Editorials and Opinions, Global Education

Rethinking American Policy in the Middle East

By Dylan Royce
Published: March 2011

In October 2010, the US announced two billion dollars in military aid to Pakistan. This is only the latest in a long series of aid packages to the country, both military and humanitarian.
America pours a huge amount of money not only into Pakistan, but into the entire Middle East. Discounting the enormous sums spent on combat and development in Iraq and Afghanistan (and lost to corruption there), the government spends billions of dollars on aid to various countries, most of which have autocratic regimes and/or generally anti-American populations.
The hope is that aid will both coerce the recipient governments to support American policies and stabilize the volatile region, freezing these hopefully pro-American governments in place. Essentially unconsidered is whether the regimes we are hoping to perpetuate are actually worth supporting, or whether they are even on our side.
Some nations are clearly not, shamelessly taking our money while simultaneously refusing to support or actively opposing American goals.
Our government must make it clear that while all peoples are entitled to humanitarian aid regardless of their governments’ policies, military aid is not a right, but a privilege—one that can be revoked at any time should a recipient go against American interests. In order to reestablish (or, perhaps, establish for the first time) American influence in the region, the United States must reconsider the relationships it has with every country. Countries found to be undeserving of military aid must either shape up or face the loss of it.
The best example of such a country is Pakistan. Despite receiving multiple billions of dollars annually, its government has not only failed to defeat the Taliban, but is almost certainly actively supporting it.
One Taliban logistics officer estimated that it provides 80 percent of his organization’s funding. While this particular figure is unverifiable, the general assertion that Pakistan is aiding the Taliban has been corroborated by other sources, including American diplomatic cables released on WikiLeaks, as well as Afghani officials. Afghani officials, in fact, have repeatedly stated that victory in the war will be impossible unless Pakistan stops supporting the insurgents.
The irony is that some of the money that Pakistan gives to the Taliban is probably American aid. Even if it is not, we are still funding the supporter of the enemy, which we already armed in the 1980s. We do not need to give them any more help.
If arming America’s main enemy in the War on Terror is not enough, Pakistan is also possibly sheltering Osama bin Laden.
Some sources, such as an anonymous NATO commander quoted by CNN, assert that Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the same one that supports the Taliban, is also providing America’s greatest enemy with houses in Northwest Pakistan. Rather than living in a cave, he may be shuttling between various dwellings subsidized by American funds.
We must demand that Pakistan crack down on religious extremism, cease funding terrorism of all kinds (especially the Taliban, but also Islamic terrorism in India), give up bin Laden if it has him, and launch an actual attempt to defeat the Taliban.
If it fails to do so, we will have no choice but to cut military aid and henceforth regard it as an unfriendly state. This would essentially be recognizing it for what it is: a nation that supports America’s enemies and passively harbors the perpetrators of 9/11. Pretending that it is our friend and continuing to pour money into its (and therefore the Taliban’s) coffers will not solve anything.
If we refuse to get tough with Pakistan and countries like it, we materially support the enemy while wasting our own finances, making us appear both weak and stupid to allies and foes alike.
In short, failure to reform our diplomatic efforts in the Middle East will destroy any remaining influence that we have in the region, as well as our chances of finally winning the War on Terror.

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