Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Aid to Pakistan

I have heard lots of pleas for more assistance for the flood victims in Pakistan lately. The UN promised 450 billion (dollars, I think it was) but was having trouble fulfilling that promise with pledges from its "member nations". All the big international charity organizations were using that fact, and the continuing worsening situation, to make topical pleas for more money, too.

What I haven't heard, and I'm somewhat surprised by it, is anything from the US government. If ever there were a strategic case for humanitarian assistance, it would be there. What I've decided is that they decided they don't need to ask or tell anyone--lots and lots of foreign aid money is already appropriated for Pakistan, and some could be diverted from the "hard"--military--assistance which is much more problematic; lots and lots of military transport (air, land, and sea) are already in the neighborhood. The only thing missing is the PR benefit of being seen to come heroically to the rescue. That, I guess, can certainly wait until the crisis ends.

Much more damaging than the recent Wiki-Leaks releases is the fact now emerging that Pakistan's secret service, ISI, torpedoed negotiations for a settlement with the Taliban and arrested key Taliban leaders because they were talking turkey (or some other fowl too closely related) with the US and with representatives of the Afghan government. And not with the ISI, apparently. The Pakistani minders of the Taliban pretended to be surprised when certain raids caught top leaders (even as high as the Taliban #2, who was leading the negotiations for the insurgents), jail them (most of them, temporarily) and release them with a good lecture about to whom they owe their allegiance. These ISI are the folks who will end up spending, or wasting, most of our covert and overt military assistance, no matter who is nominally in charge of the Pakistan government, and of the military.

One non-cynical note: the lists out there of the charities most deeply involved in Pakistan were either the usual ones, or ones that were so unusual they might not be trustworthy. One that clearly has a major, critical role is Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres); they are always on the scene, always worth a contribution.

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