VORTEX OF CONFLICT – THE IMPORTANCE
OF BEING PAKISTAN
America exults over the
‘termination’ of Osama bin laden
Just when you begin to worry that
maybe the United States cannot do anything right, this happens. And suddenly
things seem just a little better – and the barometric pressure in American a
little bit lighter. This is to say that the loud noise you here coming from
the 50 states of the United States is one big collective sigh of relief. The
man is gone.
Make no mistake about it. The end
of the life of Osama bin Laden is the beginning of a number of new things
and questions for the rest of us. Like 9/11 itself, it marks a clear chapter
in our history.
For an increasingly embattled
President Barack Obama, this spectacular development should provide a
measure of considerable assurance (if not an outright guarantee) that
whoever runs against him next year won’t have the advantage of opposing an
incumbent with a soft-on-terrorism image. A one-note Donald-Trump like
assault that our president is weak-on-evil just won’t fly. That opportunity
is now gone.
It was Obama, after all, who
authorized the invasive military operation inside the borders of sovereign
Pakistan … and let the diplomatic chips fall where they may. Say what we
will about this often-indecisive politician. On this one, he stuck to his
guns on his directive to permit the American military to go wherever it
needed and to do whatever it took to end the life of this mass murderer of
And that took some guts.
As for Pakistan, it is now a
question of whether the government of President Asif Ali Zardari will be
domestically strengthened by its apparently intimate cooperation with the
extraordinary counter-terrorist military operation that assassinated Osama.
The worry in Islamabad, of course, is that the streets will explode in
anti-American rage. His government could rise or fall on this turn of
events. What is certain is that it will not be unaffected. But for the
moment at least, U.S.-Pakistan relations, for all appearances – and given
all their troubles – seem repaired overnight.
The issue of the U.S.-Pakistan
relationship remains central to America’s future role in Southeast Asia, the
vital and eternal importance of giant India notwithstanding. As the timely
new book Vortex of Conflict: U.S. Policy Toward Afghanistan, Pakistan, and
Iraq by noted academic Dan Caldwell, of Pepperdine University, points out, a
successful diplomatic and military effort by the U.S. in Pakistan is a
prerequisite to any palpable success in Afghanistan. The importance of
Pakistan in the current global political equation almost cannot be
And for the U.S. itself, it is to
be hoped that the end of the Osama chapter is the beginning of the end of
the us-versus-them view of the world so popularized in the minds of
Let us not forget that Osama was no
more the typical Muslim than Hitler was the typical German. His worldview
was vile, and his anti-humanitarianism flagrant. What’s more, his terrorist
operations undoubtedly killed more Muslims than anyone or anything else.
On this point, our ultra-articulate
U.S. President was good and precise Sunday night as he spoke to the nation
and the world from the White House; so, in his own way -- and aside from a
few embarrassing flubs early-on – was his otherwise well-meaning predecessor
Americans are not as international
as we should be but are not quite as provincial as we are often made out to
People outside America who think
all Americans hate all Muslims don’t have a clue about what makes this
country tick. But we Americans do hate people who hate us – totally with out
regard to religion, race, creed or color. And the resolve to settle accounts
when we are wronged is deeply embedded in our national DNA. We take many
things lightly --- but not foreign invasion, mass murder or national
Those kinds of things get our back
But this desire for revenge is not
always the part of us that shows us at our best. Rage can color one’s
thinking and behavior like a wild fever that won’t go away.
But with the President’s
announcement of the successful operation against Osama, suddenly the
national temperature should begin to return to normal. One can only hope
nothing so terrible as 9/11 happens again to push it skyward anew. Once was
certainly enough. One Osama was enough.
But, if there are to be more, at least they now know what is waiting for
them, however long it takes us.