The Reverse-Midas Effect

The Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009, recently signed into law by President Barack Obama, which triples U.S. aid to that beleaguered country, was passed specifically, in the words of its sponsors, to demonstrate “the tangible manifestation of broad support for Pakistan in the U.S., as evidenced by its bipartisan, bicameral, unanimous passage in Congress.” 

To begin with, the administration’s idea of unanimity is an odd one: there was at  least one vote against the bill from Ron Paul, the solidly anti-interventionist Republican from Texas – but in the world of the Obama-ites, people like Ron Paul don’t even deserve to be acknowledged, let alone listened to. If you’re a Serious Person, you accept all the assumptions and conceits of the interventionist consensus without question. Given this,  it’s easy enough for them to dismiss Rep. Paul by simply disappearing him – but one wonders how they intend to similarly brush aside the outraged cries coming from Pakistan, where the media and government leaders are in an uproar over what they contend is a massive violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. 

The Pakistani media is alight with reports of hi-tech U.S. arms being shipped to Pakistan and handed over to some highly dubious recipients, including tribal chieftains and quite possibly terrorist groups currently hitting targets in the country.  The suspicion is that the huge influx of U.S. aid is designed to create a parallel internal security infrastructure, one controlled from Washington rather than Islamabad – and  it will be hard to disabuse the Pakistanis of this notion, because that is precisely what is happening.  

DynCorp, the U.S. mercenary organization, is allied with a local partner, Inter-Risk, run by a former Pakistani military officer, and they have been given the lucrative U.S. government contract to provide security services to the U.S. embassy there. A recent raid by the Pakistani police on Inter-Risk facilities turned up what the Washington Times reports as “sophisticated weaponry that appears more suited to Special Forces commandos, raising questions about its real role in a country facing a serious terrorist threat.” 

The context it which the raid occurred provides plenty of grist for the anti-American rumor mill. The physical expansion of the U.S. embassy brings it nearly on a par with our giant Vatican-sized diplomatic compound in Iraq. One Pakistani news outlet reports that the U.S. is in the process of spending about $1 billion for the upgrading of their Islamabad presence, including an expenditure of $405 million for the reconstruction and refurbishment of the main embassy building; $111 million for a new complex for accommodating 330 personnel; and $197 million for constructing about 250 housing units on 18 acres of newly-acquired land.  

Add to this greatly-expanded visible footprint a less visible one: the infiltration of special forces commando units in the guise of “protecting” the embassy and other U.S. interests in the country. Until now the U.S. has been walking a very fine line with the Pakistani government, launching unmanned drone attacks on alleged terrorist targets, taking out a very large chunk of “collateral damage” in the process. Relations between the U.S. and Pakistan, never that good to begin with, have recently been marked by escalating mutual suspicion, and the raid on DynCorp/Inter-Risk raises these tensions to a new level. Precluded from openly invading Pakistani territory, the U.S. is using every excuse to quietly arm a “private” army of security contractors, flooding the country with weapons and cash.  

We are in effect invading Pakistan under the guise of “aiding” the government: all that “economic development aid” (including kickbacks to local warlords and government officials) comes with a whole lot of strings. The “enhanced partnership” with Pakistan means that the local governments and security forces are being subverted, shoved aside, and replaced by a new structure set up and commanded by the Americans – as a prelude to a more open military occupation, if it should ever come to that. 

The U.S. occupation of Afghanistan has succeeded merely in pushing the Taliban and its sympathizers into neighboring Pakistan, and in order to clean up this mess, we’re moving in on Islamabad even as the elected government begins to lose credibility and authority in the eyes of its own people. In this way, tensions created by the crudeness and weight of our footprint are further exacerbated by subsequent attempts to “fix” the problem – and the self-perpetuating process rolls on indefinitely, until the government collapses due to lack of popular support and the insurgents gain the sympathy of the people – thus laying the groundwork for an outright U.S. invasion and occupation of the country. 

U.S. actions in the region could be fairly evaluated as exhibiting a reverse-Midas touch: everything we get involved in generates a backlash – “blowback” – in direct proportion to its visibility. Thus we are presently on a course that will eventually end in bringing about the very scenario we fear: a full-scale Islamist insurgency in Pakistan that threatens to topple the government and possibly come into possession of the country’s nuclear arsenal.  

The idea that we can intervene covertly, with sufficient subtlety to avoid a confrontation with the government – and nationalist elements in the military and the general population – is a foolish dream that ought to be summarily abandoned. How much money have we poured into the Pakistani rat hole – and to what effect? Our every effort boomerangs in our faces, mocking our purportedly noble intentions and underscoring our essential powerlessness in that wild region at the top of the world.

The way to fight al-Qaeda and its allies is by mounting a real national defense. Instead of going after these alleged “safe havens” – which, contra President Obama and his advisors, are not essential for our enemies to conduct terrorist operations against the U.S. mainland – we need to police our own territory as seriously and comprehensively as we are presently trying to police Pakistan and Afghanistan.  

Stopping a suicide bomber in Islamabad does nothing to stop a suicide bomber at Kennedy airport from trying to board a plane. We are trying to protect Pakistan’s nukes – while the nuclear facilities of the West are far from secure, at least according to recent reports. Our own ports are essentially undefended, with millions of tons of cargo coming in every day – most of it not inspected. We’re spending billions trying to seal off Pakistan’s borders to prevent an influx of Taliban fighters – and yet our own borders are notoriously porous, a standing invitation for al-Qaeda  to infiltrate and carry out its program of mass death. Our actions on the “Af-Pak” front are merely providing al-Qaeda with fresh recruits, some of whom may make their way to the U.S. and other Western countries, where they will be in a good position to plan and carry out terrorist attacks. 

Pakistan’s political leaders will make a great show of caviling over the tripled aid package, grandstanding for their domestic audience – and then they’ll accept it, because the opportunities for corruption are too rich to be wasted. In the meantime, this cornucopia of aid will achieve the exact opposite of its ostensible purpose, bringing us closer to the day when Pakistan’s alleged “crisis” – a crisis largely of our own making – will culminate in catastrophe.  

And that’s the story of U.S. foreign policy in the post-9/11 era – a veritable perpetual motion machine of mishaps and mistaken assumptions, fueled by corruption and super-charged with a peculiarly American brand of hubris. 

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Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com, and a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and writes a monthly column for Chronicles. He is the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].