Kissinger's fantasy is Obama's reality
The road to stability runs through
o guardian.co.uk, Friday 11 December 2009 22.00 GMT
Meeting George Bush at the White House to discuss Afghanistan, the Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid once marvelled at how a "US president could live in such an unreal world, where the entire military and intelligence establishments were so gullible, the media so complacent, Congress so unquestioning – all of them involved in feeding half-truths to the American public".
The masters of war and delusion are still flourishing. Widening his campaign of extrajudicial execution by drone missiles within Pakistan, Barack Obama seems far from abandoning an anachronistic American faith in superior firepower; the militarism of our new Nobel peace laureate seems constrained only by its steep financial costs.
Unabashed about their cheerleading in
Actually, Obama's idea of sending 30,000 more soldiers to help subdue the Taliban, reinforce the corrupt regime in Kabul, and assassinate more people in Pakistan until the inevitable American retreat, seems a particularly incoherent fantasy. Perhaps Zakaria means that Obama is a "realist" in the same way as Henry Kissinger was praised as one, doggedly pursuing "national interests" through the world's manifold complexity. After all, Obama invoked Kissinger's apparently prestigious imprimatur when he proposed to bomb "safe havens" for terrorists in
Certainly a more historically grounded realism would acknowledge that
Unleashing greater firepower on
The Taliban, predictably resurgent as a result of Nato's blunderbuss tactics, may now choose to lie low for a while. The general respite from violence may even prove long enough for Obama's intellectual courtiers to declare that the surge in
The realism of American foreign policy, it seems, can only be selective and ephemeral, as American elites endlessly calibrate their national interests – invading, bombing and abandoning vast regions as they please, leaving other people to pick up the pieces.
Obama's long speech on Afghanistan barely mentioned Pakistan, which in 2005 suffered a single suicide attack and now – after the intensified American-led or directed assaults on
Obama himself identified Kashmir as the rusty nail in south
The Bush administration had wished to build up
Of course, as
American officials often complain that
Pakistan's leaders – who are convinced that America will abandon Islamabad just as it did Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989 – will play the same charade with Obama that General Musharraf's foreign minister once frankly described as, "First say yes, and later say but". They may well launch a few token crackdowns on militants but are unlikely to abandon the possibility of allowing some to remain in order to unleash them, at a later date, on India-ruled
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs