Our successful democracy abroad
“There have been charges that it is morally wrong for the U.S. to aid undemocratic regimes to strengthen their security systems, thereby serving to entrench them in power.” But “the U.S. cannot afford the moral luxury of helping only those regimes in the free world that meet our ideals of self-government. Eliminate all the absolute monarchies, dictatorships and juntas from the free world and count those that are left and it should be readily apparent that the U.S. would be well on its way to isolation.”
~ Al Haney, C.I.A. official for Operation Success, 1954 covert action that overthrew the elected government of Guatemala. (Tim Weiner, “Angleton’s Secret Police,” NY Times, June 26, 2007)
The United States, as we learn from first grade on, represents the world’s best economy and most successful democracy because we live by the rule of law. And we rightfully tell other countries how they too can measure up to our standards—including how to deal with our terrorist foes. And we help them.
U.S. forces, for example, intervene in Pakistan to assassinate our enemies (who should also be their enemies), which creates collateral damage: kids, women, and other innocents also get whacked. But none of this should interfere with the virtuous rhetoric behind our policy. Indeed, using the United States as her model, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton lectures our erstwhile ally, Pakistan, on how democracies should behave.
“One of my pet peeves,” she told the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition conference in September 2010, is a country (Pakistan) “that will not tax their elite who expect us to come in and help them serve their people are just not going to get the kind of help from us that historically they may have.”
A few in the audience thought of the ridiculously low taxes paid by U.S. billionaires and the zero taxes paid by U.S. oil companies. But even the United States is not perfect. Hilary bridled over the idea of Pakistan having “a tax rate of 9 per cent of GDP when landowners and all the other elites do not pay anything or pay so little it’s laughable. And then when there’s a problem everybody expects the U.S. and others to come in and help.”
Secretary Clinton told reporters in Brussels after her talk that she pleaded with Pakistan to “expand its tax base.” She emphasized that “it is absolutely unacceptable for those with means in Pakistan not to be doing their fair share to help their own people.” Pakistan must “urgently mobilize its own resources and the international community can only do so much.” (Could an aide have copied parts of a speech intended for the US Congress into her speech for Pakistan?)
Pakistan had sinned for not having told Washington the address of one of its residents. Had the CIA known Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts the heroic Navy Seals could have, years before, assassinated (brought to justice without a trial) him. Our President and people would have felt less anxious, if not downright elated.
How can we trust them after they allowed OBL to hide in plain sight for almost a decade? Some Pakistani army and intelligence officials even support the Afghan Taliban and branches of Al-Qaeda. That entire country has become a problematic ally and a pain in the ass. How can we justify giving them more than $1 billion in aid—mostly military—a year when polls show “that Americans are widely disliked and distrusted by Pakistanis.” Worse “a recent poll showed that 80 percent of Pakistanis believe their country should not cooperate with the United States in the war on terror.” (Business Insider Feb. 9, 2011)
Shockingly, leading Pakistani government and military officials consider India a much more important enemy than Al-Qaeda or the Taliban. Those ingrates have no problem taking our hard earned dollars, so they should automatically make our enemy into their enemy.
Imagine, some Pakistanis feel outraged over the fact that in January Raymond Davis shot and killed two men in Lahore, because he suspected them of malice when they pulled in front of his car at a red light. Davis said he shot them in self-defense when he fired his Glock into the back of one of the fleeing Pakistanis. Pakistani authorities charged him with murder, but Washington claimed he had diplomatic immunity.
Pakistanis fumed. But Davis left jail and returned to the States, thanks to U.S. persuasion. So they paid off the dead guys’ families—probably more than they were worth!
Then, many Pakistanis objected also to our Seals coming to their country to kill bin Laden and members of his clan. Some even complain of our drones bombing terrorists in Pakistan—just because lots of non-terrorists die in those strikes as well. Hey, if they don’t want us doing that, the Pakistani army or police should kill them. That’s what they do in a democracy.
The U.S. economy tanks, the government loses voters’ credence, the political elite ignore climate change, and a horrific wealth gap and the suffering of tens of millions. But U.S. leaders continue to spread democracy with troops, drones and righteous lectures to other countries on how to be like us. That’s democratic chutzpah!
Saul Landau’s “Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up” is available on DVD and for theatrical screenings from Cinema Libre Studio. He is an Institute for Policy Studies fellow.