Ron PaulThe recent assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister and current opposition leader Benazir Bhutto has brought the issue of US-Pakistani relations to a forefront in the days leading up to the coming presidential primaries. Following the news, candidates from both sides of the political isle have sought to demonstrate their foreign policy prowess, which is seeing a renewed relevance in this time of global political turmoil.

The situation, however, may serve particularly well as vindication for the often criticized foreign policy positions of Congressman Ron Paul, whose recent fund raising successes and gains in early-state polls have vaulted the candidate into top-tier status on the Republican side.

Paul’s foreign policy position, as discussed on his website, contends that the time has come for the United States to cease its imperialistic foreign policy tendencies. This would include political intervention in countries such as Pakistan, where US funds and clout have been used to prop up military dictator Pervez Musharraf, the former and current Army Chief General who ousted Pakistan’s elected government in 1999 by way of a military coup.1

While Paul makes no claims suggesting Musharraf had direct involvement in Bhutto’s death, he frequently warns of the potential backlash produced by US intervention in foreign political landscapes. Findings outlined in a recent report on Pakistan-US relations prepared for members of Congress by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) indicate that indeed such unintended consequences may be visible in the current Pakistani political front.

The report details US contributions totaling between $4 and $9 billion dollars to the Pakistani regime since fiscal year 2002 in what it describes as attempts to promote “[reductions in] regional and global terrorism; Afghan stability, (and) democratization and human rights protection [in the region].” To clear the way for those aid packages congress has repeatedly granted President Bush the authority waive coup-related aid sanctions.2

Yet the report openly admits that these efforts have failed to neutralized anti-Western militants and religious extremism in the region, and notes additional failures in attempts to stabilize neighboring Afghanistan.3

Further, suggestions found within the report indicate that US intervention in the Pakistani government might be the cause of significant dissent amongst the country’sPakistan predominantly Muslim population. According to the study “There are indications that anti-American sentiments remain widespread in Pakistan, and that a significant segment of the populace views U.S. support for the Musharraf government as being an impediment to… the process of democratization there.”4

The report goes on to suggest that US support of Musharraf’s dictatorship could be the cause of increased terrorist activity in the region, citing an audio tape released by Osama bin Laden, the leader of the fanatical Muslim group Al Qaeda and the chief perpetrator of the September 11th, 2001 bombings of the World Trade Center in New York City. In the tape bin Laden urged Pakistani Muslims to rise against President Musharraf to avenge Musharraf’s “aid to America against the Muslims.”5

And indeed, early speculation suggests that Al Qaeda may have been directly behind the Bhutto assassination. Bhutto’s closeness with the American government would have made her a prime target for the anti-American fanatics present in the region, especially those with Al Qaeda ties looking to act on the encouragement of bin Laden. This, then, would serve as an example of the unintended backlash produced by US foreign intervention as described by Paul.

In US politics, it remains to be seen if Bhutto’s death will have a meaningful impact on the coming primary caucuses; however upon examination the tragic event would appear to support Paul’s notion that it is time for the United States to reconsider its foreign policy positions. Nobody from either the Democrat or Republican parties has been more vocal about such a reexamination than Congressman Paul, and coming debates should provide a valuable platform for him to expound upon his ideologies.

Already, when asked his take on the events, Paul lamented Bhutto’s loss and commented “I’ve complained about the policy with Pakistan for a good many years. We’ve been giving them billions of dollars — they got about $10 billion over the last eight years — so we’ve aligned ourselves with a military dictator who overthrew an elected government.

“Musharraf is seen as one of our puppets… So I can see where the support that we’ve given [him] has been indirectly involved in this,” Mr. Paul said. “It’s a mess.”

Considering the information contained within the CRS report, it would appear Paul’s position, despite facing constant criticism from the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party, may have seen the light of vindication through the circumstances surrounding the tragic death of Benazir Bhutto. Whether or not that light shines on the coming Iowa and New Hampshire caucuses, however, will not be known until the primaries begin in less than a week.

Derek is a college student majoring in business management and history. You can visit his blog here, or email him at dgetbnn@gmail.com

References:
1 Congressional Research Service report on Pakistan-US relations, page 2.
2 ibid.
3 Congressional Research Service report on Pakistan-US relations, page 5.
4 ibid.
5 Congressional Research Service report on Pakistan-US relations, page 14.


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