FrontPage | 5.24.12
By Alan W. Dowd
Pakistani court has found Shakil Afridi—the Pakistani physician who was
instrumental in helping the CIA confirm the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden—guilty
of treason. For his crimes—for doing what the Pakistani government should have
done years ago—Afridi has been sentenced to 33 years in prison. Although Washington has politely
requested Afridi’s release, there appears to be no action or force behind the
diplomatic niceties. In fact, it appears Washington has kicked another friend
to the curb. Sadly, this has become a common occurrence in the Age of Obama.
getting into the full litany of the president’s “oh well” approach to friends
and allies, let’s stay with the Afridi situation for a moment. First, on its
face, this is a travesty of justice—even according to Pakistani law. After all,
if this man is guilty of treason for collaborating with the CIA, what about the
Pakistani military’s on-again-off-again collaboration with the CIA and DoD? Are
Pakistan’s president and generals going to be jailed for decades for their
cooperation—albeit halfhearted or perhaps quarter-hearted—with Washington?
importantly, we shouldn’t lose sight of the central fact that Afridi helped
bring the world’s most notorious, most wanted, most infamous mass-murderer to
justice. The trial of Afridi and the verdict reveal just how broken Pakistan
is—something many observers, including myself, have pointed out for many years
(here, here, here and here).
If the best we can hope for is a transactional, interests-only relationship
with Islamabad, then someone in the Obama administration needs to ask—amid
Pakistan’s treatment of Afridi, sheltering of bin Laden, aiding of the Haqqani
network and Taliban, outing of U.S. operatives, blockading of Afghanistan-bound
equipment, firing on U.S. forces across the AfPak border—what exactly the
United States is getting in the exchange.
Washington had a sense of honor, it would demand Afridi’s release by a date
certain and allow Islamabad to contemplate the consequences of not complying—a
cutoff in aid, an expulsion of Pakistan’s diplomatic corps, a public unveiling
and shaming of Pakistan’s duplicitous military-intelligence apparatus, another
U.S. raid into the country.
such a demand is not forthcoming from this administration. Afridi is only the
latest example of the president’s “oh well” doctrine when it comes to allies.
on, the Obama administration offloaded a handful of Gitmo detainees onto the
British protectorate of Bermuda—without consulting Britain, America’s oldest,
most faithful friend in a dangerous world. “This is not the kind of behavior
one expects from an ally,” a British official declared.
president pulled the rug out from under Poland and the Czech Republic in order
to get an arms control treaty of questionable merit with Russia. Worried about
Iran’s nukes and missiles, Europe had agreed to a NATO-wide missile defense
system before the Age of Obama. But for the president, decades of friendship
and shared sacrifice were less important than some ephemeral relationship with
Russia, so he scrapped NATO’s plans for a permanent defense against missile
threats. It may have pleased the Russians, but it humiliated the Poles and
Czechs. A Polish defense official called the decision “catastrophic for
Poland”—and understandably so. After all, Poland and the Czech Republic exposed
themselves to Russian ire by agreeing to allow permanent U.S. missile defense
bases on their soil. The Czech Republic announced that it was withdrawing from
the president’s scaled-down missile defense program, angrily rejecting Washington’s
revised plans as “a consolation prize.”
Britain and France led NATO into Libya, they expected—and deserved—a strong
assist from Washington. What they got was Washington’s insistence on a “time-limited” war and a stunning declaration
that access to the full complement of U.S. air power “expires on Monday.”
president ditched the Dalai Lama in order to save a photo-op summit in Beijing.
Likewise, he tossed longtime ally Hosni Mubarak aside when the crowds got too
loud in Cairo. Mubarak deserved to go, but so did Iran’s Ahmadinejad and
Syria’s Assad. Yet when given a chance to push those tyrants—who, unlike
Mubarak, are America’s sworn enemies—out of power, the president did nothing.
Israelis have been diplomatically sideswiped with public diktats, undercut by
leaks and treated to scorn rather than consultations by this administration too
many times to count.
who helped the U.S. military have been left dangling in the storm winds. Not only is
there no U.S. force to serve as a referee, a guide, a backstop in Iraq, but
there is no one in the administration helping our Iraqi friends—who risked
everything to help Gen. Petraeus’ troops win Iraq’s postwar war—make their way
out of Iraq.
president famously concluded in 2009 that “it is in our vital national interest
to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan,” before promising that “after 18 months, our
troops will begin to come home.” Setting aside the bizarre notion that “our
vital national interest” has an expiration date, his tacit message to Hamid
Karzai and the ever-dwindling number of Afghan troops willing to fight the
Taliban was: Don’t count on us for the long haul. Doubtless, that message was
amplified by the president’s hasty pullout from Iraq.
In the summer of 2008—almost exactly four years ago—Candidate Obama traveled toBerlin and
spoke of “loyalty and trust.” He declared that “the burdens of global
citizenship continue to bind us together” and explained that “true partnership” requires “allies who will listen to each
other, learn from each other and, most of all, trust each other.”