Because I am a curious fellow in dire need of supervision, I spent several hours yesterday reading the Express Tribune of Pakistan. Granted, now seems like an especially interesting time in Pakistani news, but man—that place is a den of insanity. The photo above comes from this story about a meeting of the All Parties Conference, which threatened to block NATO supply routes to Afghanistan if the United Nations does not pass an anti-blasphemy law. They also threatened to leave the UN and form a separate, Muslim United Nations, which would pretty much be the best thing ever to happen to American talk radio. It gets better after the jump.
The big news in Pakistan right now is, of course, The Innocence of Muslims. That work of cinema prompted violent protests across the Muslim world, which included—according to Steve Inskeep—a teenager saying “the United States doesn’t know who they have messed with” before burning a popular movie theater in Karachi. That’ll teach us. In Pakistan, the government sponsored a day of protests called “Love of the Prophet Day,” although it also dispatched police to beat hell out of the demonstrators.
The Pakistani government is weird. On Tuesday, Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour offered a $100,000 bounty to whoever would kill the producer of the film. “Killing is not a good way,” he said, “but right now it is the only way, because no action has been taken from Western countries.” It was possibly not a railways issue, and Bilour’s fellow ministers distanced themselves from his remarks.
The Pakistani Taliban, on the other hand, thought it was great, and they rewarded Bilour by lifting the bounty they had placed on him. “We have totally forgiven him and removed his name from our hit list,” said a spokesman. “The shoora [a meeting of Taliban leaders] paid rich tributes to Bilour and endorsed his bounty announcement.”
If that’s not a testament to how useful it is for political leaders in the Middle East to whip up religious extremism, I don’t know what is. There was a contract out on the railways minister of Pakistan, and all he had to do to get rid of it was put a contract on somebody else. It’s a perfect system, provided you view society as a bloody contest to see who can be the most fanatically devoted to God. By other metrics, it kind of sucks.
Now seems like an appropriate point to note that Pakistan is one of our most valuable allies in the war on terror. Pretty much every word in that sentence should be in scare quotes. They have consistently used their “support” for NATO efforts in Afghanistan as a bargaining chip, threatening supply routes over everything from our assassination of Osama bin Laden to a damn YouTube video. If this is alliance, under what circumstances would we consider Pakistan neutral?
The problem is not Islam. As the President pointed out, millions of Muslims in America have refrained from burning buildings and murdering strangers even after The Innocence of Muslims came out. At the risk of compromising my scrupulous relativism, the problem seems to be that Middle Eastern government and culture is profoundly retarded. Pakistan is a nuclear power. They regularly hold meetings to discuss which individual civilians have insulted them and how much they will pay to have them killed.
At a certain point, America’s alliances with these countries start to reflect poorly on our national character. The United States is like a basically decent guy who is friends with several assholes who have cocaine and/or well-situated apartments. In other words, the United States is, like, not a decent guy.
I’m a big believer in realpolitik when it comes to international diplomacy, but our alliances must be something more than strategic. The United States is a nation founded on an idea. Idealism should have something to do with our foreign policy, and we should not make friends of countries that demand we compromise our ideals no matter how much oil and war-adjacency they have. Blasphemy laws are for assholes. Bounties are for assholes. We should be careful who we sit next to at which tables, because assholism is contagious.