Letter to America: A Disaster Called Trump | Pakistan Today

Letter to America: A Disaster Called Trump

Resetting the Pakistan-U.S. relationship

Dear America:

Instead of writing about Pakistani politics in which change happens
everyday reinforcing uncertainty, I will write about you instead,
where, thanks to a disaster called Trump, things change every week
also riving America in uncertainty.

In addition there’s the fraying Pakistan-America relationship, the
Middle East, Iran, India, North Korea, Brexit and Ireland and what it
might portend for the EU, Mexico and the wall, Yemen and Saudi Arabia,
climate change and the melting Arctic ice cap. Some afire places are
afire; others are tinderboxes waiting for a flame. And you cannot even
douse out the California the fires!

The latest disaster: Trump’s Brazen recognition of Jerusalem as
Israel’s capital! It seems the guy is spoiling for setting the world
on fire. Since when have other countries started deciding which the
capital of another country will be? Until the creation of a viable
Palestinian state of which East Jerusalem is the capital, this
decision is not only an affront to humanity’s conscience, for it
destroys any chance of a peace agreement or a two-state solution. This
is also an affront to Christian conscience. Trump could do so with
impunity because he knows that Muslim states and the OIC are so
impotent that their leaders will only make bombastic speeches and try
and quell rioting in their own countries. For starters, those Muslim
states that recognize Israel should begin by derecognizing it. Turkey
can lead the way. There will be demands by Muslim people to distance
themselves from America to the maximum. Hardly any country in the
world has applauded the US for this decision. Jerusalem is a holy site
to all three major world religions and should be a neutral, universal
city under UN auspices.

We admire you Americans for, by and large, you are a successful
people. Pity that we are fast losing admiration for your government.
We would rather hold our admiration for US governments back before
they deserve it, though I’m not sure they necessarily want it, so
consumed are they by hubris.
One-way love never does. Mutual respect is important if we are to
achieve understanding in which there is something in it for everyone.
We should strive to reach an agreed minimum platform of action that is
good for all sides. If only one country demands respect without
respecting the concerns of the other, we soon reach deadlock whilst
maintaining the charade of diplomacy. What is debatably good for
America is not necessarily good for Pakistan.

What I say here is based on the assumption that Pakistan and the
U.S.A. wish to normalize their relations and bring it back to where it
was before Trump got Pakistan’s hackles up with his unfortunate August
11 speech in which he scapegoated Pakistan over US failures in
Afghanistan. Scapegoating is the oldest game in the book and everyone
else also plays it. Given how much Pakistan has suffered so grievously
and made more human and material sacrifices in this demented ‘war on
terrorism’ than anyone, it was unfortunate that Trump sounded like an
Indian/Afghan mouthpiece. I feel sorry for US officials. They are
educated and intelligent people with loads of experience that is being
wasted because they are perpetually having to firefight and do damage
control caused by their bosses who, I dare say, don’t listen to
sensible advice. This can be frustrating and demoralizing.

We tell American officialdom that “the ball is in your court” since
Trump was the one who first put the cat amongst the pigeons by
scapegoating Pakistan. In fact, he hit it out of the court. It is
lost. Now it is incumbent upon us to find a new, better ball by
resetting our relationship. A good Pakistan-America understanding is
an imperative because both countries need one another.

The release of the five American captives from Afghan Taliban custody
could have been an opening. But Trump, possibly because he couldn’t
help himself, said that it shows that now Pakistan has started taking
America seriously. What? started taking American threats seriously?
That we did it out of fright? You might think we are overreacting but
a few days later Nikki Haley’s statement that America should ask India
to keep an eye on Pakistan ruined everything, a statement she repeated
in Delhi. I came to the conclusion that we will have to wait for the
next US presidency for us or anyone to take America seriously.

For our part, our foreign minister made matters worse with his speech
in parliament in which he let it be known that Pakistan had given a
piece of its mind to America. Like Trump, the speech was meant for a
Pakistani audience but it would not have been well received in
Washington. The problem for both of us is that we have people holding
sensitive offices who don’t understand their briefs and shoot their
mouths off like verbal machine guns.

I have also come to realize that America doesn’t like to be reminded
of history. That is escapist. It needs to understand that the present
is made in history’s  kitchen. Unless we respect history we will never
understand the present let alone craft a better future. We ignore
history at our peril. Don’t let ‘historians’ rewrite a different
history to justify a bad present. We cannot undo history, but we can
certainly learn not to repeat it. One of history’s most important
lessons is: don’t get trapped in hubris. You cannot forget that Al
Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden were initially your creations and it was
their later mishandling that gave them cause to morph from freedom
fighters against Soviet occupation to terrorists, who to many are
still freedom fighters against NATO occupation.

To be so bothered about Pakistan’s nuclear programme is also to forget
history and its causes: that Pakistan’s nuclear programme was a
defensive reaction to India’s nuclear tests of 1974 and later May
1998. The race gathers momentum of its own as each country tries to
keep ahead with enhanced nuclear and missile technologies. Now the
bogey is that our nuclear arsenal will fall into the ‘wrong’ hands,
i.e. into extremist hands, though America knows better than most how
advanced our command and control mechanism is. And for all our
shortcomings we are still not so short of confidence as to drop
nuclear weapons on human populations willy nilly because we know the
consequences will lead to massive global destruction. The best and
perhaps only way to ally this concern is to admit Pakistan into the
Nuclear Suppliers’ Group. And if India has to be made a member of the
UN Security Council, so should Pakistan be as the only Muslim country
in it.

So a lot of the fires and damage are caused by US President Donald
Trump needlessly making unconsidered statements, tweets and speeches
often written by people who have little understanding or sensitivity
to the real world and what makes it tick. Trump offends someone inside
or outside his country and then some of the geniuses he has surrounded
himself with make matters worse by spewing more nonsense. US
bureaucrats perpetually run hither and yon like headless chicken to
not only find themselves on the same spot but far behind from where
they started, because of Trump’s suicidal tendencies. Trump’s recent
and embarrassing reference to Pocahontas before a group of Native
Americans springs to mind as a case in point. Then there is his
re-tweet of anti-Muslim videos, this time getting Britain’s hackles
up. If there is a method in this madness please tell me what it is.

To assert that Pakistan is solely responsible for America’s failures
in Afghanistan forgetting your own poor strategies and failures of
your own satrap Afghan governments is to deny reality. Has Pakistan
advanced so much as to cause the most powerful country in history so
much grief? But the world according to Trump says we have. Anyone in
his right mind knows that we cannot. But they also know that they
cannot make us change our policies, real or imaginary, through
threats. Have US threats made Kim Jong Un pause? Why, only a few days
ago he let off an ICBM and made a laughing stock of his detractors. Do
you think others are not looking at how successful he has been at not
taking Trump’s threats seriously? If you cannot make Pakistan come to
heel, how can you make Iran or North Korea or anyone else? Threats
don’t do it; working together and understanding each other’s concerns
do. We have to talk with, not at, one another. A global war changes
the global status quo. Maybe that’s what Trump is after, but there’s
no gainsaying that America won’t come out of it worse.

All this is not to say that Pakistan smells of roses. Far from it. We
have played our part in making the mess, taking wrong turns, adopting
wrong strategies, like enabling the Afghan Taliban to take power in
Afghanistan, our much-fabled ‘strategic depth’ and fifth column
claptrap. But don’t hide from cause and effect. Terrorism is an
age-old effect that is created by some cause, either a reaction to
tyranny, occupation or incorrect ideological conditioning. You cannot
just wish it away or kill it with “shock and awe”. What the Muslim
world needs badly is the correct kind of contemporary education for
its people to develop disciplined and scientific minds that can
interpret faith into the right kind of belief systems.

I am aware of the ‘Track 2’ discussions taking place. They rarely work.

It would be remiss of me not to point out another American flaw. You
find comfort in mostly meeting Pakistanis who sing the song that you
wish to hear, which puts you in a false comfort zone. You need to meet
people who tell you where you are wrong, not those who try and impress
you about how ‘moderate’ and ‘westernized’ they are for their own
reasons. While you are looking for advice they are looking for
something else.

Enough of lecturing. Lets cut to the chase and see what positive can
be done to bring the US-Pakistan relationship back on track.

•    Forget Af-Pak. De-hyphenate Pakistan and Afghanistan and also rub
out the mental hyphen between Pakistan and India as far as pulling
America’s chestnuts out of the Afghan fire is concerned. Think of
Am-Pak. That’s the new ball.

•    Stop fretting over CPEC. It will not only be good for Pakistan and
China but the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative will be good for
America and the West. CPEC would also benefit India if it would get
off its high horse. We need to find ways to allow India trade access
to Afghanistan, eventually through CPEC, without letting them take
harmful advantage of that access.

•    US AID is not getting the goodwill it should because it often goes
through questionable NGOs that misapply it and, let it be said, enrich
the people running them. Work out what the greatest needs of the
people are and then apply AID there through local people, not those
living far away in Islamabad, Karachi or Lahore who know New York and
London better than Pakistani ghettos and their hinterland.

•    Don’t support our corrupt rulers just because they wear the tattered
cloak of a sham electoral ‘democracy’.

James Mattis was here. His meeting with the civilian administration
was symbolic; the real meeting with our army leadership. It doesn’t
sound useless for they are talking about finding “meaningful common
ground”. But it came with an implied threat: The US would give
Pakistan “one more try” before Trump decides the alternatives. Replace
Pakistan with India? Good luck to both. More drone strikes? Its been
done before and got you nowhere.  Doesn’t help. This time the drones
will be shot down, raising the temperature.

1.    Take off the yellow goggles that RAW and NDS have presented you
because they give you jaundiced eyes. Wear American goggles instead.

2.    Pakistan needs the US in the long-term because of its huge
knowledge bank from which we can learn. In the short-term we need you
to help us not  fall into the economic abyss towards which we are

3.    The U.S.A. needs Pakistan in the short-term to get its irons  out
of the Afghan fire and retain a presence there. It needs Pakistan in
the long-term for geostrategic reasons at the very least.

America and Pakistan are natural allies because of the many
commonalities between them:

1.    The initial impetus for making both countries was to escape
religious persecution.
2.    You have adopted a version of English as your first language; we
have adopted our version of it as our official and second language. It
is because we are a state with many languages that we have adopted a
foreign language as our national language to keep the peace; you have
adopted English partly for the same reasons and also because your
original settlers came from the English-speaking world. Now Spanish is
becoming your second language.
3.    Most of our people don’t hate the US which is why many wish to
migrate there, not only for economic reasons but also because they
love your way of life with its many freedoms.

We can use all these commonalities as a starting point towards
resetting our relationship.

Humayun Gauhar

Humayun Gauhar is a veteran columnist in Pakistan and editor of Blue Chip magazine.