“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Sunday, November 01, 2009

A Pakistani view of the Clinton visit.

Clinton's call

The News

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hillary Clinton's three-day visit to Pakistan, her first as US secretary of state, marks a fairly distinct break with the past. Unlike her tough-talking and deliberately abrasive predecessor, Condoleezza Rice, Ms Clinton went out of her way to be charming, open and to talk to a wide range of people. Her experiences in the US Senate also meant she brought in a mature handling of queries and a better understanding of how complex the regional situation is. The interaction with students at the Government College University in Lahore should have been especially instructive for the person who will be playing a key role in devising foreign policy in Washington. The students who lined up to question her were not hostile. But they made it clear they shared with the majority of citizens a lack of trust for the US and scepticism about intentions. To her credit Ms Clinton accepted there were good grounds for this lack of faith. Her assurance that the Obama administration represented real change is one that will need though to be proven through deeds and not just words. The sometimes startled response from the secretary of state to the far tougher questions thrown at her by a TV panel made up of top anchor people suggests the government functionaries she met in Islamabad may have offered up a typically sanitized picture of prevailing sentiments. It is, therefore, encouraging that despite the immense security concerns Hillary Clinton made it a point to see the 'real' Pakistan, also holding a meeting with Mian Nawaz Sharif in his home city.

But for all her pleasant smiles, Ms Clinton did not shy away from making some things quite clear. She stated that she believed the Al Qaeda leadership was indeed in Pakistan, she stressed an all-out effort on every front was needed against terrorism and she focused on how much Pakistan had to gain, especially in economic terms, by normalizing ties with India. If we are honest, we cannot deny that much of what she said was true. For reasons buried in ideology, many of us, whether we draw influence from the right or the left of the political spectrum, have difficulty in suggesting that an alliance with the US could benefit Pakistan. It would also be naïve to assume that Washington wishes to 'help' Pakistan as an ally. International relations are after all geared around self-interest and self-preservation. There is nothing noble about Washington's focus on Islamabad. But it is possible that at this particular moment in history the interests of both nations coincide. This is something we should use to our advantage.

Overcoming the militant threat and entering in to a less acrimonious relationship with India would benefit most citizens. There are segments that would stand to lose, but ways must be found to prevent them from subverting the interests of the majority. They have done so repeatedly through the decades since 1947. The current US setup seems to have recognized some of this. Ms Clinton also emphasized in this respect a dramatic change in policy from those of the George W Bush-led team. The Bush administration's virtually blind backing for former president Musharraf created a number of the problems we face today. Our political leaders must assess the way we can most effectively counter these. In realistic terms, going beyond rhetoric or wishful thinking, it is inevitable that we will need to work with the US at least for some years to come. We cannot on our own hope to conquer that monster of terrorism that Washington's policies helped create. Nor do we have the economic or moral wherewithal to do this. Hillary Clinton has demonstrated a willingness to better understand concerns in Pakistan and to open wider the doors of communication. There are still plenty of reasons to be wary of US intentions. But for now, the opportunities for a more open relation laid out by the secretary of state need to be seized and utilized to pull our country out of the pit into which it has stumbled as a result of errors made in the past.


  1. We cannot on our own hope to conquer that monster of terrorism that Washington's policies helped create.

    What a load of Democratic Horseshit.

  2. Yeah, we did it! Islam is a religion of peace, really, it's only 10% of Muslims who want to kill us all, or just one million four hundred thousand potential nuclear suicide bombers.

  3. Uh, T, I think you cut that one a little green. Maybe, by a factor of about 100?

  4. The average American has no concept of the depth and breadth of animosity by Pakistanis towards the US.

    From 1947 to 1965, 2,500 Pakistani immigrants entered the United States. Lyndon Johnson signed the Kennedy family INS Act of 1965 into law, eliminating per-country immigration quotas. The number of Pakistanis immigrating to USA increased so that by 1990 there were about 100,000 Pakistani Americans in the United States and by 2009 there are likely 300,000.

    In a recent poll taken in Pakistan. 56 percent of those polled said they would back Taliban demands to extend Islamic law to other parts of the country, including some major Pakistani cities.

  5. Rufus I blame the Reagan Bush education system.

  6. We cannot on our own hope to conquer that monster of terrorism that Washington's policies helped create.

    What a load of head in the sand nonsense....

  7. Rufus I blame the Reagan Bush education system.

    I blame Abraham for not wearing a condom....

  8. England is lost...

    Cambridge University allows Muslim students to wear burkas under their mortar boards at graduation

    Read more:

  9. WiO cited Pak fishwrap: We cannot on our own hope to conquer that monster of terrorism that Washington's policies helped create.

    Wait til they get a load of the monster of terrorism that Washington's policies are helping to create NOW.

  10. Since when does the Secretary of State take questions from the public and students in some foreign cess pool?

    Hillary looked striking in that blue sack and burka though.

  11. And, she told the truth about taxation in the United States:

    "We tax everything that moves and doesn't move."

  12. “The percentage of taxes on GDP (in Pakistan) is among the lowest in the world... We (the United States) tax everything that moves and doesn’t move, and that’s not what we see in Pakistan,” she said.

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  14. Austin Millbarge: "They're on our side! WE'RE AMERICANS!"

    God bless us, we like to be loved. In fact, we rather expect it. It's part and parcel of the American psyche and we have trouble understanding that however endearing individually, millions and millions and millions of people despise us as a group, especially if we've (a) dicked them over in the past and/or (b) gone stepping all in their shit.

    Americans were killed, by the planeload, by Iraqis. And we in our sweet naivete did not understand this. Had we not just gone to the effing trouble of liberating them?

    Maybe next time we can go to war someplace where, not only does every soul groove on our plainly benevolent desires for the rest of humanity, but where we're invariably adored. Invariably - as in, even after killing your mother and your little cousin and leaving you homeless in your pesthole of a nation.

    I'm not sure where that would be. But I am open to suggestions.

  15. Cuba?

    It needs liberating.

  16. Very interesting to contrast this report on Clinton's trip with one from India

    a completely different take on it?

  17. They must love us, they often float on inner tubes to get here. They used to like us ok, before the propaganda. We could easily take down Castro, if we put a mind to it, not this ragtag bunch that Kennedy put together, and let die on the beach.

    I say Cuba, if we are looking for a place to liberate.

    It would break up this Chazez, Ortega, Castro axis that is building.

    They'd have no way to infiltrate arms and such from the outside to help their commie cousins.

    I suggest Cuba.

    But with O squatting in the White House, well, no chance, he's one of 'em.

  18. "...if we are looking for a place to liberate."

    Joke, bob. It was a joke. Our liberating days are over for awhile. We're in the "try to keep a lid on things" phase.

    When whatever happens in Cuba happens, we WILL inherit some pissed-off people who blame us directly for the fact that they've had to travel thirty miles every week for years in hopes that some other district has food to buy. That'll be interesting.

  19. If the people of Cuba haven't risen up at this late date to take care of this problem like they did in Russia, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, and all the other workers' paradises around the world, then they are not worthy of being liberated with American blood, sweat and tears.