Senator Levin Questions U.S. Aid
Don't Stop Insurgents, Don't Get Paid
Most Americans, polls show, want out of the US’s wars. Could this Senate debate be a step toward peace? This 2011 article is from Bloomberg, May 18.
by Roxana TironFive U.S. senators, all Democrats, asked the State and Defense departments to assess Pakistan’s commitment to fighting terrorism before Congress approves more aid for that nation.
“It is incongruous to be providing enormous sums to the Pakistani military unless we are certain that it is meeting its commitment to locate, disrupt, and dismantle terrorist threats inside its borders,” the lawmakers said in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Gates said during a Pentagon briefing today that he was resistant to the idea of cutting aid, particularly because there is no evidence so far that senior Pakistani leaders were in any way cooperating with al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden before the U.S. raid on his compound that resulted in his death.
President Barack Obama has proposed $1.2 billion in aid to Pakistan next year.
JJS: They call it “aid” but does it help? If so, whom does it help? Help do what? Economists routinely show most economic aid merely engrosses the rich and powerful insiders in both the sender and receiver nations. Plus, if one government were truly serious about helping another nation develop economically, it would offer to erase trade restrictions and set a better example by establishing economic justice at home. As for military aid, much of the aid ends up aiding the enemy du jour.
The funding is for programs that include counterinsurgency training for its military forces.
JJS: How is it that the US military is in the position to train other militaries? Why should the US have so much experience opposing uprisings in foreign lands? One of the principles of war is to try to choose the field of battle; how can the US know the fields of battle better than the forces fighting on their own turf? Does the US have a track record of success of training others or does the US merely end up fighting the war itself?
The senators are urging the Obama administration to gauge whether Pakistan’s government is working to cut support for extremist and terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda and the Taliban, that operate from its territory.
The senators signing the letter were Dianne Feinstein of California, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Max Baucus of Montana and Jon Tester of Montana.
Yesterday, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin said the U.S. should curtail economic aid to Pakistan unless the Islamabad government stops harboring insurgent groups that target US troops in neighboring Afghanistan.
Levin, a Michigan Democrat, said continued financial support to Islamabad should hinge on whether the Pakistani military takes action against the Haqqani Network, an Afghan Taliban-allied group based in Pakistan’s northwestern border region with Afghanistan.
“There is a real problem with continuing financial support for Pakistan when they continue to support the Haqqani Network,” Levin told reporters in Washington yesterday. “These people are killing us.”
JJS: Where is this killing happening? In a foreign land. Those people would not be killing us if we weren’t there. And if they were here, we’d be just as determined to be killing them. Humans are territorial.
Pakistan should also arrest members of the Quetta Shura, a group of Afghan Taliban leaders, thought to be based in Pakistan, Levin said.
Levin didn’t elaborate on what he would cut from U.S. economic aid to Pakistan. He said he would allow “certain kinds of military aid” to continue. In particular, he said, he supports reimbursing Pakistan for securing the port where U.S. oil is delivered and subsequently the routes leading into Afghanistan where U.S. and NATO troops are fighting the Taliban. Levin said he is also willing to support Pakistani military training along the border regions with Afghanistan.
At a Senate Foreign Relations hearing yesterday, several other senators, including Republicans Bob Corker of Tennessee and James Risch of Idaho, as well as Democrats Chris Coons of Delaware and Menendez, raised questions about U.S. aid to Pakistan.
Committee Chairman John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, is one of the architects of a 2009 bill that tripled non-military aid to Pakistan, committing $1.5 billion annually for five years. He briefed members of the Senate Democratic Caucus about his weekend trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan -- the first high-level official visit to Pakistan since a team of U.S. Navy SEALs killed bin Laden there on May 2.
While members from both parties questioned continued U.S. assistance to Pakistan, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell cautioned against threats to withdraw aid.
Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said, “this isn’t the time to start flexing our muscle.”
JJS: Turning off the spigot is “flexing our muscle”? Should a powerful nation supposedly promoting peace and prosperity be behaving so macho anyway? Is such adolescent talk supposed to impress poorly educated voters?
McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said, “I don’t think disengaging from Pakistan, a nuclear power, is in America’s best interests.”
JJS: Whose interests? There is a difference between America the people and land and the United States the government. When rulers want underlings to kill and die for them, then they merge identities. But shift from guns to butter and “America’s best interests” do not even merit an honorable mention when it comes to spending for people, for programs like medical insurance or, better yet, a Citizens Dividend.
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Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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