Abandoned by the US?

In a society where everybody’s guilty, the only crime is getting caught; in a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity. That, some would say, sums up the world in which Husain Haqqani lost his job as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States.

The swift action to replace Haqqani with Sherry Rehman will probably limit the fallout in Islamabad. But the brouhaha about Haqqani’s alleged guilt should not obscure the compulsory introspection about Pakistan’s relations with the outside world and with itself – both of which are clearly not working.

In the last week as the memo scandal has raged and obsessed the press in Pakistan, the US has been conspicuous only by its silence. “I have nothing to say on this specific issue,” said the state department spokesperson. After Haqqani’s resignation, the deputy spokesman also refused to comment, saying it was Haqqani’s personal issue with Pakistan’s sitting leadership that had appointed him and the US had nothing to do with it. Most recently, US ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, also made it clear that Pakistan was on its own: “We just leave it to the Pakistani authorities…Whatever [the] solution…that’s for Pakistan to decide.”

For a country that has so often been characterised as the world’s policeman; that has used the bully pulpit of ‘democracy promotion’ to palaver, browbeat and sometimes even to cheat; that has changed the very definition of “foreign policy leadership” from being about leading the American people in the formation and execution of national policy to the US leading other nations in the international arena, is this sudden, convenient ‘it’s not my tail to wag’ attitude believable?

Washington has through the decades ‘led’ people around the world by helping them remove their ‘inauthentic’ leaders, the so-called enemies of freedom even when the people chose them. In a similar vein, it has also helped protect those it has valued for whatever reason. Was Haqqani, then, as precious to the Americans as he imagined? By extension, should president Zardari, the most important ally in the war against terror, be worried?

For an administration that doesn’t give a toss about anything but cutting a deal in Afghanistan and which has a short timeframe to get this done, what’s a Haqqani? What’s a Zardari?

Not to overstate the point, but that is perhaps the most awkward aspect of the Memogate controversy: that a two-term chairman joint chiefs of staff, Mike Mullen, considered the braggadocio of a unlaundered loudmouth, Mansoor Ijaz, worthy first of a denial and then a confirmation – followed by not a squeak out of anyone in the US administration as the noose was tightened around Haqqani’s neck. Let’s not forget this is the same guy the US has hailed as being a relentless pro-democracy activist, the man who had “an answer to everything,” the only ambassador with the authority to stand in place for his sovereigns.

But in the words, again, of Ambassador Munter: Pak-US relations are stronger than any memo. Which is just another way of saying Pak-US relations are stronger than Husain Haqqani. Which probably comes as a surprise to the former ambassador who was his own one-man PR machine for being the last of few trusted go-betweens in a relationship reduced to bruising political sparring in recent times. And yet, there he was, left holding the bag, abandoned to the storm by his friends in high places. The hardest-working man in Washington left jobless, just like that.

A wise man cured of ambition by ambition itself; or a wise man who wasn’t wise enough to realise he was being set up at multiple levels?

And while we’re on the question of being set up: why did Mansoor Ijaz out a process that, by his own admission, was highly confidential, for which he and the ambassador used fictitious email addresses and code to communicate with each other and about which he has publically admitted to understanding “God forbid this information gets public…”

But there’s more: one conversation with Ijaz and it becomes clear how much premium he purportedly puts on friendship. “When an old friend comes to me and says I got a problem, I go and make sure that problem gets solved.” That’s the kind of great friend Ijaz says he is. The kind who understands that outing the memo would mean outing everyone involved in the chain of delivery, including ‘one of my closest friends,’ General Jim Jones.

So did Ijaz break the one thing fundamental to any friendship – trust – by outing the memo and with it his friends, in passing, in an op-ed? Or did he tell his friends what he was going to do and they gave him the go-ahead, with a full understanding of the implications not just for Haqqani and civilian ascendency in Pakistan but also for the US administration that would inevitably get dragged into the mess, given that Mullen’s fingerprints were all over it?

These are questions better dealt with penseroso than allegro. For now, all we know is that after the Memogate scandal, we are left with an already cuckolded civilian leadership further weakened, the defences of an army unwilling to brook criticism further buttressed – and the ultimate question: has the US abandoned its Pakistani dogs to the storm?

If diplomacy is the art of saying ‘nice doggie’ until you find a rock, has the US found its rock?

(From The News, Pakistan)

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