It was refreshing to hear former US ambassador Cameron Munter’s honest remarks about American mistakes vis-a-vis Pakistan (Feb 14). It behooves us Pakistanis to be honest in kind. The truth is that the anti-Americanism so rampant in our society today is much older than 9/11 and the American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. It is, in fact, older even than the invidious Pakistan-US alliance of the 1980s. The first and to date most successful attack on an American mission in Pakistan took place in 1979. That is when the original American embassy was burned to the ground and two Americans lost their lives.

The apparent reason for the attack was an event in Makkah that, in fact, had no American involvement. The roots of anti-Americanism then are deep. In my view, there are two main reasons. First, from day one Pakistan placed itself as a supplicant at America’s door. It was an entirely Pakistani decision to seek out an American alliance in 1947, instead of a non-aligned posture in the cold war. Unfortunately, supplicants rarely elicit much respect. For Pakistan’s leaders, American beneficence was an easier route to solvency than the hard work of developing the local economy and tax base.

Also, the US alliance was seen as necessary to provide support against a hostile India. For the US though, the relationship was always rather more superficial and tactical: simply another link in the chain of anti-Soviet alliances that America created.

Ergo Pakistan walked into the role of a jilted lover, first in 1965 when America refused to deploy an alliance it saw as purely anti-Soviet against a non-aligned India, and then again in 1971. Secondly, any hegemonic power is bound to be treated with wariness and suspicion by weaker states. Consider that, ceteris paribus, if the superpower of our world was, say, Egypt and not the US, would we see the same level of anti-Egyptianism?


Karachi February 20.