and milked and milked for decades by Pakistan, is made known, made known so that is never again to be overlooked, or forgotten.

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