US policy: Support Israel, secure Pakistan

Published: June 25, 2010
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An American politician canvassing support for elections will not find votes for protecting 'Pakistani interests'. PHOTO: REUTERS

While an orgy of outrage and condemnation filled the streets and air waves following the flotilla attack, It was not surprising when Israel was not held to the lofty standards that the US demands of its “key” allies such as Pakistan. We have been quick to call the US out on her hypocrisy.

Israel is perhaps the best example of where both US domestic and external interests converge. She is confident in the durability of its relationship with the US as it has the support of the right of centre politicians who will not tolerate any policy that would undermine the interests of the state of Israel. Right wing voters comprise mainly of the larger American states and form a massive constituency, whom no potential candidate for political office can ignore. Supporting Israel wins votes.

By extension, the “Jewish-lobby” insures the continuation of the special Israeli-US relationship as candidates for political office depend in some part on campaign donations from either lobbyists, grass root support of pro-Israel community groups and American firms with interests in Israel. Politicians from States which host the production lines of Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics etc, recognize that their political survival depends on keeping the factories open.

As the first signatory of a FTA with the US, Israel-US bilateral aid has increased nine-folds since 1985. Coupled with billions of dollars aid, the US government and her economy is heavily invested in Israel.

We should not be surprised by the timid public condemnation of the US administration. Any open criticism by the US will embolden right-wing, Republican supporters in a year in which midterm elections are to be held. President Obama does risk alienating his own liberal minded constituents. However, political pragmatism is likely to hold sway in an election year.

There is a valuable lesson, in this mess for Pakistan. We may criticize US policy towards us, cry hypocrisy and condemn US short-termism. However at the end of the day, an American politician canvassing support for election will not find votes for protecting “Pakistani interests”. That is not to say that there are votes in being “anti-Pakistan”. Either way, we as a nation are not relevant to the daily lives of the US voter beyond security concerns.

A first world military alone, in a third world economy, does not guarantee our long term interests. The moment US jobs depend upon the factories that feed a growing Pakistani economy only then will lobbyists, interest groups and local communities take an interest in Pakistan beyond one-dimensional security concerns.

At present, engaging with Pakistan is purely a security concern. The US tax payer is told that their money spent in aid and support to Pakistan is to insure their security. This incentivises covert operations, drone attacks etc, as the US public believes that such actions are necessary to insure their safety.

As China has developed, the US has become less critical of domestic human rights abuses. As India has developed the US has actively engaged with India, hailing her as an equal power. Vietnam, until recently synonymous with US failure, is increasingly viewed as an important destination for US investments and imports.

Pakistan’s interests will be better served if we are perceived by US voters as an essential economic and security partner. American politicians respond to voter interests, at present there are no votes for Pakistan.

nadir.eledroos

Syed Nadir El Edroos

Nadir teaches Economics at Bellerbys College, London and is interested in Pakistani politics and current affairs. He tweets @needroos (twitter.com/needroos)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://www.ibrahimsajidmalick.com Ibrahim Sajid Malick

    You write: “…engaging with Pakistan is purely a security concern.”

    I am not sure if I agree completely. American interests in the region are far complex than protecting their citizens from idiots like Faisal Shahzad. We are next door to China and Iran. And we border India and Afghanistan. Pakistan is the proverbial “beachhead.”

    And I agree: “Pakistan’s interests will be better served if we are perceived by US voters as an essential economic and security partner.”

    But how do we become an economic partner? What innovation do we bring to the marketplace?Recommend

  • http://www.zeitgeistpolitics.com Alexander Lobov

    While I agree that much of US decision-making with regards to Israel is made because of political expediency, I disagree with your conflation of AIPAC’s lobbying and US national interest. The Israel Lobby is indeed powerful but disproportionately so and beyond all reason.

    Firstly, US investment and direct interests in Israel are not nearly so great that they would need to be protected at all costs.

    Secondly, the current course that Israel is on which is supported blindly by US politicians on both left and right is not actually leading to its long-term security.

    Thirdly, I would argue that securing Pakistan should actually be far more of a priority for the US in terms of geo-political strategy & in terms of its ‘war on terror’.

    I would argue that unquestioning support for Israel from the US is not only immoral but also damaging its reputation abroad, particularly in the Muslim world, and will eventually lead to an Israel which is either not-Jewish or not-democratic (because of the demographic changes that will hand an advantage to its Arab population)

    No, the support for Israel is not really in US interests at all, it’s simply the result of a flawed US political system that is heavily susceptible to lobbying and massive donations with heavy strings attached.

    For more on this, you should read Walt & Mearsheimer’s seminal “The Israel Lobby.”

    But you’re right that the GOP would pounce (and already is pouncing if you’ve read John Voight’s letter) on anything the Dems do that’s even remotely critical of Israel and if that leads to the GOP in power then that will only mean things will get even worse. However I’d like to point out that while we have to accept political expediency as a valid reason it should not be allowed to remain an excuse. Things need to change.Recommend

  • Saif

    Nadir bhai, the lobbying system which is also mentioned by Mr. Alexander above, is the biggest constituent, right now operating and controlling US administration. No matter with what agenda someone comes in the office, this particular group of politicians and bureaucrats keep supporting and shielding Israel. Although, in general public, the acceptability and support for Israel is not much intense, even in United States.

    As far as Pakistan is concerned, its is looked up as one mischievous ally, who is not to be supported until conditions require. Further, general public has developed a perception that Pakistan is synonymous to Afghanistan in terms of political and cultural conditions.Recommend