Dear President Obama,
I am writing to you in three brief installments as an American and as one who also loves his country.
And I write from Des Moines, Iowa, a place that you know well and fondly, I believe.
But today I am going to do something intentionally unusual and address you from this forum of Pakistan Times.
Three years ago I knew nothing and cared less about Pakistan. I couldn’t even spell Cashmear. Okay maybe I still can’t. But I lived as an industrially minded expatriate (in Japan) for seven years and came away from that experience with at least a micron of confidence and common sense for sizing up international situations. And in sizing up US policy on Pakistan today, things look ineffective in the short run, and disastrous in the long. A sure sign of not understanding the situation in hand and not healthy for the future of our own country.
Most telling of this? Two weeks ago, there occurred in Lahore, Pakistan an action of democracy as powerful and as meaningful as the world has seen in decades.
And this democratic action manifested not out of the machinations of Pakistani politicians, not from the intimidation of the Pakistan army, and not by the urgent folly of mindless patriotism, but by the people of Pakistan.
And they made it happen in democratically massive numbers. Peacefully and without the formality of the voting booth.
The people of Pakistan stood up and spoke out against injustice in their own country. They demanded something better from their elected leaders. And it worked. It was pure democracy in action, an astonishing event, one that any lover of democracy, such as our own country, might have applauded and congratulated and celebrated.
Did we? No. With an irony that has not yet hit us considering the trillion dollar cost of our own failed efforts to build democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan, we were too wrapped up in our anger over bonuses paid to AIG executives on Wall Street to give it much notice, much less the honor the people of Pakistan deserved for their democratic achievement.
What is going on?
In a word (and this is no simplification and certainly no mere generalized criticism), what is happening on our part is the scapegoating of Pakistan. And this — scapegoating — this historically ubiquitous human tendency, of persons and of peoples, for unwitting and unintended self-destruction, we’ll examine in the second part of this letter.
Des Moines, Iowa