The love of an ally is sweet to behold

Here is a valuable snapshot of reality, something important about the world that many Americans do not know.  It’s too simple to require analysis.  A few comments at the end say all that needs to be said, brief but vital insights.


  1. The voice of an ally – “U.S. Officials Get a Taste of Pakistanis’ Anger at America
  2. The people speak – poll shows that “Pakistanis see US as biggest threat“,
  3. Insights
  4. A better way (update)
  5. Afterword, and for more information

(1)  The voice of an ally

U.S. Officials Get a Taste of Pakistanis’ Anger at America“, New York Times, 20 August 2009 — Excerpt:

Judith A. McHale was expecting a contentious session with Ansar Abbasi, a Pakistani journalist known for his harsh criticism of American foreign policy, when she sat down for a one-on-one meeting with him in a hotel conference room in Islamabad on Monday. She got that, and a little bit more.

After Ms. McHale, the Obama administration’s new under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, gave her initial polite presentation about building bridges between America and the Muslim world, Mr. Abbasi thanked her politely for meeting with him. Then he told her that he hated her.

“ ‘You should know that we hate all Americans,’ ” Ms. McHale said Mr. Abbasi told her. “ ‘From the bottom of our souls, we hate you.’ ”

Beyond the continuation of the battle against militants along the Pakistani-Afghan border, a big part of President Obama’s strategy for the region involves trying to broaden America’s involvement in the country to include nonmilitary areas like infrastructure development, trade, energy, schools and jobs — all aimed at convincing the Pakistani people that the United States is their friend. But as Ms. McHale and other American officials discovered this week, during a visit by Richard C. Holbrooke, the special representative to Pakistan and Afghanistan, making that case was not going to be easy.

… But Mr. Abbasi’s reaction — a response that, Ms. McHale acknowledged, apparently reflects the feelings of about 25% of the population, according to a recent poll— demonstrated just how tough the job is. For all of the administration’s efforts to call attention to the nonmilitary ties that would bind the two countries, America is still being judged by many Pakistanis as an uncaring behemoth whose sole concern is finding Osama bin Laden, no matter the cost in civilian Pakistani lives.

“He told me that we were no longer human beings because our goal was to eliminate other humans,” Ms. McHale said Wednesday, recounting the conversation with Mr. Abbasi. “He spoke English very well, and he said that thousands of innocent people have been killed because we are trying to find Osama bin Laden.”

(2)  The people speak

Pakistanis see US as biggest threat“, Al Jazeera, 13 August 2009 — Excerpt:

A survey commissioned by Al Jazeera in Pakistan has revealed a widespread disenchantment with the United States for interfering with what most people consider internal Pakistani affairs.

The polling was conducted by Gallup Pakistan, an affiliate of the Gallup International polling group, and more than 2,600 people took part. Interviews were conducted across the political spectrum in all four of the country’s provinces, and represented men and women of every economic and ethnic background.

When respondents were asked what they consider to be the biggest threat to the nation of Pakistan, 11% of the population identified the Taliban fighters, who have been blamed for scores of deadly bomb attacks across the country in recent years.

Another 18% said that they believe that the greatest threat came from neighbouring India, which has fought three wars with Pakistan since partition in 1947.

But an overwhelming number, 59% of respondents, said the greatest threat to Pakistan right now is, in fact, the US, a donor of considerable amounts of military and development aid.

See here for the full results of the poll at the Al Jazeera website, and here on the Gallup Pakistan website.

Gallup Pakistan is not related to Gallup Inc, headquartered in Washington D.C.  It is a member of the Gallup International Association.

Gallup International was formally founded in May 1947 with 11 original members and Dr. George H Gallup as its first President, until his death in 1984. Currently the Gallup International Association is registered in Zurich Switzerland, with almost 60 members and research capabilities in almost 100 countries around the world. A Code of Statutes agreed by all the members, governs the Association and the Gallup International Quality Standard, the first of its kind in the world, ensures work of the highest level by member companies.

(3)  Some insights

Comments from the readers of Matthew Yglesias’ post about this article.

gregor Says: 

That’s what you get for supporting, without any consideration for the welfare of the people of Pakistan, the twenty families and the Army that have controlled everything in Pakistan since 08/14/1947.

Jonathan Says: 

So meddling in the affairs of countries that don’t want us to causes them to not like us? Interesting. I wouldn’t have thought that.

Steve LaBonne replies to Jonathan:

Snark aside, the amazing thing is that this genuinely DOESN’T ever occur to the “serious” foreign policy establishment even after many decades’ worth of examples.

abb1 replies to Steve LaBonne”

I’m sure it does occur to them from time to time, it’s just that it’s not a part of what foreign policy is all about, it’s irrelevant. You eat steak, but how often are you thinking about cows, whether they love you or hate you?

(4)  A better way

We get ourselves into these situations because we don’t have a grand strategy, guiding and coordinating our government’s relations with other nations.  For a better way, see the late American strategist Col. John Boyd (USAF) recommendation.  He said that a grand strategy focused our nation’s actions — political, economic, and military — so as to:

  • Increase our solidarity, our internal cohesion.
  • Weaken our opponents’ resolve and internal cohesion.
  • Strengthen our allies’ relationships to us.
  • Attract uncommitted states to our cause.
  • End conflicts on favorable terms, without sowing the seeds for future conflicts.

From Patterns of Conflict, slide 139.

(5a)  Afterword

Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 words max), civil, and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

For information about this site see the About page, at the top of the right-side menu bar.

(5b)  For more information from the FM site

For other articles about these things, see these FM reference pages (which appear on the right side menu bar): 

Posts about our wars in Pakistan:

  1. Is Pakistan’s Musharraf like the Shah of Iran? (if so, bad news for us), 8 November 2007
  2. Stratfor says that our war in Pakistan grows hotter; Palin seems OK with that, 12 September 2008
  3. NPR tells us more about America’s newest war, in Pakistan, 14 September 2008
  4. Pakistan warns America about their borders, and their sovereignty, 14 September 2008
  5. Weekend reading about … foreign affairs, 19 October 2008
  6. To good a story to die: eliminate legitimate grievances to eliminate terrorism, 9 December 2008
  7. About the 4GW between India and Pakistan, 6 January 2009
  8. Is America a destabilizing force in the world?, 23 January 2009
  9. The US tells Pakistan to pick a side. Or else…, 4 May 2009
  10. Why are we fighting in Pakistan?, 14 May 2009

14 thoughts on “The love of an ally is sweet to behold”

  1. Yglesias’s commenters make the routine mistake of looking at a country through a US prism. Pakistan has its own internal dynamics that would still play out violently regardless of whether Uncle Sam were meddling or not.

    I know people from Pakistan who still have relatives there, and they all insist US hatred is not rampant. I’m not so sure.

    When that earthquake hit in Kashmir, we swung resources from Afghanistan to drop tons of supplies to that area. The government stipulated no uniforms, no US flags, no US faces, and only the barest of low-profile troops on the ground to facilitate delivery. Just drop the stuff and get out. Was this to protect US forces from hatred of the locals, or to keep the locals from seeing Uncle Sam with a benevolent face?
    Fabius Maximus replies: None of the comments shown say that Pakistan’s internal dynamics would play out differently if the US was not meddling. They say that a large fraction of Pakistan’s because of our meddling — a very different thing.

  2. I doubt if polling is the issue. Violent antimperialism is the foundation of Pakistan’s creation. We have inherited the mantle from the British and the French was already being expressed in the Khalifat movement, in 1920,to save the Ottoman Empire! Think Lawrence of Arabia. No matter, most Pakistanis are more worried about eating. The elites, financed by the Saudis and the Chinese, are a different matter. Pakistan is struggling to survive. It is only an ally of those who want its bomb or a platform vs. India. Pakistan is not our enemy but cannot be a friend. It could become an enemy but wasting our treasure in A, is not going to accomplish anything useful. Creating a strong friendship with India is the key to peace in South Asia. If life becomes nasty it could be an alliance, but friendship based on mutual interest is better by far. And possible.

  3. America’s love for France in recent years has been touching.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I assumed this was a joke, but see from comment #8 that one person (at least) took you seriously. Absurd. I doubt there are many people in the US who hate France. Our two century plus relationship — forged at the founding, symbolized by the Statue of Liberty — makes us similar to old friends who often quarrel. This is very different than the current US-Pakistan relationship.

  4. The neo-realists eating steak should remember that Al Queada and terrorism against the US mainland is according to them a natural outcome of the system, and let everyone know that they consider it an acceptable cost of their world view.

    One of the problems the US faces in understanding terrorism is that the terrorists (I mean real terrorists not the thousands simply resisting invasion) are not the poor and disaffected. It is educated people who are outraged at the fundamental immorality and gross hypocrisy of US foreign policy.

  5. Just because I’m an argumentative bastard, are you sure the US government doesn’t have a grand strategy? I’m skeptical that the extremely long and extremely consistent pattern of exploitation of foreigners could be achieved haphazardly. I think Ockham’s Razor favors the explanation that the US government does have a very clear and uniformly achieved grand strategy of mkaing the US elite richer and more powerful at the expense of any and all other considerations.
    Fabius Maximus replies: That’s a great point. More accurately, this is a strategy of powerful groups within the US that has been imposed or imposed on the nation. Like how a virus takes control of cell’s machinery for its own purposes.

  6. I am sure I will be in the minority on this one, but I think there is often an impulse in any nationalist movement, exacerbated when the movement also has prominent religious aspects, to identify and cultivate an outside enemy or devil. Once the devil is identified it does not really matter much what that devil does or does not do. What matters is the utility of the devil.

    We can give speeches in Cairo, bomb Serbs to protect Muslims, fly money and butter to earthquakes and sunamis in tie-dye painted jets, throw rice to Somalis and arm holy warriors against the Russians. It will not matter. The fact that we do all that is just as much beside the point as are our less benevolent more imperial actions in favor of Israel our Gitmo or pyramids of naked Abu Ghraib prisoners. At bottom, the effects are the same.

    If you doubt this, start doing a whole bunch of favors for someone you know who has made a wreck of their life and watch them start to slowly resent and hate you. The phenomenon is not universal, as evidenced by our relationship with Japan. For whatever reason the system that sprung from WW2 for them did not require an outside enemy. I wish I knew why.

    I think we would be well served to recognize that our utility to these political systems as an outside devil which for reasons that we can neither influence or completely understand, makes our role as the devil or outside evil indispensible. Not pleasant, but that is my hallucination about it.

  7. Is this not the psychology of reciprocation ? ( described in detail I think , in Cialdini’s book , Influence .) We have evolved / been brought up to reciprocate . As we gain experience ( you have to write Granny a thankyou letter ! ) we learn there is no such thing as a free lunch , no man buys you dinner without expecting ‘ coffee ‘ .
    To avoid feeling obligated , we may prefer to refuse the date or present . ( The flowers were lovely , Fred . I gave them to the children’s hospice .)
    If we cant refuse , all sorts of angry emotions boil up behind a stitched -on smile .

  8. Comment #3: “America’s love for France in recent years has been touching.”

    Touche, Mr. Kinder, touche. This sums up the problems with this post in a nutshell.
    Fabius Maximus replies: As I note in my reply above, it is absurd to consider the US-France relationship to be anything like that between the US and Pakistan.

  9. We and the Pakistanis are not friends. We use the Pakistanis – and they use us. Any real friendship between the United States of America and a power in south Asia would be with India – not Pakistan.
    Fabius Maximus replies: The post speaks of Pakistan as an ally, not a friend. They are different things. German and the USSR were allies before June 1941; the US and the USSR were allies after December 1941. None of these were friendships.

  10. Interesting , that at the time of the Iraq invasion , many Brits felt we were obligated to help the US because they helped us in WW2. Most were unaware that ( I think )we paid for all supplies with a longterm payment plan , finally paid off only a few years ago . ( Lost lives obviously , and in respect , can never be paid off . ) France etc I beleive also paid off the material aid they received . Russia was financially unable to pay off all the debt , and a wheat trading deal was , I think , patched up to save face.
    When aid is given to Pakistan , is it loan-lease , or a gift carrying the shackles of obligation ?

  11. there is no grand strategy that survives the changing of an administration. unless of course, in order to enrich ourselves, we are attempting to make the world hate us, want to dump our currency, blow up our World Trade Centers, attack our embassies, make US citizens targets everywhere they go etc.. if that is the grand strategy to enrich our country.. then we need help. it looks self defeating.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I agree with most of this, but find the opening confusing.

    “there is no grand strategy that survives the changing of an administration.”

    Almost every analysis of US grand strategy says the opposite of your first sentence. Esp note the strong continuity of the cold war era. More recently the Obama Administration has continued the basic elements of Bush Jr.’s foreign policy, with some changes in style.

  12. FM wrote , “The US and USSR were allies after 1941…not friendships”
    I see what you mean . but at the level of the ‘ people ‘ ( as in the Gallup poll ) friendship may be what matters . The North Atlantic ship convoys went through hell delivering tanks to the USSR , but someone had written on the tanks , in chalk : ” With Love From Uncle Sam . ”
    Fabius Maximus replies: Whatever someone wrote on a tank, I see no evidence of a close relationship between the Soviet Union and the US in WWII. It was an alliance of convenience against a common enemy. To compare it with the two hundred year long close relationship between us and France is absurd.

  13. Spot on # 5. Vietnam exposed the cabal that had control of America. My generation did not have the strength to keep up the struggle. It is now resumed. What is at stake now is nothing less than the Republic.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Nobody can say for certain about such things, but I disagree. Our generation lost interest in the Vietnam War once Nixon ended the draft.

  14. FM-

    I should have offered further explanation for my appreciation of comment #3.

    The point made in this post is silly, IMO. Expansive claims about the nature of Pakistani-U.S. relations & Pakistani public opinion are being made on the basis of flimsy evidence.

    The first article you quote is of an anecdotal nature. One angry newspaper editor does not a poisoned alliance make. What you quote is a puff piece, bereft of significant data, choosing emotional appeals over hard evidence.

    The second piece you cite does include data, but it fails to provide the context for such. A quick look at a source that does provide the larger picture (“Pakistani Public Opinion”, Pew Global Attitudes Project, 13 August 2009) provides us with a few facts worth considering:

    * “Negative attitudes toward the U.S. in Pakistan are not new – throughout this decade overall ratings for the U.S. have been consistently low.” (pg. 17)

    The report goes on to note that positive attitudes towards the U.S. have never been higher than 27% of the public anytime in the last decade. This includes 1999 – before large scale U.S. intervention in the region.

    * “Only 32% [of Pakistanis polled] say they have heard about the missile strikes.” (pg. 12)

    * “A majority of Pakistanis (54%) believe U.S. policy in South Asia tends to favor India. Only 4% think American policy favors Pakistan, while 9% say the U.S. is fair and 32% offer no opinion.” (pg 19).

    * “There is widespread concern over the threat posed to Pakistan by India. More than eight-in-ten(83%) believe that India is a serious threat to their country,” (pg. 23)

    In sum these facts provide an interesting counterpoint to the “insights” you quote. Pakistani fear of the U.S. is more likely to be sourced in the perception that the U.S. is an active and energetic supporter of Indian interests, not the perception that the U.S. is an “uncaring behemoth whose sole concern is finding Osama bin Laden, no matter the cost in civilian Pakistani lives.”

    That Pakistani opinion has remained relatively unchanged over the last decade, despite differing levels of U.S. intervention in the country, also leads one to conclude that U.S. intervention is not the primary source of Pakistani discontent.

    Perhaps most remarkable is the simple fact that U.S. relations with Pakistan have remained relatively unchanged over the last decade, despite the fact that half of Pakistan hates our guts. It leads me to ask — why does any of this even matter? What strategic interest do we have in Pakistani public opinion? What evidence is there that the political opinion of your average illiterate Pakistani farmer has any relevance at all for U.S. foreign policy?

    This where comment #3’s point is made. I am sure I could find an angry editor from some Southern state who railed against France, threat to the free world, circa 2003. I am also quite sure that if the American public were asked, during the same time period, “Is France a threat to world security”, more than a quarter of the population would say yes.

    Of course, this is speculation on my part- I have conducted no such poll. Yet the overarching point remains the same: world opinion ain’t worth much.
    Fabius Maximus replies: This makes little sense to me.

    (1) Where does this post say or imply that this attitude is new? That assumption appears the foundation of your reasoning, and it is false.

    (2) The incident described in the opening was just a vivid illustration of the reality shown by the poll — whose results are unquestioned. Your point about finding an “angry editor” is irreleveant in this light.

    (3) more than a quarter of the US population would say that “France a threat to world security”

    That’s too bizarre to deserve rebuttal. Do the poll and get back to us.

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