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America's Contribution to Pakistan's Anti-American Radicalism

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Last month in Lahore, U.S. citizen Raymond Davis shot and killed two armed Pakistani men whom he thought were trying to rob him. U.S. officials claimed that Davis was a diplomatic employee (despite not having a diplomatic visa) and that his detention violated the Geneva Convention. Worse, the U.S. Consulate vehicle Davis summoned to the scene drove the wrong way down a one way street, killing a motorcyclist and then speeding away. Adding to the outrage was news that the widow of one of Davis's victims committed suicide. Well, today the New York Times reported:

"Mr. Davis's arrest and detention, which came after what American officials have described as a botched robbery attempt, has inadvertently pulled back the curtain on a web of covert American operations inside Pakistan, part of a secret war run by the C.I.A. It has exacerbated already frayed relations between the American intelligence agency and its Pakistani counterpart, created a political dilemma for the weak, pro-American Pakistani government, and further threatened the stability of the country, which has the world's fastest growing nuclear arsenal." [Emphasis added.]

No longer can U.S. policymakers be willfully blind to the reality that present operations are pushing the region toward further Balkanization and leading to the self-fulfilling prophecy of an Islamist takeover of Pakistan. Yet over the past several years, the U.S. has expanded the pretext for prolonging the war in Afghanistan to a not-so-secret covert war in neighboring Pakistan and possibly elsewhere. For years I have told anybody who would listen how U.S. efforts to stabilize Afghanistan contribute to Pakistan's slow-motion collapse. The Raymond Davis case is just the latest example of how the foreign occupation of Afghanistan--and Pakistan's acquiescence to American policy--spawns more recruits for al Qaeda-linked groups seeking to hasten Pakistan's disintegration. In essence, U.S. foreign policy exacerbates Pakistan's anti-American radicalism.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks back, let's imagine for a moment if the situation were reversed. Rather than in Lahore, this incident happened in New York City. And rather than an American "official" shooting and killing two Pakistanis it was a Pakistani "official" who shot and killed two Americans, in broad daylight. The public outcry would put last year's "Ground Zero mosque" debate to shame. Major American cities would be on lock down. American Muslims would be subject to even more popular media criticism then they are now. And U.S. officials would be under public pressure to scuttle the pretense of diplomatic immunity and label the killings an act of Islamist terrorism. Would U.S. officials bend to pressure from Islamabad? What if Pakistan threatened to stop assisting America's war in neighboring Afghanistan?

It shouldn't be a mystery why a 2006 Government Accountability Office report noted, "U.S. foreign policy is the major root cause behind anti-American sentiments among Muslim populations." And why a 2004 Pentagon Defense Science Board report observed, "Muslims do not hate our freedom, but rather, they hate our policies." All of this is not to say that Mr. Davis is in the wrong. After all, innocent until proven guilty is the motto America lives by, even though it is not always the principle it champions.

# # # Malou Innocent is a foreign policy analyst at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C.