His hands on his ample hips, Newt Gingrich looked like Mussolini up there on the stage at the GOP presidential debate as he bellowed “everybody knows” the Pakistanis were hiding Osama bin Laden in plain sight, “a mile from a Pakistani military academy.” Ron Paul, who knows more about monetary policy than the intricacies of the US-Pakistani relationship, stood there looking appalled as Gingrich let loose with his war cry: “Kill them!” The yahoos went wild with joy. The Newtster was reacting to Paul’s point about respecting Pakistani sovereignty – and the dangers of allowing such cross-border raids to become routine. After all, that could work both ways, as Paul tried – in vain – to point out.
The reality, though, is that the Pakistanis in all likelihood did know about the raid well in advance, and it is just as likely they had a hand in the entire operation from the start. As the Guardian reported at the time:
“The US and Pakistan struck a secret deal almost a decade ago permitting a US operation against Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil similar to last week’s raid that killed the al-Qaeda leader, the Guardian has learned.
“The deal was struck between the military leader General Pervez Musharraf and President George Bush after Bin Laden escaped US forces in the mountains of Tora Bora in late 2001, according to serving and retired Pakistani and US officials.
“Under its terms, Pakistan would allow US forces to conduct a unilateral raid inside Pakistan in search of Bin Laden, his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the al-Qaeda No3. Afterwards, both sides agreed, Pakistan would vociferously protest the incursion.
“‘There was an agreement between Bush and Musharraf that if we knew where Osama was, we were going to come and get him,’ said a former senior US official with knowledge of counterterrorism operations. ‘The Pakistanis would put up a hue and cry, but they wouldn’t stop us.’”
Good ol’ Musharraf, the one loyal ally we had in the region – dumped by the US State Department for his lack of “democratic” credentials. More real al-Qaeda operatives were arrested in Pakistan during his tenure than all the efforts of our FBI and CIA combined.
In any case, it’s just common sense the Pakistanis were in on the Abbottabad raid: after all, the Americans set up a safe house in what has been described as a “garrison town” – a feat next to impossible without the Pakistanis knowing about it. As one Pakistani senior officer pointed out to the Global Post, the airspace over Abbottabad is a no fly zone: there’s no way the US could have pulled off the operation without the full knowledge and cooperation of the Pakistani military. The area around the bin Laden compound was cordoned off by the authorities in the hours prior to the raid, and residents were told to stay inside with their lights out.
I don’t know who’s giving Rep. Paul his foreign policy talking points, but in discussions of foreign policy specifics matter: you can deduce the basic principles of economics from self-evident axioms, as students of Austrian economics [.pdf] know. However, you cannot do the same when making the case for a non-interventionist foreign policy. This is where empirical evidence is key to understanding what is really going on, as opposed to what our rulers want us to believe.
Here’s the kicker: the same people in the government pushing for more strenuous and overt intervention in Pakistan know all about Musharraf’s 2001 agreement with the US, yet they cynically promote the idea that Pakistan was hiding bin Laden in order to advance their own agenda. There are so many layers of deception masking the truth about American foreign policy that peeling them all back is the equivalent of the thirteenth labor of Hercules.
Speaking of Monday’s Republican debate: if there is any limit to Rick Perry’s stupidity, then I suspect we have yet to reach it. His statement that Turkey is ruled by “Islamic terrorists” and ought to be kicked out of NATO was applauded vigorously by the audience – the same audience that booed Paul when he invoked the Golden Rule. The only problem for Perry and his fans is that Turkey is a vital US ally, and is ruled not by “Islamic terrorists” but by a moderate and staunchly pro-Western Muslim party democratically elected: the country boasts a modern economy with innumerable economic and political ties to the West. Perry’s is a gaffe that would normally disqualify its utterer from seeking office higher than alderman: not in today’s GOP, however, where ignorance is an asset.
The impetus for Perry’s latest embarrassing faux pas was a leading question from Bret Baier, who appears to embody the lunkheaded viciousness that characterizes the “reporters” at Fox News. He certainly looks and sounds the part: the vacuous stare, the protruding ears like two little radar dishes scanning for targets, the propaganda that pours out of his mouth as if a button were being pushed somewhere:
“Governor Perry, since the Islamist-oriented party took over in Turkey, the murder rate of women has increased 1,400 percent there. Press freedom has declined to the level of Russia. The prime minister of Turkey has embraced Hamas and Turkey has threatened military force against both Israel and Cypress. [sic] Given Turkey’s turn, do you believe Turkey still belongs in NATO?”
To begin with, a grand total of 953 Turkish women were murdered in the first seven months of 2009, the last time period for which figures are available, up from 806 in 2008. The 1400 percent figure comes from a statement by the AKP justice minister in which he measured the increase from 2002: if the “Islamist terrorists” who run the Turkish government are encouraging the murder of women, why would their own Justice Minister make this kind of statement?
Secondly, if Senators Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham are trying to convince the Turks that only they can bring Hamas to the negotiating table, is Turkey’s relationship with the rulers of Gaza a plus or a minus for US diplomatic efforts in the region? This is a question Gov. Perry is completely unprepared to ask, let alone answer.
Perry is way out of his depth, and for him to be presented as a credible candidate for the presidency is a disgrace – and a minus for the GOP, which is hurting itself badly by allowing him to make a fool of himself at each and every debate. Of course, a Governor doesn’t have to be an expert on the internal politics of Turkey: if only he’d stayed in Texas, he would have saved himself and his party a lot of trouble.
Ignorance of such abstruse topics is not a moral failing – unless, that is, one is charged with making life-and-death decisions requiring this kind of specialized knowledge. In that case, it is highly doubtful anyone not immersed in the country one is concerned with could have sufficient understanding to even attempt to make such a decision. Friedrich Hayek, the free market economist, understood that central planning by governments is impossible because the planners lack sufficient knowledge of the many factors taken into account by the market: the same is true when it comes to planning the fate of nations overseas – only more so. That conservatives fail to understand this simple fact is a tribute to their thickheadedness. No matter how many times that simple principle is demonstrated in real life – Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. – the lesson forever eludes them, transfixed as they are by demagogues of Gingrich’s ilk urging them to “Kill! Kill!”