Hanging by a Thread
How seriously should Pakistan consider harsh and insulting Republican rhetoric?
Our cover story this month examines Republican presidential debates and the
emanating anti-pakistan rhetoric.
The 2012 U. S. Republican Party presidential candidates may disagree on many issues, yet they are all united in their desire to heap vitriol on Pakistan. They say that it lies; that it cannot be trusted; that it is falling apart; that it is uncivilized; and that it better help the United States track down terrorists -- or else.
Understandably, Pakistanis resent this tough talk. Alas, it is neither new nor a uniquely Republican phenomenon. Back in 2007, Democratic Party presidential candidate, Barack Obama vowed in a campaign speech that he would not hesitate to use military force in Pakistan, even without the country’s approval. “If we have actionable intelligence about high- value terrorist targets and President [ Pervez] Musharraf won’t act, we will,” he declared. Similar threats have been issued from the campaign trail in 2012.
Still, despite the bellicose rhetoric emanating from the current crop of candidates, Pakistanis should not be overly concerned. Why? Because it is just that - rhetoric. The 2012 election will be won or lost on economic issues, not foreign affairs. America is a country where 46 million people live below the poverty line -- the highest number in the 50- plus years the U. S. Census Bureau has published poverty figures. Additionally, median household incomes have fallen to levels not seen since 1996. Little wonder so many Americans today are financially worse off than their parents’ generation.
So when the Republican hopefuls step to the podium to parrot their Pakistan positions, they know that they need only deliver some well- placed sound bites that tide the electorate over until the substantive discussions resume on jobs, healthcare costs or other economic issues.
Since U. S. public opinion about Pakistan is so negative, the most desirable sound bites are those that malign and insult. Therefore, Republicans’ harsh language does not reflect any unified party position on Pakistan -- which, owing to the party’s internal divisions, does not