Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Let not the pot call the kettle black!

I don't have any special knowledge about Pakistan and the hunt for Al Qaeda. I have only been to Pakistan a couple of times and my contacts there were with scientists, not politicians nor military people. I normally don't post comments on matters on which I know so little, but the talking heads have gotten to me, so here goes.

Surely the Government of Pakistan should investigate how Osama bin Laden stayed in Abbottabad and what his support network was, and it should investigate whether any Pakistani governmental officials were implicated in that network. However, we should not criticize Pakistan too much for its failures if failures there were.

I recently posted on the long time it takes to develop an effective modern political system, suggesting that Pakistan needs time to develop a modern society. It was created in a rush at the collapse of the Raj, and went through a major civil war with the secession of Bangladesh. Its population included at its creation not only a huge number of migrants from what became India, but also tribal and ethnic groups of considerable complexity. Think of the United States a couple of generations after independence, working its way to our Civil War.

We should also worry about the pot calling the kettle black.

  • Before we criticize Pakistan on the basis of the possibility it may have lied to the world while harboring insurgents interested in overthrowing the government of a neighbor nation, we might recall the Bay of Pigs in which the United States did just that.
  • Before we criticize Pakistan on the basis of the possibility that highly ranked government officials might have broken its nation's laws by surreptitiously providing aid to foreign insurgents, we might recall the Iran Contra affair.
  • Before we criticize Pakistan for failing to notice a prominant terrorist on its territory, we might think about the Al Qaeda terrorists who hid in plain sight in the United States before 9/11.
Perhaps the talking heads might better direct their attention immediate efforts to reduce to the high rate of unemployment in the United States, or to the longer term efforts needed to solve the financial problems of the government and to improve regulation of the financial industries that got us into the current difficulty, or to the very long term efforts needed to assure that America leads in the knowledge economy for the rest of the century and has a livable environment for our children and grandchildren. That may be more useful than criticizing leaders in other countries who are likely to be doing the best that they can under difficult situations.

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