To provide insight into Pakistani-American relations, Husain Haqqani, the former Pakistan ambassador to the United States from 2008-11, spoke to the Channel City Club this week about his newest book, Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States and an Epic History of Misunderstanding.
Haqqani shared at the outset of his presentation that he has been charged with treason, is now living in exile and is currently teaching international relations at Boston University.
The United States has sent more than $40 billion in aid to Pakistan. Most of these funds have been used to support the military, but little has been used to improve infrastructure and the quality of life in Pakistan.
“$40 billion in aid hasn’t changed anything. Why would it change now?” Haqqani said at the luncheon.
He thinks the core problems between the United States and Pakistan stem from a fundamental lack of common understanding, which could be improved by a meeting of the minds on both ends. The United States wants Pakistan as an ally and a foothold in the Middle East. In Haqqani’s view, one of the main misunderstandings is the U.S. hope that military aid will result in an extension of the U.S. military presence in Pakistan by influencing Pakistan’s military.
Meanwhile, Pakistan is more focused on its troubled relations with India, the conflict in Kashmir and both nations’ continued armament. Something that makes this misunderstanding harder is the United States’ black-and-white view in general of foreign relations, which Haqqani simplified as the “Who can we find to take out to lunch, or who can we find to bomb” approach to international relations.
According to Haqqani, pouring resources into strengthening Pakistan’s military is a recipe for the new nation’s failure. Pakistan has a 52 percent literacy rate, and while the population is young with a median age of just 21 years old, only 42 percent of the population attends school. There is a large gap between the upper class and the lower class, and Haqqani says aid could be better used by investing in Pakistani citizens — that is, by educating people and helping to increase the market for skilled laborers.
Haqqani believes Pakistan needs to prioritize the following goals: Mend its relationship with India, fix its internal problems and care for its citizens. Likewise, the United States needs to adopt a realistic view of the possibilities for our relationship with Pakistan, stop supplying military aid and focus on what he called the “big picture realm,” which includes addressing the threats that religious extremism poses to both countries.
An end to U.S. military aid would force an internal debate in Pakistan about what is a reasonable amount of armament.
“(Pakistan) needs to find an alternative way to feel secure,” Haqqani said.
On the subject of Pakistan’s nuclear program, Haqqani points out that nations such as South Korea have given up nuclear weapons in the past, and that a reevaluation of the necessity of nuclear weapons is in order. As a younger nation, Pakistan needs to focus on the allocation of resources, the well-being of its citizens, and a move toward democracy.
A possible solution, or at least an effort in the right direction, would be clear communication and understanding between the United States and Pakistan. Open and focused discussions would be beneficial to both countries. One thing Haqqani admires about America is its “ability to self correct.” Maybe this is the attribute that will let the United States re-examine and amend its behavior with Pakistan, and for Pakistan to do the same with its relationship toward its citizens.
Anacapa School is an independent, co-educational, WASC-accredited, college preparatory day school for junior high and high school students in grades 7-12. Founded in 1981 by headmaster Gordon Sichi, Anacapa enjoys the best student-teacher ratio of any school, public or private, in Santa Barbara at its historic campus located in the heart of the Santa Barbara civic center. Anacapa’s “Channel City Club” regularly attends luncheon lectures offered by the Channel City Club.
— Nike Cosmides and Genevieve Hatfield are students at Anacapa School.