Obama on Pakistan: Focus on Civil Society and Military

Here are some excerpts related to Pakistan, from President Obama’s 100 day press conference last night:

QUESTION: Can you reassure the American people that, if necessary, America could secure Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and keep it from getting into the Taliban’s hands, or worst-case scenario, even al Qaeda’s hands?

MR. OBAMA: I’m confident that we can make sure that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is secure, primarily, initially, because the Pakistani army, I think, recognizes the hazards of those weapons falling into the wrong hands.

We’ve got strong military-to-military consultation and cooperation.

I am gravely concerned about the situation in Pakistan, not because I think that they’re immediately going to be overrun and the Taliban would take over in Pakistan; more concerned that the civilian government there right now is very fragile and don’t seem to have the capacity to deliver basic services, schools, health care, you know, rule of law, a judicial system that works for the majority of people.

And so as a consequence, it is very difficult for them to gain the support and the — the loyalty of their people. So we need to help Pakistan help Pakistanis. And I think that there’s a recognition, increasingly, on the part of both the civilian government there and the army, that that is their biggest weakness.

On the military side, you’re starting to see some recognition just in the last few days that the obsession with India as the mortal threat to Pakistan has been misguided, and that their biggest threat right now comes internally. And you’re starting to see the Pakistani military take much more seriously the armed threat from militant extremists. (link)

What do people think of this statement? I have a couple of thoughts below.Here are a couple of brief observations:

1) Notice that he doesn’t use the word “Islam” anywhere here. It’s implicit in his reference to the Taliban, but he’s not really focusing on the threat of global Islamic extremism. In the logic of this statement, if militants are steadily gaining ground in what is effectively a civil war, it is at least in part the government’s fault.

That is interesting, and a shift from the earlier Bush doctrine, which entailed talking a lot about Jihadism, and always insisting that “we have them on the run.” Obama is not particularly optimistic about the situation in Pakistan; quite the opposite.

2) Notice that Obama refuses to engage in speculation about what would happen to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons if the government were to be overrun by the Taliban. This is wise for two reasons. First, as President, he has to be much more careful about engaging in hypotheticals than he was as a candidate, when he made that famous comment about being willing to go around the Pakistani government to strike at Al Qaeda within Pakistan’s borders.

Second, his refusal of the question is wise, because I don’t think anyone is too worried about this particular scenario; the military is simply too strong. (There are, of course, other scenarios, many of which would not be good.)

112 thoughts on “Obama on Pakistan: Focus on Civil Society and Military

  1. Garv, what muslims are destroying temples now and what hindus are fighting them over it?

    The only thing that is happening is people are quarrelling on the internet over PAST ISSUES.

    Babri Masjid was ONE incident only. Mosques are safe and sound in India, as long as no terrorist from you know where decides to do a suicide mission inside one.

  2. Dr. Koenraad Elst has refuted Eaton’s nonsensical claims about Hindu iconoclasm.

    just as dr. william dembski has refuted darwin’s nonsensical claims about evolution :)

    Looting an “idol” to install it in your own temple is not iconoclasm

    ok :) i will go loot some temples now, it seems like it is the RIGHT thing to do. don’t worry, i am a hindu too, so it’s a-ok!

    Babri Masjid was ONE incident only. Mosques are safe and sound in India, as long as no terrorist from you know where decides to do a suicide mission inside one.

    there is no need to call advani and togadia terrorists!

  3. The biggest threat to the safety of Indian Muslims right now is not Priyanka next door, but other Muslims (next door).

  4. The biggest threat to the safety of Indian Muslims right now is not Priyanka next door

    is that what advani and varun like you to call them, madam?

  5. What do people think of this statement? I have a couple of thoughts below.

    There is an interesting column on it in Dawn Damn Yankees

    MR. OBAMA: I’m confident that we can make sure that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is secure, primarily, initially, because the Pakistani army, I think, recognizes the hazards of those weapons falling into the wrong hands.
    Second, his refusal of the question is wise,

    It may seem wise to a domestic audience in Washington, but who knows what a conpiracy laden Pak audience will make of it? The best option is to be clear and consistent over a period of time, but the Obama administration does not have a clear message as of now. For all the talk about no blank cheques, is’nt that just what the US is doing through the “Friends of Pakistan

    (Pakistanis see friends’ $5 billion pledge as political boon)

    & it might be all the rage to bash the Pak govt on cutting a deal with the Taliban, but what heck was the Obama Adminstration thinking when it stated aloud that Talks with Taliban moderates were ‘worth exploring’. Did that not undercut the administration’s line vis a vis Pak’s own deals(taliban moderates?!),

    Obama is going in a lot of goodwill in the subcontinent, and is squandering it left right and center, with a mixture of arrogance and incompetence. It almost makes one wish for a new republican president in 2013.

  6. Ok, it’s your right to think of the Muslims and the British together as a “bad experience.” I personally don’t think that’s the most helpful or useful way to view South Asian or Indian history, but if that’s your viewpoint, so be it.

    Bad or good, the later Mughals were definitely Indian: they were not draining the money to a different country (like the British) altogether. Their were also many Hindu rulers who were no good for their subjects, so this debate makes no sense. I think all that some people are trying to point out that it should be acknowledged that many of the Muslim rulers systematically plundered many of the temples and Hindu culture. Yes, that should be acknowledged, and also that many Hindus in Bangladesh have been ill-treated. But that should NOT be the excuse of the VHP to plunder any Islamic sight. That not only hurts and antagonizes the Muslim population and gives Pakistani terrorists an excuses (yes they were Pakistani), but also ultimately leads to the last laugh for the British…as we continue their pogrom of divide and rule even today very efficiently. Sad!

  7. & it might be all the rage to bash the Pak govt on cutting a deal with the Taliban, but what heck was the Obama Adminstration thinking when it stated aloud that Talks with Taliban moderates were ‘worth exploring’.

    exactly. it is stunning that there isn’t enough critical examination of this in the us media. or if obama’s statement is looked at, it is seen as a pragmatic choice given the overextended american troops.

    It almost makes one wish for a new republican president in 2013.

    he is going by petraeus’ advice – this is exactly the strategy, paying off sunni tribal leaders and supplying them with weapons provided they fought “terrorists” is one of his leading counterinsurgency strategies. so it would be naive to think that a different president would do anything different. karzai was a bad choice for pm given how corrupt he has been – but what’s the alternative. nation building is neither cheap nor of a short time duration. the q is given that things in af-pak are pretty far gone and given that the commitment in iraq is going to be significant, what realistic hope does the us have of nation building in afghanistan? (and let’s not mince words, nation building is what’s needed).

  8. Zee @ 107, I totally agree with you. Btw, I never said above that the Mumbai terrorist weren’t Pakistani, I just meant that they don’t represent an entire nation of 170 million people, just as the VHP doesn’t represent all 1 billion Indians. They (the 11/26 terrorists) were a group funded and trained by certain sections of Pakistani society (the ISI), but I don’t think it’s fair to say they represent an entire population.

  9. Typical secular doublespeak.Those were just wars between Indian kings.

    no, no! i am agreeing with you. i am just saying that i am going to break down some temples and steal the idols. FOR LOVE!

  10. Kabir, I am glad for that! I bet you will also agree that for a better future of our countries, we can only acknowledge the past and move on. But, the past should not be allowed to be a tool for politicians (VHP/BJP) and establishments (like ISI). I will be glad if more money from US would be spent on non-religious studies in Pakistani madrasas, like in many of the Indian madrasas. After all, empty mind is a devil’s workshop; and that is what is happening in many cases, where religion is filling the void (instead of science, art, music, technology). Nothing can achieved if we keep staring in our rear view mirror and try to think only wrt our religions. Religions are part of our ancient heritage and thought process of our ancestors, but hey, science is our future. That is what should be taught be in school. Also, religion doesn’t quite alleviate poverty.

  11. Ancient Persians….

    Bahais and Zorarastrians of Iran are very disappointed by what happened to their country and its pre-Islamic cultures. Well, to be fair, sunni muslims are not too happy there either.

    However, Orthodox Christianity in Kerala is very old. Even older than many of the later sects of “Hinduism” that sprouted up. I don’t think there were ever any issues between Orthodox Mallu Christians and Hindus though, were there?