The International Reporting (and Life) Adventures of Vivian Salama

Damned if We Do, Damned if We Don’t

Posted by vmsalama on November 11, 2007

Here’s my latest in Postglobal.  As always, I would love to hear your thoughts:
by Vivian Salama

Postglobal (washingtonpost.com)

Whether or not America can actually accomplish anything by intervening in Pakistan is questionable — after all, who are we to say what is for the good of the people of Pakistan – or the world, for that matter? Do Americans really know?

America’s attempts to ‘liberate’ Iraq may have succeeded in doing away with Saddam Hussein, but are the Iraqis better off now than they were then? Certainly there are many who think so. Hans Blix is not one of them. The former UN weapons inspector was quoted last year as calling the Iraq war a ‘pure failure’ adding that it left the country worse off than it was under Hussein’s dictatorial rule.

Ultimately it’s the old argument of intervention versus isolationism. With regard to intervention – are we intervening in the right places? Certain situations require American involvement, but is Pakistan one of them? Has President Musharraf earned America’s confidence (not to mention its dollars)? In this case, we are damned if we do, damned if we don’t. Without a doubt, alliances with dictators reflect poorly on America, but many argue that Musharraf’s dictatorial rule, harsh crackdowns and – now – martial law may be the only realistic way to prevent a radical (read: Taliban/Al-Qaeda) takeover of this nuclear-armed state.

The Middle East and South Asia are regions where negative sentiments towards colonialism are still lingering. By being in too many places at once, the United States places itself in a position where people will understandably grow resentful. The main goals of American intervention – which at the time of World War II was a new phenomenon for this country – have been protecting U.S. interests and making the world a safer place for America and the friends of America. However, as the friends of America grow fewer, perhaps it is in the government’s best interest to question the reasons why. This administration – particularly in its second term – has shied away from using the traditional “envoy” to facilitate productive discussions between the United States and its allies. While envoys are not a solution in all situations, they certainly provide America’s friends with a more personable link to the nation so that our foreign policy may come across as sincere rather than meddlesome.


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