Now we know that Osama Bin Laden had been living in Pakistan for quite some time, and maybe he had been actually protected by some officials in the Pakistan government. The reaction of many in the news media makes me wonder if many reporters have ever taken a high school history course.
Pakistan has been a shaky ally of the United States for decades, but an historical review of the United States foreign policy shows scores of questionable relationships with dubious regimes all over the world. For the most part, Pakistan has helped the United States in the war on terror and aided in the capture of high ranking officials of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. This has been difficult for a nation that has a large Muslim population that is not exactly thrilled with the United States.
In an ideal world, the United States would only form alliances with nations that share our values. Unfortunately, we don’t and probably never will live in an ideal world. For decades, Presidents of both parties have directed foreign policies based on a somewhat simple premise that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. This has often resulted in very difficult situations.
In World War II, the United States allied with Russia to defeat what at that time was a much greater danger and evil, the Nazi Germany of Adolf Hitler. Both the United States and Britain understood what a terrible dictator Russian Joseph Stalin was, but the priority was to deal with the Nazi threat first and then handle Russia later. My father fought in the war and admitted that when his battalion got to Berlin, they thought about pushing the Russian army all the way back to Moscow. It didn’t matter that there was a short-lived alliance at the time, there was significant mistrust between the allies and Russia.
Of course, a world weary by a very destructive war was in no mood to continue fighting, and President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill came to an agreement with Joseph Stalin to divide Europe into basically Westerns-style democracies and Communist Socialist nations. In hindsight, many historians criticized the agreement that eventually led to a very costly four-decade cold war between the Communist bloc countries and the Western alliance of democracies, but the context of the times made the decisions by Roosevelt and Churchill necessary. Both didn’t believe that their countrymen would support a continuation of a war that cost so many lives.
During the cold war, the United States began an alliance with another despot, the Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. As someone who treated most of his political opponents as traitors, it seemed to many Americans at the time that the United States was maintaining a very unsavory alliance. When a White House reporter asked then President Lyndon Johnson why the U.S. would be friendly with the Shah, he answered in a very colorful way. Johnson said, “We would rather have him inside our tent pissing out than outside our tent pissing in.”
In 1979, an Islamic revolution brought an end to the reign of the Shah and ushered in an Iranian regime that has been very hostile to the United States. American embassy employees were taken hostage and were not released until Ronald Reagan was inaugurated in January 1981. Since then, the United States has had nothing but difficulties with the Iranian government.
Despite harboring Bin Laden, Pakistan is likely to maintain a tenuous alliance with the United States for some time to come. For reasons that most of us will never learn, Presidents of both parties have decided that it’s better to have Pakistan inside our tent pissing out than outside our tent pissing in.