The Pakistani government is quite unhappy with the behavior of the United States, their economic benefactor and sometimes ally in the war on - well, whatever it is we are fighting against. The original understanding was we were in South Asia to disrupt and destroy organizations, primarily al Queada, that had the intention and ability to mount mass casualty attacks against American civilians. This has evolved into a war on any Muslim community or organization that might do something violent to someone somewhere for some reason that we'd really prefer not to analyze at this point.
So in the course of this endlessly expanding conflict, we regularly bomb villages in Pakistan. Now, for some reason that's never been satisfactorily explained to me, using airplanes without pilots to bomb civilians in sovereign nations with whom we are not at war, even those we consider our putative allies, is perfectly OK. Even when we would be the very first to proudly declare that it would NOT be OK for us to bomb Pakistani villages using airplanes WITH pilots. Needless to say, many apparently unenlightened Pakistanis fail to understand this distinction either, and would in general strongly prefer if nobody was bombing them from any kind of airborne contraption.
Then, in something out of a Tom Cruise movie, an American CIA operative in Lahore, busily doing something secret and nefarious, drew his Glock and fired through the windshield of his car at two Pakistanis on a motorcycle. When one of them ran (the other was down, dying) the American agent, Raymond Davis, chased him down and shot him dead too. He called for an extraction team to get him clear before the authorities could show up, then began using his cell phone to take videos of the bodies and surroundings. Despite desperately driving the wrong way on a Lahore thoroughfare, killing another motorcyclist in the process (honestly, do they have something against two - wheeled transportation?), the extraction team was unable to reach Davis and he was taken into custody. As is well known, the US paid at least two and a half million dollars to the families of his victims in order to gain his release. Once again, the Pakistani population was unhappy with the behavior of the Americans in their country, apparently preferring that Americans have their shootouts in exotic foreign lands on the big screen.
But the real-life Tom Cruise movie didn't end there. Last month, a team of American special operations commandos raided a compound north of Islamabad, killing a comfortably-ensconced Osama bin Laden. Of course, elements of the Pakistani government, intelligence services and military knew he was there, and were protecting him, so the Americans decided it would not be prudent to share their plans with them. In more fastidious times, this is called an "act of war", but today is merely another way that the US demonstrates its commitment to it's friends and allies. Of course, these events were just the high points, but the net result of Pakistan's ten year relationship with the US is massive public anti-American sentiment, an embarrassed military seeking ways to reassert their authority within their own borders, and a government looking at its options for a new international benefactor, and finding a willing investor in China.
All of which brings us to this week, and the visit of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Pakistan. Against the background of increasing anti-American sentiment, and the Pakistani's newfound independence and demands that America respect her sovereignty, Ms. Clinton's role was to find a way to encourage or coerce Pakistan to continue to serve American needs and desires, even at the expense of their own. So she presented the Pakistanis with a list of people living in Pakistan with whom the American government is unhappy, and demanded they be killed. Now, I've been a house guest with reluctant hosts at times, and one of the first lessons is when they begin to perceptibly tire of your shenanigans and begin to seriously entertain the possibility of just throwing you and your possessions out on the sidewalk, one of the very first things you do NOT do is demand they poison the fishtank and blow up the den. It just tends not to be the 'course correction' they are looking for.
One of the larger shortcomings of American foreign policy is the relentless, unqualified insistence that other nations shape their policy to primarily serve American interests. This process inevitably results in bad outcomes - either the nation attempts to do so, at a significant cost to their standing and credibility both in their region and with their own people, or they refuse to do as demanded and finds themselves on the receiving end of economic and political isolation and even sanctions. America is often like a bully who moves into a neighborhood and offers you a bag of marbles to play with him, but if you later go across the street to play with Billy he beats you up. One wonders if the rest of the world will watch the way the strategic relationship between the US and Pakistan has played out, and when Washington comes calling after the next global crisis, those nations might just decide to seek another, more mutually beneficial alliance.