Anti-Americanism in Pakistan

The New York Times recently posted a disturbing video on Pakistan. The report addresses the topic of anti-Americanism in the country, specifically with regards to its westernized, well-educated musicians:

While Pakistani journalists, playwrights and even moderate Islamic clerics have boldly condemned the Taliban, the nation’s pop music stars have yet to sing out against the group, which continues to claim responsibility for daily bombings.

This summary doesn’t do justice to the report. One really needs to watch the video – to hear the musicians themselves speak – to get a sense of their anti-Americanism.

This anti-American sentiment is deeply, deeply imbued. These musicians are simply angry at the United States; their voices, their faces reflect profound outrage. They hate the United States for a litany of offenses familiar to most in the Muslim world: Guantanamo Bay, Abu Gharib, the Iraq War, the drone attacks today.

Indeed, so strong is this anger that many musicians implicitly support the Taliban.

One musician snaps that

First of all, it’s the West that’s against the Taliban…We’re not.

Another, when presented with Taliban wrongs (bombings of girls’ schools), offers the rebuttal that

Well, you know, and you cannot blame Taliban for that. Where do you think those fundings are coming from? It’s – it’s the – it’s the, the agenda of the neocons is to deIslamicize Pakistan. Religion must be killed.

Understanding this implausible answer – under its logic, American neoconservatives are sending suicide bombers to attack Pakistani schools – depends on watching the singer’s emotions, not listening to the words themselves. His anti-Americanism is primarily an emotional response (especially to humiliation), upon which an intellectual framework can be built.

Thus, it is simple for these musicians to create a framework of cognitive dissonance. When a drone missile kills civilians, they explode with passionate anger and incorporate the deaths into every politicized song. But when Taliban suicide bombs kill ten times that number, they offer excuses and then ignore the tragedy. When American soldiers humiliate Abu Gharib prisoners, they never forgive and never forget. But when Taliban insurgents kidnap and behead Westerners, it is all for the greater good. The United States is never right; the Taliban is never wrong.

All this anti-Americanism is quite ironic – firstly because if the Taliban took control, these artists would be forbidden from making music. It is also ironic, however, since these musicians are western-oriented by nature. They’re well-educated – some actually lived in the United States. They speak English fluently. Their music imitates the worst of Western pop. Their videos would be familiar to any consumer of Britney Spears or Beyonce. By all rights, they should be vehement supporters of the United States.

Yet America has lost these musicians to the Taliban. When America cannot hold even Pakistan’s well-educated and Westerized elites – let alone the religious masses – that is a very bad sign.

Moreover, U.S. efforts to win Pakistani hearts and minds are probably doomed to fail. A superpower can do many mighty things – hold up the world economy, destroy the world – but it is ill-suited to the delicate task of being popular. Throughout the whole of human history, superpowers have almost never turned “haters” into “lovers.” Instead, they have mostly killed the haters.

Given this reality, the best course of action for America now might be a slow withdrawal from Middle East affairs. More than anything other region, Middle East politics have drained American vitality and hastened its decline. Pakistan, moreover, has little strategic value or natural resources to offer the United States. India would be a far better ally – one that actually likes the United States. There is still the nuclear question, but the United States should not be the policeman of the world. Let others deal with Pakistan’s nuclear weapons; they have more to lose if things go wrong.

Of course, this proposal is far easier said than done. If the United States left the Middle East alone, it would lose the lifeblood of its economy – oil. So first, it must develop an alternative source of fuel, which constitutes a difficult task (to put it lightly). Until that happens, Afghanistan must be taken care of so that bin Laden does not get a new hide-out base.

But, at the very least, America should stop giving aid the Pakistan. Pakistan doesn’t want it anyways, and the money can be put to better use – like investing in alternative fuels. It would be a good first step in a long, hard road.

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