Friday, October 22, 2010

America's Biggest International Problem: Global Political Warming as Neglect Fuels Aggression

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The following article appears in PajamasMedia and is reproduced here for your convenience, with some improvements.

By Barry Rubin

One of the main features of this sick, sad era in international relations is that hugely important developments are ignored, having no effect on Western policy. Here’s one such case: Indian investigators have confirmed that Pakistani intelligence was deeply involved in the massive, bloody Mumbai terror attack in 2008, killing 166 people.

The story should be on the front page of every Western newspaper.

This Pakistani involvement has long been suspected but now there is strong evidence on the record. Just think of it: Pakistan is a huge U.S. aid recipient. It suffers no consequence of being a sponsor of terrorism, not only in this case against India but also repeatedly in previous attacks and in helping terrorist groups in Afghanistan.

Yet there is something in the strategy of ignoring this problem that fits into the broader strategy of the Obama Administration: buy short-term quiet and apparent popularity at the price of strategic decline and future crises. Let’s go through the Mumbai story and then look at the bigger picture.

The group carrying out the Mumbai attack was Lashkar-e-Taiba, an organization completely dependent on Pakistani financing, training, arming, and safe haven.

Now, U.S. officials have new and dramatic evidence of this because the source for the information is an American in U.S. custody. His name is David Headley, who has pleaded guilty in a federal court of involvement in the attack and is cooperating with the government. He has detailed how officers from the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, Pakistan’s notorious intelligence force, helped carry out the raid.

According to Headley, as recorded in a report on the interrogation, the Pakistanis directed and funded the group. In Headley’s case, he was trained as a spy, paid, and sent to India where he took photos and videos of potential places for attack. The material was turned over to the group’s intelligence liaison who then suggested where and how to kill lots of people, including American citizens staying in hotels and the office of the Jewish Chabad group.

This should lead to a major crisis in U.S.-Pakistan relations. Regardless of the fact that Pakistan is “helping” the United States against al-Qaida and the Taliban. But wait! How much is it helping? U.S. officials have also reported that Pakistani intelligence is assisting the Taliban in killing Americans in Pakistan and not working all that hard to find Usama bin Ladin and his friends.

Now let’s be clear. There is a genuine policy dilemma for the United States, the need to balance Pakistani help against Pakistani sabotage of U.S. policy and terrorism. The point is that the Mumbai information should be the last straw, showing the need for some confrontation.

Yes, the popularity of the United States might decline a few percentage points in Pakistan. There might even be—shudder!—tension. Yet it is time for the U.S. government to demand full cooperation, a change in Pakistani behavior, turning over all the wanted terrorists and their handlers to India, or else the United States will take serious action.

Or does the Obama Administration want to be an ally of those who murdered 166 people in Mumbai, the equivalent of backing those who carried out the September 11, Lockerbie, Spanish train, and British underground bombings?

Oh, wait! The U.S. government is now advocating and helping the Afghan government negotiate with the Taliban, the partner in the September 11 attacks. How can this be justified: Easily, by claiming that there are forces in the Taliban that can be moderated. Of course, the problem this isn’t true.

Combined with naiveté and ignorance, what are the other factors in this move? Well, if the Taliban makes some kind of truce or reduces its fighting, the Obama Administration can withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan and claim victory, or at least stability, has been attained. This, however, would just set the scene for a strengthened Taliban and far more fighting soon after U.S. combat troops leave.

Yet this isn’t the first time such a strategy has been used by the Obama Administration. It ended efforts to subvert the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip and also continues engagement with Syria despite that country’s continued anti-American extremism. While the governments in Venezuela and Turkey trounce U.S. interests, this is also ignored.

Other examples can be cited of this approach toward such disparate countries as Russia, North Korea, and others, as well as benign neglect of problems like the fact that Iraq is suffering from a huge political crisis of having no government at all. In the UN Human Rights Committee, despite the domination of radical states and no change from past misdeeds, the administration justifies its decision to join by pretending there are no problems at all.

The worst problem the United States is going to face may be a political global warming, as neglected crises heat up, while tolerated radical forces set the world aflame with increased violence and aggression in the next few years.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

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