Saturday, 16 August 2008

If Joe Biden Became Obama's VP Candidate...

The grapevines are buzzing over the idea that Joe Biden might be picked as Barack Obama's running mate. While some people are pointing out that he has made some bizarre foreign policy suggestions in the past, such as splitting up Iraq, as far as Pakistan is concerned, it may just be the best thing to happen to Pakistan in an otherwise dismal year for the country.

First off, Joe Biden has a much better appreciation of what is happening in Pakistan than the concerns of Pakistanis than other Presidential candidates. But better than that, have a look at Biden's proposal for what direction its policy towards Pakistan should take.

What does he propose?

We've got to move from a transactional relationship -- the exchange of aid for services -- to the normal, functional relationship we enjoy with all of our other military allies and friendly nations. We've got to move from a policy concentrated on one man -- President Musharraf -- to a policy centered on an entire people... the people of Pakistan. Like any major policy shift, to gain long-term benefits we'll have to shoulder short term costs. But given the stakes, those costs are worth it.

And how would he do this?

1. Triple non-security aid to $1.5 billion annually for at least 10 years.

2. Make security aid conditional (so for example, don't just pour in money for submarine hunters and air-defense radars which have no relevance to the Taliban insurgency in Pakistan's northern areas, but focus it on COIN-relevant stuff and tie it to what the army is doing against militants).

3. Give a "democracy dividend" of $1 billion above the annual non-security aid to help the new government with the promise of more aid tied to developing democratic institutions.

4. Focus on creating ties with the Pakistani public and not just the elite by "improved public diplomacy and educational exchanges" and "high impact projects that actually change people's lives."

There's an interesting comment on Biden's plan here.

Suffice it to say that it sounds pretty good at least on paper. Its a perennial complaint that whenever Pakistan has a military government that the US needs to do its bidding, money flows like wine, but whenever there is a democratic government, the aid seems to dry up and various sanctions tend to pile up against the country. So its good to hear a Biden recognizing that the aid needs to be based on something other than a transactional basis.

As for making military aid conditional - well if it will help convince our generals to abandon their proxy militants and focus on stamping out the Insurgency in FATA, thats all to the better. My guess is that they would want at least some of the money to be spent on expensive anti-Indian toys as well, but I'm all for measures that actively help fighting militancy in Pakistan (and by extension, Afghanistan).

So it will be interesting to see what happens next. I personally don't know too much about the other candidates for the VP slot, but generally I've been underwhelmed by Obama as far as foreign policy goes (though he certainly seems better than Mr John "In-the-21st-century-nations-dont-invade-nations" McCain.) But for Pakistan, I think Joe Biden's plan would be much-needed good news.

P.S.: McCain actually went one dumber and recently claimed that the Georgia-Russia war was the “first serious crisis internationally since the end of the Cold War”. So there you have it. 9/11? Not serious. Invasion of Iraq? A cakewalk. Darfur? Afghanistan? Mid-East? All just giggles. No, the Georgia-Russia war is SERIOUS!

P.P.S.: We've just learned that those evil commie Chinese are using underage athletes to cheat the US of A out of well-deserved Olympic medals. This must be the most serious crisis internationally since the Barbarian invasion of Rome! Something must be done about it!

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