Obama: Believing in one's own myth

ONE of the hopefuls running for president in the US elections next year is Senator Barack Obama from Illinois. Obama, amongst others, is hoping to secure the Democratic Party's nomination for the run to the White House. Whatever credentials the senator may or may not have for the exalted office will become more evident as the Democratic convention draws near.

By Mahmud A Sipra

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Published: Sat 11 Aug 2007, 8:41 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 1:06 AM

But if his recent outburst of "ordering US troops to attack Pakistan..." is indicative of his foreign policy prowess and understanding then he may already be losing his way to that coveted address at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. As one of his Republican opponents aptly put it, "He has gone from Jane Fonda to Dr Strangelove in less then a week!" Fascinating.

So it would not be out of place for somebody to give the man a history and geography lesson on Pakistan, on US-Pakistan relationship, on Pak-Afghan territorial contiguity, on Afghanistan's land locked status, and on Pakistan being the crucial corridor for US and coalition troop supplies. Of course, Obama could always try to use Iran for the purpose — but I doubt that the plan would go down too well with the Iranians. Recommended reading for Mr Obama however, would be "The Great Game" by Phillip Woodruff. Judging by what is taking place on both sides of the Durand Line even today, that "Game" is still being played. Same terrain. Only different players.

In passing, it might be mentioned to Mr.Obama that Pakistan has one of the best professionally trained and equipped armies in the world. This is not Saddam's "Elite Republican Guard" or what it was cracked up to be. The Pakistan army is steeped in tradition and considered one of the finest disciplined fighting forces to be found anywhere. Two World Wars and countless earlier invasions bear testimony to this. Overwhelmingly manned by the Pathan or the Pakhtun, the Punjabi Jat — and the myriad other martial races that migrated from pre Independence India — the Pakistan armed forces are universally recognised not only as a body of great fighting men but also as great allies. A fact that Mr Obama might care to be briefed on.

Then there is of course the little mattre of Pakistan being a nuclear state. And the only Islamic one. The finger on the button here belongs to the men wearing the Pakistan army uniform. God forbid that this "fail safe" mechanism was to ever fall into the hands of the polyglot of misguided mullahs that the West likes to call "Islamists", a night mare scenario that Mr Obama's think tank should seriously consider before being dismissive about Pakistan and President Musharaf's efforts.

To exhibit such callous disregard for the increasing body count of young Pakistanis of the country's security forces engaged in this war on terror by way of expedient political rhetoric smacks of inexcusable insensitivity, misplaced arrogance and monumental ignorance. None of these traits should have any place in the White House.

The next thing one expects Mr Obama to declare is that if elected he is going to bomb Mexico. That's because too many Hispanics are crossing into the United States through its long porous border with Mexico. But to keep things in perspective, the border that Pakistan is trying to control with Afghanistan extends to over 1,200 kilometres of the roughest and the most inhospitable mountain and desert terrains. This, not taking into account the 500 odd kilometres of the Wakhan Corridor, which Pakistan shares with China and Russia. Alexander the Great, while standing at the burial mound of his horse Bucephalas at Phalia, on the banks of the river Chenab, is said to have famously remarked, "This land has taken from me more then I had bargained for!"

Some four hundred kilometres downstream, a wounded and broken hearted Alexander ended his campaign in India, and ordered what was left of his army to cross into Persia. Making the arduous trek through today's Pakistan via the Makran coast and the treacherous waterless Sistan desert — with less than half the troops he had entered the Khyber Pass with. Perhaps it was this that prompted Coleridge to lament, "If only men could learn from history, oh! What lessons it might teach us."

Demographically, not every inhabitant of Pakistan's North Western Frontier Province is a member of Al Qaeda and or the Taleban. This vast rugged frontier land is home to tribes of different hues with one common thread — Islam. All are devout Muslims. The Pakhtuns remain fiercely loyal to their soil and the "pakhtunwali", the code that every Pakhtun tribesman lives and dies by. Justice, honour, hospitality and faith are the corner stones of this code and his existence. Do not trivialise, denigrate and or threaten this code of honor and the people that live by it. Even if they are seen to have been infiltrated or are being diluted by some foreign rogue elements.

Try, instead to understand them and if possible, befriend them. They don't do invasions here! Rise above the polemics and politics of your time, Mr Obama. Quixotics and bombast are poor substitutes for prescience and statesmanship. The sovereignty of a friendly nation which is once again the lynchpin and in the vanguard of America's war on terror is not something to be trifled with.

As an American of Pakistani descent and the proud parent of a former US marine, I very much doubt that your statements will find resonance amongst your own vote bank at home or with the people of Pakistan.

Mahmud A Sipra is the author of the best selling novel: Pawn to King Three. Publishers. Michael Joseph/Penguin. He can be reached at Sipraindubai@yahoo.com

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