Jihad Watch Board Vice President Hugh Fitzgerald discusses Pakistan’s indignation at the United States over the Zawahiri strike, the failure of our policies toward Pakistan in general, and other erroneous stances toward the Islamic world arising from the Cold War:
It is common in the Islamic world for America to be regarded as “the bully on the block.” This is true even in Pakistan, where outrage is running high today over the failed strike at Zawahiri. The Pakistanis are outraged despite four decades of the American government supporting Pakistan to the hilt, supplying it with every sort of advanced weaponry (partly because American officials loved dealing with those ramrod-straight, mustachioed, sometimes Sandhurst-educated Pakistani generals, all very pukka sahib as opposed to those nasty leftists, some of them from the Christian, but also Marxist, from the Indian state of Kerala, and of course those Bandung-conference leftover leftists such as Krishna Menon). The Cold War, for the United States, meant that Islam was a Good Thing. For though no one knew a damn thing about Islam, they knew that Religion and Atheistic Communism Did Not Mix, and who was more religious than those devout Muslims. Of course it was true — Islam and Communism don’t mix. But the Nazis and the Communists did not mix, either (though all three Total Systems have much in common), and yet, during World War II, we had no difficulty in making common cause with Soviet Russia.
During the Cold War, this inability to see Islam for what it was, is, and will be — a totalitarian threat at least as great, and probably a good deal greater, than Communism — led to certain obvious failures, and certain failures that remain unobvious. Among the obvious failures was the CENTO military organization, with Iraq, Turkey, and Pakistan enrolled in a supposedly non-Communist military alliance meant to mimic NATO, under American (and British) leadership. It came to nothing, for it was nothing — except that the Americans were locked into the myth of stout Muslim allies.
The second was the firm entrenchment of the myth of a benevolent Saudi Arabia, our “staunch ally” — a notion promoted by ARAMCO in its official publications and through a powerful network of Washington agents. This began in the 1950s, and the power of this myth only grew. No one knew much about Saudi Arabia, and Islam itself was hardly understood; in the State Department, it remains understood. Loy Henderson was not reading Arthur Jeffery or C. Snouck Hurgronje in 1948, or ever. Nor were those children of Beirut missionaries who comprised such a large percentage of what came to be called Arabists. They were akin in their attitudes, these non-Arab scions of Christian missionaries, to islamochristians, that is, Christians who, because of the pull of their Arab identity, had internalized and then promoted views that are essentially Islamic (such as the impermissibility of Israel, as an Infidel sovereignty, to exist within the dar al-Islam, whatever its size and however long and devious the means to eliminate it). Curious, is it not, that no one has noted that the ethnic pull for Arabs (who even if Christian sense that the Arab claim to fame is based on Islam) trumps resentment over their treatment as dhimmis, whereas non-Arab Christians in Muslim-ruled lands — Christians in Pakistan, or Bangladesh, or Indonesia — not having this ethnic pull, do not identify with the Muslim besiegers of Israel?
That myth of Saudi Arabia as an ally effectively entrusted our energy fate, our energy policy, to the dreamy idea that Saudi Arabia would “moderate” oil prices “as a favor” to us. It never has, it never will. The Saudi oil policy is always based on one thing: cold calculation of how to maximize, over time, the total revenues to be obtained from Saudi oil reserves. This means a constant calculation of what rises in price will do to demand for oil, over what period of time, and with what elasticity. Many factors — technological developments in other forms of energy (can coal be cleaned? Can nuclear energy be made safer, or solar energy be made cheaper?), the likely drops or rises in demand, and so on –must all be factored in. But “friendship” and “doing favors” for America, however often this may be claimed, has never been a part of Saudi oil decision-making. No matter how many times the absurdity of this proposition is demonstrated, it keeps coming back — because there is a powerful lobby of Saudi-funded agents who recycle petrodollars for their personal benefit, as lawyers, investment bankers, public relations experts. They are simply Saudi hirelings, and continue to attempt, with diminishing success, to fool us about Saudi Arabia. But they have helped to prevent an intelligent energy policy, which could have begun back in 1973, if not before, by putting our own taxes, steadily rising, on gasoline at the pump, and on oil used for other thigns, and used that money for conservation projects, subsidizes to mass transit, and nuclear, wind, and solar energy projects.
During the Cold War, of course, Saudi Arabia was a Stout Friend, and it was the Saudis who helped us in supplying the Muhajideen in Afghanistan. There are those who still feel that the Americans did the right thing in Afghanistan. There are others who may feel, at this point, that a Communist state in Afghanistan would not have been worse than the Taliban (the label “Communist” in Muslim countries often disguises a secularist, who needs some other fervent faith to see him through, and it is not as dangerous to be thought to have put Islam on the back burner for Marxist economics, as it would to abandon Islam for, say, Christianity)). The Afghanistan problem hastened, but did not cause, the crumbling of Soviet power, which came about when enough people within the nomenklatura realized on its own terms Soviet Communism could not deliver. Members of the Soviet elite (and the children of that elite) recognized the connection of Communism, already a moral failure, to economic failures, and they did not need a defeat in Afghanistan to make that clear.
Still another country misperceived was Turkey. Turkish troops performed bravely in the Korean War. Turkey was a member of CENTO, so temporary and so silly as it was. Turkey was a place that supplied airbases and listening posts. And Turkey was both “secular” and straightforward, just like those mustachioed Pakistani generals who were so much more pleasing than the messy, fussy, dangerously leftist Indians (so they were perceived) in the 1950s and 1960s. So Turkey became a “staunch ally.” There was certainly more truth to this than in the same label affixed to Saudi Arabia. But it depended on Kemalism, on the constraints on Islam. And as we now know, when Islam came back, and it has come back (or rather, since it had never left, but had been tied down) to Turkey, that inevitably means the kind of anti-Infidel (i.e., anti-American) attitudes that can be seen in the Turkish press, and in the Turkish government, and among the Turkish public. The secularists of Turkey were not sufficiently grateful to Ataturk; they thought Islam was permanently put in its rightful place, and that only their cooks and drivers, from the poorer sections of Istanbul or the countryside, took Islam seriously. They are beginning to see that they were wrong. And they now may dimly understand that Erdogan is clever, and a real threat, and that they will have to hold fast to the army rather than allow him to destroy the army”s power to step in.
Islam was not opposed to Communism because it was totalitarian and against human freedom. For Islam has much in common with Communism: it is totalitarian, it is against human freedom, and especially of freedom of conscience. It was a mistake to believe that Saudi Arabia was a “staunch ally” or an ally of any sort. It was a mistake to support Pakistan to the hilt, and to allow that country to acquire nuclear weapons. It is a mistake to continue to bribe the Pakistanis for their cooperation, which is limited to picking up Al-Qaeda members and not, much more importantly, at a minimum to sending A. Q. Khan to this country for interrogation. It instead should include handing over the weapons he developed — or risking the complete destruction of the Pakistani economy and of supporting an Indian pre-emptive strike so as to ensure that no Muslim state, or group within that state, ever acquires weapons of mass destruction.
The notion that the Pakistanis are an American ally is absurd. It is manifestly absurd after their support of the Taliban, after A Q. Khan helping to endanger the United States by selling the most detailed nuclear plans to North Korea, Iran, and Libya, and perhaps to Egypt (the Egyptians have put the $60 billion in American aid to purposes the Americans, endlessly trusting, never intended), and after the Pakistani refusal to allow the Americans to interrogate Mr. A. Q. (tellingly, now a national hero in Pakistan). That the Pakistanis, having received even more billions of dollars from the Americans in outright aid and debt relief, after decades of double-dealing and meretriciousness in every way, should dare to complain about America as a bully makes one’s blood boil. Pakistan cannot be trusted, not now, and not ever.
Pakistan is of course a Muslim country. It is a country whose people do not recognize that they have no other history because, though they are obviously the descendants of Hindus forced to convert by the onerous conditions of dhimmitude, or forcibly converted at the point of a sword, they refuse to recognize their own ancestors, their own pre-Islamic history. All they have to sustain and console them is Islam. That’s it. Nothing else. They cannot bear reality. And they will be that way as long as they remain fervently, even fanatically, Muslim. All of their political and economic and social and intellectual failures come from Islam. But this is the one thing, the thing above all other things, that they cannot allow themselves to recognize. It would disorient them, drive many of them mad.
And therefore, they must blame the Americans. It fits their conspiratorial view of the world, their crazed susceptibility to rumors, their hatred of the Infidels. Even educated Pakistanis have a milder, watered-down version of the same, that they feed to credulous foreigners and journalists, many of whom simply repeat these stories without critical examination (see, e.g., David Rohde of The Times).
They can do no other. But we can. We are free to analyze things as they are.