Thursday, December 1

For God's sake Amb. Munter, don't Go Native on us now

In yet another sign that the U.S. Department of State should relocate to Brussels U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter advised White House officials that President Obama should deliver a "formal video statement," according to White House officials interviewed by the New York Times, regarding the NATO air strike inside Pakistan on November 26.

The Times report, published late last night, didn't specify the exact nature of the statement that Munter wanted from Obama, but the Global Post's report today on the same incident (which references the Times report) did:
[Munter] told White House officials that a formal video apology from Obama could help prevent relations between the two countries from deteriorating. Munter, who was speaking from Islamabad, warned that the anger in Pakistan had reached a fever pitch, and that the US needed to defuse it as quickly as possible, The [New York] Times reported.
As to how Munter's highly sensitive discussion with White House officials came to be made public, I'd say that the U.S. Department of State is the prime suspect. Fuel for my suspicion comes from the Global Post's blunt statement:
State Department officials believe that a show of remorse could help salvage America's relationship with Pakistan.
As to how State arrived at the idea that any advice they could give on Pakistan would be helpful to the United States is beyond me. State's track record on Pakistan since the Afghan War heated up has been awful unless one thinks of State as representing British interests in Afghanistan first, the European Union's interests in Afghanistan and Pakistan second, NATO's interests third and Wal-Mart's fourth -- oh but that's right I forgot to publish my essay, "Yes we have no mangos," written back in August I think it was,so I suppose the Wal-Mart reference might be obscure to many.

Moving along, Munter's advice was given on the 28th, just two days after the NATO air strike, when the U.S. Department of Defense was still trying untangle how the strike came about and exactly what had happened during the strike. So it's almost beyond belief that a career diplomat of Munter's experience would ask the President of the United States for a formal apology before the strike had been properly investigated.

Yet when it comes to State not much is beyond belief anymore. State officials have come to think of themselves as 'policymakers' even though State is only supposed to advise the White House on policy.

The good news is that President Obama has asserted his authority in the matter. From the Times report:
The White House has decided that President Obama will not offer formal condolences —- at least for now -— to Pakistan for the deaths of two dozen soldiers in NATO air strikes last week, overruling State Department officials who argued for such a show of remorse to help salvage America’s relationship with Pakistan, administration officials said.
On Wednesday, White House officials said Mr. Obama was unlikely to say anything further on the matter in the coming days.

“The U.S. government has offered its deepest condolences for the loss of life, from the White House and from Secretary Clinton and Secretary Panetta,” said Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council, referring to Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, “and we are conducting an investigation into the incident. We cannot offer additional comment on the circumstances of the incident until we have the results.”
That is what State should have announced at the start. That is what NATO should have announced. And the European Union, which finds large representation in NATO, should have kept its collective mouth shut. Instead, they fell over themselves to offer condolences that sounded like apologies about a shooting incident that might not require any apology whatsoever from NATO or the United States.

The bad news is that because Munter and others at State jumped the gun they've placed the President in an embarrassing position -- one that's made headlines in Pakistan.

This is no way to run foreign policy; this is no way to conduct any kind of policy and certainly not the way to run a war. This is headless horseman thinking, which means there is no real thinking at all; there is just a bureaucracy's obsession with expanding its turf by attempting to please scores of competing factions.

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