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Honesty needed in foreign policy

Zach Einterz | Monday, November 26, 2007

The debacle in Pakistan this month has brought to light the utter hypocrisy of U.S. foreign policy. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has suspended the constitution, declared a state of emergency, blacked out independent television networks, arrested thousands of dissidents and threatened to postpone elections. Despite these recent developments, the United States has stayed committed to Musharraf as an “indispensable” ally in the War on Terror.

The Bush Administration has done little more than pay lip service to the situation in Pakistan, all the while insisting that Musharraf is dedicated to bringing about democratic reform. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Musharraf’s actions “a bad decision.” She added, “I don’t have any doubt that [Musharraf] is somebody who tries to have the best interests of his country at heart.”

Bush Administration officials have pointed out democratic advancements attained under Musharraf, such as gains in gender equality, freedom of the press, civil rights and the economy. According to President Bush, “Pakistan has been on the path to democracy.”

There are many reasons to doubt the Bush Administration’s insistence that Pakistan is a pro-democracy ally. Musharraf came to power by a coup d’etat in 1999, and he has been accused of tampering with elections several times since.

Pakistan’s position as an “indispensable” ally in the War on Terror must also be called into question. Pakistan has been incompetent, if not unwilling, in the War on Terror. It’s estimated that more Al-Qaeda members find shelter in Pakistan than any other country, and it is widely believed that Osama Bin Laden is living in Pakistan. In addition, U.S. intelligence reports note that Pakistan has been actively trading nuclear technology with Libya and North Korea.

Our alliance with Pakistan has turned into an exercise in stubbornness and stupidity. All the reasons given for an alliance with Pakistan have failed. Pakistan is neither an “indispensable” ally in the War on Terror nor is it a state “on the path to democracy.”

Once all the rhetoric has been removed, we are left with this solemn fact: Since Sept. 2001, the United States has sent $10 billion to a military dictatorship that oppresses its people, has nuclear weapons and does little to fight terrorism.

Our counterintuitive policy toward Pakistan is not unique. We give monetary and military support to repressive regimes throughout the world, and we’ve been doing it for a long time.

Consider the case of Saudi Arabia. Over 75 percent of the Sept. 11 hijackers were Saudis and it’s estimated that as much as 50 percent of the suicide bombers in Iraq are Saudis. Saudi Arabia’s pitiful human rights record has made it comparable to more notorious countries such as Myanmar and North Korea.

Saudi Arabia, like Pakistan, is not a democracy. Yet Saudi Arabia is one of our closest allies in the Middle East and this summer we brokered a deal to sell them $20 billion dollars worth of arms. Selling $20 billion in weapons to a country that produces hijackers and suicide bombers en masse may seem illogical, but Defense Secretary Robert Gates astutely explained that the arms package is necessary to reassure the Saudis that “our commitment in the region remains firm.”

The United States prides itself on being “the brightest beacon for freedom” and promoter of democracy throughout the world. However, it’s clear that these phrases have turned into meaningless political rhetoric.

The inconsistency between our rhetoric and our actions needs correction. Since our foreign policy is unlikely to change anytime soon, we must change our rhetoric. The next time the U.S. makes an asinine deal with another country, Americans deserve to hear the truth.

The State Department should admit that we’re doing it to ensure the free flow of oil or to appease political factions. Americans don’t want to hear that sending billions of dollars to a puppet regime in the Middle East is necessary for democracy, because we know that’s not true.

Zach Einterz is a senior majoring in economics and environmental sciences. He turned to politics after an unsuccessful sports career. Contact Zach at [email protected]

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.