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"Reckless Actions" in Pakistan: Like Cambodia All Over Again


How NOT to make friends and influence people....

CNN reports that Bush approved Pakistan raids

President Bush secretly approved U.S. military raids inside Pakistan against alleged terrorist targets, according to a former intelligence official with recent access to the Bush administration's debate about how to fight al Qaeda and the Taliban inside the lawless tribal border area.

The former official spoke Thursday on condition of anonymity to describe the classified order.

The former official told The Associated Press that Bush signed an order this summer giving new authority to U.S. special operations forces to target suspected terrorists in the dangerous area along the Afghanistan border. More recently, the administration secretly gave conventional ground troops new authority to pursue militants across the Afghan border into Pakistan, the former official said.

The new authority allowed last week's unprecedented U.S.-led ground assault into the volatile region known as the tribal areas. The U.S. forces were apparently seeking specific Taliban or al Qaeda leaders...

The September 4 raid left at least 15 people dead, and embarrassed Pakistan's new civilian-led government. Pakistani officials have also said U.S. forces were involved.

Bush's decision to endorse cross-border attacks from Afghanistan without alerting Islamabad leaves Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari with a major foreign policy challenge....

Zardari and other politicians have called the cross-border attacks unacceptable and a violation of their country's sovereignty. Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the powerful but media-shy army leader, took things a step further Wednesday, when he said Pakistan's territorial integrity would be "defended at all cost."

"Reckless actions" which kill civilians "only help the militants and further fuel the militancy in the area," Kayani said, reflecting the views of many Pakistanis.
Read the whole thing here.

Pakistanis in Multan protest what they say was a U.S. attack using Predator drones.
Pakistanis in Multan protest what they say was a U.S. attack using Predator drones.

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David September 12, 2008 at 10:53 PM  

Your comparison with Cambodia got me thinking. I was in 6th grade when Nixon took the war to Cambodia, so my memories are hazy. The resulting Khmer Rouge period are definitely not hazy.

But I wonder if the comparison is only superficial. Or maybe I'm not as dovish as I used to be.

My first reaction is that, yes, the U.S. should coordinate, or at least inform, the democratically elected leaders of Pakistan of our military intentions.

But Pakistan's territorial integrity is somewhat of a myth anyway, much as its leaders need to insist upon it. And as the CNN article states, there are drawbacks to every approach:

"The Pakistani government is not told about the targets in advance because of concerns that the Pakistani intelligence service and military are infiltrated by al-Qaida and Taliban supporters who would leak the information, the former official said.

"The arrangement is deliberately ambiguous. While the Pakistan government is left in the dark, it also does not want the United States government announcing that operations were undertaken without Islamabad's approval."

This isn't the previously peaceful Cambodia that we're in danger of bringing down. I think Pakistan is another matter.

Lila Hanft September 13, 2008 at 2:20 PM  

You make a good point, David. Secrecy may be the only way to avoid potential spies. But secret foreign incursions are rarely a good thing, especially when civilian casualties occur (and they always seem to).

As recently as 2005, an NSA declassified report revealed that the attacks on American troups in the Gulf of Tonkin, which sparked massive American retaliation, had never in fact occured. The American people were intentionally misled to justify increased aggression.

That's the problem with the "but they hit me first" rationale for military aggression, as we saw in Bush's misleading "Weapons of Mass Destruction" argument. By the time we verify the truth of who started what, it's too late to prevent casualties.

The more I think on it, the Pakistan/Cambodia comparison is eerily accurate.

We went into Cambodia because despite its stated neutrality, the government had been looking the other way while VPA bases on the border. In 1969, we got Cambodia to agree to expel the VPA, and to help them, Nixon launched a secret bombing campaign that dropped about 2,750,000 tons of bombs over the next 14 months. Needless to say, the bombing had a deleterious effect on the people and government of Cambodia, increasing support for the Khmer Rouge.

Pakistan may well be playing both sides of the fence, but we have to be careful not to mete out punishment that far exceeds the crime.

David September 13, 2008 at 7:58 PM  

I agree completely with your conclusion.

Lila Hanft September 13, 2008 at 9:46 PM  

Have I mentioned how much I enjoy your comments? (And not just when you agree with me). Thanks!

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