Faux Ally in a Real War

The world, including President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and the U.S. media, remains focused on the unfolding turmoil in Egypt, where America's supporter and erstwhile ally, Hosni Mubarak, is under siege.  (Whether one wishes Mubarak ill or well, he largely supported U.S. policy and kept a lid on expanded violence involving Israel.) 

Simultaneously, another drama unfolds more quietly in America's faux-ally, Pakistan.  Though this one does not portend the overthrow of a government, the outcome may well impact U.S. stature and policy in the Islamic world.

During an armed robbery attempt in Lahore, Pakistan, an American official of the U.S. Consulate in Lahore shot and killed would-be assailants.  Despite local police confirming that the robbers were armed and the embassy's disclosure of the American's diplomatic immunity pursuant to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the American, Raymond Davis, remains under arrest.  Fueled or threatened by Islamist groups, various Pakistani government members proclaim that the American will be tried for murder.  This presents a win-win situation for Pakistan's Islamists and a no-win situation for the U.S.

Any Pakistani trial will likely be a sham.  Islamists such as leaders of Jamiat Ulema Islam, the same group who wrought the murderous attacks in Mumbai, India, have already pronounced the verdict and sentence (death).  At best, the American would endure time in a Pakistani prison, where conditions would make any U.S. penitentiary seem like a Ritz Carlton.  Such an outcome presents a victory for Islamists everywhere, diminishes U.S. stature, and will embolden similar actions against other American citizens abroad.  Release of the American under any circumstances, ranging from a Pakistani government decision to honor diplomatic accords to a post-trial pardon to an unlikely "not guilty" verdict (signing the judge's death warrant as well), presents the Islamists with an excuse to protest and conduct violence focused on American diplomatic missions and Pakistani government facilities in Lahore and elsewhere.

Conversely, U.S. acquiescence would be a display of great weakness and opens the U.S. to further diplomatic blackmail by the government of Pakistan and its Islamist partners and proxies.  Likewise, continued U.S. pressure for the release of the American creates the opportunity for violence and for Islamists to further fan anti-U.S. rhetoric. 

What should the Obama administration do?  Our citizens lie at the heart of our interests.  President Obama and his administration must use all diplomatic means available to pressure for release of the American, which also applies pressure on the government of Pakistan to honor the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.  If our diplomat was in violation of his diplomatic status, that would be a complicating issue, but even such circumstances should not leave him at the mercy of the Pakistani legal system.  Islamists are and will remain not simply anti-American, but proclaimed enemies of the U.S.  If the American is freed, the Islamists will howl, protest, and likely commit violent acts, but they will do all of those things anyway.  Freeing the American and enforcing international decorum and accords should be the top priorities for the United States.  We must convey that we will do everything possible to ensure the safety and freedom of our citizens; weakness breeds contempt, as the experience in Tehran for 444 days from 4 November 1979 to 20 January 1981 taught.

Long-term, the administration must also address the true nature of our Pakistani "allies."  The Pakistani government remains a dishonest partner in the war against Islamist terrorists and the Taliban while bilking the U.S. of billions of dollars every year.  Pakistan supports Islamist groups as part of its enduring campaign against India and also as proxies in the effort to control Baluchistan.  The government of Pakistan, and more specifically its Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, continue to train Taliban fighters in the arts and sciences of IEDs, used to kill and maim Americans in Afghanistan; provide Mullah Omar and the Taliban's Quetta Shura succor, sustenance, and protection; and fund Taliban operations, operatives, and shadow government officials in Afghanistan.  At some point, we must acknowledge that Pakistan is not an ally by our historical definition and experiences, and perhaps we should also try to understand that departing from Afghanistan does not present the U.S. with an existential threat.

Robert D. Clark is a retired U.S. Marine Corps Officer and continues to work in National Defense.
The world, including President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and the U.S. media, remains focused on the unfolding turmoil in Egypt, where America's supporter and erstwhile ally, Hosni Mubarak, is under siege.  (Whether one wishes Mubarak ill or well, he largely supported U.S. policy and kept a lid on expanded violence involving Israel.) 

Simultaneously, another drama unfolds more quietly in America's faux-ally, Pakistan.  Though this one does not portend the overthrow of a government, the outcome may well impact U.S. stature and policy in the Islamic world.

During an armed robbery attempt in Lahore, Pakistan, an American official of the U.S. Consulate in Lahore shot and killed would-be assailants.  Despite local police confirming that the robbers were armed and the embassy's disclosure of the American's diplomatic immunity pursuant to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the American, Raymond Davis, remains under arrest.  Fueled or threatened by Islamist groups, various Pakistani government members proclaim that the American will be tried for murder.  This presents a win-win situation for Pakistan's Islamists and a no-win situation for the U.S.

Any Pakistani trial will likely be a sham.  Islamists such as leaders of Jamiat Ulema Islam, the same group who wrought the murderous attacks in Mumbai, India, have already pronounced the verdict and sentence (death).  At best, the American would endure time in a Pakistani prison, where conditions would make any U.S. penitentiary seem like a Ritz Carlton.  Such an outcome presents a victory for Islamists everywhere, diminishes U.S. stature, and will embolden similar actions against other American citizens abroad.  Release of the American under any circumstances, ranging from a Pakistani government decision to honor diplomatic accords to a post-trial pardon to an unlikely "not guilty" verdict (signing the judge's death warrant as well), presents the Islamists with an excuse to protest and conduct violence focused on American diplomatic missions and Pakistani government facilities in Lahore and elsewhere.

Conversely, U.S. acquiescence would be a display of great weakness and opens the U.S. to further diplomatic blackmail by the government of Pakistan and its Islamist partners and proxies.  Likewise, continued U.S. pressure for the release of the American creates the opportunity for violence and for Islamists to further fan anti-U.S. rhetoric. 

What should the Obama administration do?  Our citizens lie at the heart of our interests.  President Obama and his administration must use all diplomatic means available to pressure for release of the American, which also applies pressure on the government of Pakistan to honor the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.  If our diplomat was in violation of his diplomatic status, that would be a complicating issue, but even such circumstances should not leave him at the mercy of the Pakistani legal system.  Islamists are and will remain not simply anti-American, but proclaimed enemies of the U.S.  If the American is freed, the Islamists will howl, protest, and likely commit violent acts, but they will do all of those things anyway.  Freeing the American and enforcing international decorum and accords should be the top priorities for the United States.  We must convey that we will do everything possible to ensure the safety and freedom of our citizens; weakness breeds contempt, as the experience in Tehran for 444 days from 4 November 1979 to 20 January 1981 taught.

Long-term, the administration must also address the true nature of our Pakistani "allies."  The Pakistani government remains a dishonest partner in the war against Islamist terrorists and the Taliban while bilking the U.S. of billions of dollars every year.  Pakistan supports Islamist groups as part of its enduring campaign against India and also as proxies in the effort to control Baluchistan.  The government of Pakistan, and more specifically its Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, continue to train Taliban fighters in the arts and sciences of IEDs, used to kill and maim Americans in Afghanistan; provide Mullah Omar and the Taliban's Quetta Shura succor, sustenance, and protection; and fund Taliban operations, operatives, and shadow government officials in Afghanistan.  At some point, we must acknowledge that Pakistan is not an ally by our historical definition and experiences, and perhaps we should also try to understand that departing from Afghanistan does not present the U.S. with an existential threat.

Robert D. Clark is a retired U.S. Marine Corps Officer and continues to work in National Defense.