Since 9/11, the United States has been kept relatively safe from terrorist attack. This is not, however, the result of a healthy American foreign policy. The world itself, as dry tinder in fear of just the right match, is much less safe than it was ten years ago. And that is largely the result of American foreign policy, which--intentionally or not--invites intrigue, unease, and danger. One of the greatest casualties of the global war on terror has been the population of Pakistan.
Charles Kenny wrote recently in Foreign Policy magazine that
If Americans are confused about exactly what Pakistan is up to, they need to get in line. Pakistanis are more confused -- utterly so.Why would the United States want to do business with a government like that, let alone perpetuate it? It's no wonder that the Egyptian people hate the American government, because for thirty years we did business with a corrupt and dictatorial butcher. Similarly, because we do business with the riffraff of Pakistani politics, the average Pakistani has every bit as much of a reason to hate the United States of America as the average Egyptian does. American foreign policy has to change.
This confusion has been carefully cultivated by a national elite whose singular focus is the accumulation of wealth, at all costs. In the near-decade since 9/11, Pakistan's generals, judges, politicians, and bureaucrats have constructed two separate and equally effective narratives. To the West, they sold the bin Laden version of Pakistan: a fanatical nation, full of restless natives armed to the teeth with hatred and -- if the West wasn't careful -- nukes. To ordinary Pakistanis, they sold the Ugly American version of the rest of the world: a big bad Uncle Sam and friends who were always burning Korans, knighting Salman Rushdies, and violating the Land of the Pure (the literal meaning of "Pakistan").
We should have disengaged the corrupt elite in Pakistan years ago, and instead encourage free and fair elections, rather than trying to get the chips to fall wherever our government wants them to in order to have predictable but corrupt leadership there.
Why has it been so hard to disengage from such corruption? In large part because we Americans continue to elect corrupt bureaucrats ourselves. Electing Ron Paul as president of the United States would go a long way toward diluting and destroying the intrigue and the corruption that seems to be the preferred way of doing business for Pakistani and American apparatchiki.
Many--if not most--Pakistanis don't like everyday Americans, because they have been fed a lie by their government as to what we think of them. Unfortunately, they may be right; many everyday Americans look down on everyday Pakistanis because we, in turn, believe the lies that our government has told us about them.
Pakistanis are generally freedom loving people, just like Americans generally are. We need to connect on a new level--person to person. If our corrupt American leaders won't disengage Pakistan's corrupt leaders, we may not be able to fix that whole problem overnight. But we can begin to fix it by getting to know more about each others' real cultures and dreams and aspirations.
Refusing to believe the mutually reinforcing lies that both of our governments are feeding us is a great place to start.
Here's a more accurate portrayal about what Pakistan is really like