Swing away, Merrill
Recently I saw Signs again. I didn't find it scary the first time I saw it because I don't believe there's intelligent life anywhere in the universe except on Earth. But maybe because I saw the movie the second time at three in the morning, when I was half asleep, it occurred to me that it never hurts to hedge one's bets.
In H.G. Wells's The War of the Worlds humanity is saved from destruction when an invading force of Martians falls prey to pathogens native to Earth, and for which the aliens have no antibodies. Now just in case aliens from further afield than Mars are smart enough to inject themselves with antibodies before they invade, my fertile brain has hatched a plan for keeping them away from Earth altogether.
I once read that radio signals travel forever in space, which means that every Amos 'n Andy Show that ever aired on radio is still broadcasting somewhere in the universe. So my plan is the essence of simplicity: Read out on a radio broadcast the entire history of the relationship between the United States and Pakistan.
Trust me, this will work. When it picks up that broadcast, any race that's smart enough to figure out intergalactic travel wouldn't need to be told twice to give this planet a wide berth.
When I told the plan to a Pundita reader, he replied that if I wanted to be sure to scare away the aliens, the announcer should also read the history of U.S. relations with China since the Nixon era.
That would be a bad idea for two reasons. First off, it's gilding the lily. The aliens would probably say, 'Nobody's that crazy.' The trick is to scare them away without making it seem you're trying to scare them.
The other reason is that any aliens who actually believed the history of U.S.-China relations would likely say, 'Then we'll just stay away from the United States.' The idea is to ward off an invasion of Earth, not just the American part of it.
I wrote all the above about a year ago but I was stopped from publishing it by the most awful thought: What if we've already been invaded by aliens? It struck me this might finally explain why the U.S. relationship with Pakistan is so very strange, even unearthly.
Before you laugh, consider that prior to U.S. actions since around 2006, when the Pakistani military's proxy war against NATO in Afghanistan went into full tilt, there was no precedent in human history for a government paying another government to murder its troops. As I've pointed out before, not even fiends such as Mao and Stalin, who were so very cruel to their own people, would have thought of that one; not even history's most primitive savages did that.
There was no precedent because everybody knows that the one thing you don't do is pay another government to murder the very people whose job is to defend you. But then one wouldn't be 'everybody' if one was actually from another planet and posing as a human. It might not occur to such aliens that there was something truly inhuman about paying another government to murder one's soldiers.
Having scared myself silly in the fashion I've described, I returned to my normal self after I determined to never again watch an M. Night Shyamalan film at three in the morning. However, if one discounts a covert alien invasion as the explanation, this leaves unanswered the vexing question of why the U.S. relationship with Pakistan is so very strange. It's a strangeness that's been to destructive to many innocents -- countless innocents -- almost since Pakistan's inception.
And, if one considers the tacit encouragement the U.S. government gave to Pakistan's clandestine nuclear proliferation, an encouragement it continues to provide in tacit fashion, the relationship between the two governments poses the greatest threat to the human race and indeed to all life on the planet.
While some American defense analysts have, in recent years, claimed that Pakistan is the world's most dangerous country, the claim is preposterous. Pakistan's military was thrashed every time it started a war with India and couldn't even hold onto East Pakistan once India intervened to stop the Pak military's massacre of civilians.
Pakistan's only demonstrable danger is what it's been able to accomplish by the sneakiest means -- by fostering terrorism in clandestine fashion. But it's gotten away with this kind of murder for decades with the support of the American government -- and, one might argue, the British one, at least until very recently. Even during the years that the U.S. government ostensibly punished Pakistan for its WMD program, the U.S. found ways to divert money to Pakistan's military through the use of proxies such as the World Bank.
The covert support from the United States, even while it publicly condemned Pakistan persuaded Pakistan's leaders that the Americans weren't seriously outraged by their behavior -- and what's more, taught the Pakistanis that the American leaders were as two-faced and sneaky as they were, a sneakiness shared by the powers in the American orbit. This gave the Pakistanis no impetus to abandon terrorism as a policy tool and nuclear proliferation as a revenue stream.
The American support has continued to translate into support for Pakistan from many quarters -- from international institutions to Western companies that have agreed to import clothing goods and other textiles from Pakistan. This, despite the fact that Pakistan's military continues to foster terrorism and use 'lashkars' to mount proxy wars against Afghans and the U.S.-led NATO mission there.
So it's closer to the truth to say that it's the relationship between the United States and Pakistan, not the country of Pakistan, which poses the greatest danger in the world.
Since 2010, when the lid blew off Pakistan's U.S.-sponsored murder and maiming of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, every American defense expert and his uncle has offered explanations as to why the U.S. government had engaged in such self-destructive and one might even say fiendish behavior. And a chorus line of American military and civilian government officials have done the same.
Each set of explanations, proffered at every phase of the unfolding scandal and right up to this day, sounded reasonable -- until one noted that the history of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship has been characterized by the U.S. government coming up with one explanation after another, no matter what the situation, for the U.S. aiding Pakistan's military. In other words, when seen against the big picture of the historical relationship, the reasonable explanations are exposed for what they are: rationalizations.
As I explained in considerable detail in June 2011, this kind of rationalizing is well known to psychologists who specialize in working with substance abusers and people who refuse to leave or change a relationship that's destructive to both parties -- and often to anyone who's closely involved with the parties.
Many such relationships are 'co-dependent' -- a psychological term that's easily misunderstood, as I learned when an editorialist in the American media picked up on my observations and proceeded to give advice about dealing with what he termed the "co-dependent" American-Pakistani relationship that was itself a textbook example of co-dependent thinking, and even enabling.
Enabling, as I've also explained before, is associated with co-dependence, although not all co-dependent relationships are supported by a party to the relationship that's acting to enable the other party's destructive behavior. The term, as it's used in the negative sense, is also easily misunderstood, as witness a recent PSA that intones at parents who're lenient with boozing and pill-popping teenage offspring, "Enabling is a drug. Get help."
Enabling isn't a drug, it's not addictive behavior; it's a coping tactic that can be quite innocent at one end of the relationship spectrum and deliberately manipulative at the other. In short, it's a minefield for anyone but a psychologist to analyze personal human relationships in formal psychological terms. And to apply psychological terms to government-to-government relationships skates close to pop psychology, which is why I quickly backed away from the discussion I raised about co-dependence and enabling.
Both terms relate to individuals, not systems. And even though systems of government are managed by individuals, I think no matter how tempting it is to apply the concepts of co-dependence and enabling to the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, it's taking things too far to apply them to American government administrations that have spanned decades.
Unless one wants to speculate that individuals with co-dependent tendencies are attracted to foreign relations and defense occupations in the American government -- a very shaky speculation, I would think.
Perhaps one would be on more solid ground by speculating that there's something about the system of American government, or how it's been administered since the Cold War, which institutionalized tactics that resemble co-dependence and enabling behavior when applied to government-to-government relations.
I was struck by a 2007 op-ed I came across in my files the other day which spoke approvingly of Bush abandoning unilateralism and embracing multilateralism in the effort to rescue the situation in Iraq. Bush was never a unilateralist; recall the 'Coalition of the Willing' he put together for the Iraq invasion and the team of Italian, Spanish, British and Japanese heads of state that he forged after 9/11. He even tried to bring Vladimir Putin onto the team -- a short-lived attempt when hardliners in the U.S. and Russia set up a howl.
The United States has been a coalition builder even before World War Two and after the war ended, it established the multilateral institutions of the United Nations, World Bank and IMF, and several regional coalitions, and of course NATO. And all the throughout the Cold War and since, American leadership in the world largely translated into building and maintaining coalitions and encouraging nations friendly to the USA to do the same.
So it's possible that at some point the U.S. government institutionalized a view of leadership that actually had more to do with maintaining coalitions than with leadership. That could explain why the United States has gotten itself into the damnedest situations -- with China, with Pakistan, with Saudi Arabia, and even with NATO.
Perhaps the strangest aspect of this century so far has been the U.S. government wringing its hands over Saudi-financed terrorism. But who raised up the Saudis? Who taught them the oil business and built a nation for them? Who built their air force and army? Who aided and abetted them at every turn? The United States. This patten of behavior has been repeated many times, including with Pakistan and China.
In fact, it's hard to find a government working against the United States today that has not been helped at every turn by the USA, or by institutions and alliances that the USA created or encouraged. So while this might be considered leadership on another planet, down here on Earth we would call this mission drift.
Unless one subscribes to the idea that all the truly strange aspects of U.S. foreign/defense policy can be blamed on aliens among us. I myself scoff at the idea but in the manner of hedging bets, pardon me while I go and place several glasses of water around the house.