Reading the comments at the Elder of Ziyon‘s blog reminded me of a very unpleasant truth: at times, we are forced to deal with and even support very unpleasant people. Two examples should suffice: Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and The House of Saud of Saudi Arabia. In a perfect world, we would be free to conspire to remove both from power, but these entities are the lesser of evils that would exist. As it is said, better the devil we know than the devil we don’t. Furthermore, Abbas and The House of Saud have a vested interest in ensuring not only that they continue to receive our support but also that they continue to support our interests. In some cases, our interests are their interests as well. But then one has to wonder to what extent certain problems (such as, the so evil adversaries of Fatah or The House of Saud which cause us to support people and entities we’d rather not) are perpetuated by those who receive our support. In other words, rather than solving the problems that cause us to support them, are they in fact prolonging them so as to continue to receive our support?
An example of this is Pakistan’s government and military and the issue of the Taliban. To a certain degree, the government and military of Pakistan do not and will not completely eradicate the Taliban in Pakistan or in any areas over which they exercise influence or authority, no matter how easy or possible it is. The same with Usama bin Ladin: Pakistan has a policy, unofficial, of course, of deliberately not taking him out and even of sparing him. Both of these exist for the same reason: if the Taliban were destroyed and/or Bin Ladin taken out or apprehended, The United States’ interest in Pakistan (and, importantly, in Pakistan’s ruling regime) would decrease. Pakistan’s government and military want to ensure the maximum interest of The United States for the maximum amount of time.
(When the Pakistani government hinted that it may not permit foreign forces to move against Bin Ladin were he found within Pakistan’s borders, The Government wisely responded quite severely, stating that if Bin Ladin were found, The United States would move against him whether Pakistan permitted it or not. This sent a very clear message to Pakistan’s government and military: that Pakistan’s intransigence would be tolerated only so much.)
The issue of what Pakistan can and cannot do, as far as potential and politics are concerned, is another matter all together. In certain areas and issues, Pakistan’s government and military are quite impotent.
Unfortunately, we have to recognize that reality is often complicated and quite inconvenient. As much as we may hate it, we have little choice but to side with our erstwhile allies (while, at the same time, keeping a watch on our back). And we need to remember this for the future: when conditions change, we should remember why we supported whom we supported, both so as not to falsely accuse our past actions of laziness or insufficient dedication to our ideals and also so as to analyze every situation to ascertain if we can finally end an unpleasant relationship and bring onto the world stage a better, newer partner.