Thank you President Trump for identifying Pakistan as liars about terrorism
Professional diplomats and some traditional foreign policy writers are having a difficult time getting adjusted to his tweets. However, his salty language, like Harry Truman’s, seems to be understood by all parties involved, including the ‘Rocket Man’ of North Korea who appears now to be willing to come to the bargaining table.Updated: Jan 06, 2018 07:37 IST
Let me turn our attention to President Donald Trump and his declaration that Pakistan should be declared a terrorist State and have its US aid cut off. A brave statement but I fear for reasons cited in my book, Neighbours in Arms: An American Senator’s Quest for Disarmament in a Nuclear Subcontinent, that he might not be able to do that. President Trump has had a good run as a foreign policy president in Washington DC these last few weeks. His administration expanded talks with North Korea. He declared we should cut aid to Pakistan. He did his first in-depth foreign policy interviews with the New York Times. In foreign policy/defence policy, he is receiving good marks from the “old hands” such as myself who have observed many presidents.
What Trump has not received is any credit or praise from the traditional US news networks or the major national papers. Groups such as the Council on Foreign Relations (of which I am a member) are still holding their breaths for some catastrophic Trump event in foreign policy. However, Trump has been steadily going forward and seems to be winning some begrudging approval. Many were particularly impressed with his strong statements and tweets regarding declaring Pakistan a terrorist State. His constant public complaints about Iran – transmitted through social media – appear to have helped trigger the beginning of widespread unrest and maybe revolt in that country.
Trump has developed a comprehensive foreign policy for Asia. He is the first US President since George HW Bush to have such a comprehensive, overall policy for that region. Professional diplomats and some traditional foreign policy writers are having a difficult time getting adjusted to his tweets and I must agree — I too am troubled by some of his off-the-cuff remarks. However, his salty language, like Harry Truman’s, seems to be understood by all parties involved, including the “Rocket Man” of North Korea who appears now to be willing to come to the bargaining table.
In Neighbours in Arms, I advocated that Pakistan be considered a terrorist State. In President Trump’s review of Asian policy, the State Department distributed a dozen of my books throughout the various federal agencies. Indeed, on page 223, in my observations and prescriptions of the future, I wrote:
“Pakistan should be treated like North Korea — like a rogue state. The only reason Pakistan is not a totally failed state is that countries like China and the United States continue to prop it up with massive amounts of foreign aid. Unless Pakistan changes its ways with respect to terrorism, it should be declared a terrorist state. Several leading foreign policy experts besides me have urged as much. Indeed, the first Bush administration seriously considered doing so in 1992. Pakistan’s leaders have essentially blackmailed us into providing aid for the war on terror with threats to cease assistance in rooting out terrorists in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, we know full well that Pakistan harbours terrorists, and many military leaders believe terrorists have infiltrated Pakistan’s ranks.”
I certainly don’t want to claim credit for the idea of declaring Pakistan a terrorist State, but essentially the late Senator John Glenn and I had sponsored the Pressler-Glenn line of amendments since 1982, essentially marking Pakistan as a terrorist State.
However, Trump might have a problem: what I call the invisible “Octopus.” The tentacles of the “Octopus” comprised all the secretive law firms and lobbying firms that raise campaign money and work on behalf of arms manufacturers, equipment suppliers, bankers, and others who have financial interest in Pakistan. According to my book, they will very quietly go to work behind the scenes and keep the aid flowing to Pakistan through slightly different channels.
The country of Pakistan and its business and military interests have several Washington DC lobbying firms on permanent retainer. Trump will probably find that this invisible “Octopus” of lobbyists will thwart his efforts to turn aid off to Pakistan.
For example, when the Pressler-Glenn Amendment shut off military sales under our defence department, the “Octopus” went to the commerce department for licensure to export the same arms to Pakistan!
However, we must give Trump credit for trying some new things in Asia. In part, I do admire his effective use of tweets. They are a modern form of communication. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt was criticised for his fireside chats on the radio because they were seen as too common and diminishing to the presidency, so too are tweets considered below the presidency by some. I suspect every president from now on will be tweeting a lot. Donald Trump has given us a new form of diplomatic communication.
And thank you, President Trump, for being the first US President to openly attack Pakistan and to identify them as liars about terrorism! And thank you for moving closer to India.
Senator Larry Pressler served in the United States Congress for 22 years.
The views expressed are personal
First Published: Jan 06, 2018 07:36 IST