Obama, McCain don’t grasp roots of Pakistan’s instability

(Regarding article “McCain, Obama applaud Musharraf’s resignation,” Aug. 18.) Have presidential candidates Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) learned nothing from the resignation of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf? Both noted the exit of coup-installed Musharraf should “open the door to cooperation … in the hunt for terrorists.”

Continuing this modus operandi of terrorist-hunting in Pakistan will exacerbate the problem, not alleviate it.

Musharraf’s departure — perhaps the country’s most democratic maneuver yet — reflected overwhelming popular sentiment against him. All four provincial assemblies — Sindh, Punjab, Baloochistan and the Northwest Frontier Province — voted to impeach him, representing 83 percent of public opinion. This is what democracy looks like.

Angst was apparent for several reasons. Musharraf’s approach to the autonomous regions was heavy-handed, mirroring Washington’s proclivity for hard-power approaches to militancy.

Bombs, never books, flew over the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Of the $11 billion Musharraf received in U.S. financing since 2001, few benefits were felt locally.

Instead, economic development faltered, hitting the frontier particularly hard, leaving the tribesman with $15 per month. Educational enrollment tanked — unsurprising since educational spending comprised 2 percent of the GDP — leaving Pakistan’s secondary enrollment at 24 percent and tertiary enrollment at 4 percent. Is it any wonder that Madrassas are becoming more popular, since their schools are free and often better equipped than public schools, or that the Taliban recruits effectively when jobs are scarce?

There is hope for Pakistan but it will not be manifested through policies presently posited by McCain and Obama. In the Northwest Frontier, the president of the Awami National Party is Asfandyar Wali Khan Khan, whose party platform is popular and profusely nonviolent, understands tribal thinking better than Sindh or Punjab elites ever will.

For the U.S. to meet its policy objectives, it must work with those who know tribal thinking best. Washington must also pursue soft power mechanisms appropriately. Sens. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Joe Biden (D-Del.) are ramping up non-military assistance for the border, but it must not funnel through foreign organizations only, as is the precedent.

For too long, the political, social and economic needs of the tribal regions have been ignored; military might was all Washington or Islamabad could muster. If McCain and Obama want to “open the door to more cooperation,” books and jobs, not bombs and drones, are the answer.

Arlington, Va.


Issues vs. rhetoric

From Norm Grudman

It looks like the Democratic Party has found a way to turn victory into defeat.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and running mate Sarah Palin are taking a page from Bush 2000 and 2004. Issues and vision have been relegated to second-tier subjects.

When will those voters who have lost their jobs, face foreclosure on homes and see the rich getting richer while average citizens slide even further down the economic ladder see the light?
Republican campaigns are brilliant — unethical, but good for a candidate who is losing the race on issues.

The next president may have two or three picks for the Supreme Court. Republicans’ views on religion, women’s rights and education are out of the mainstream here and around the world.

By Republicans choosing those justices, we would obliterate the separation of church and state, eliminate women’s rights and teach creationism as equal in science to evolution.

Self-interest of voters takes a backseat to rhetoric that offers more of the last eight years and will lead us down the same path we are currently on.

Mattituck, N.Y.