A likely explanation for that dismal track record is reflected
in a new Pew Research Center poll of Pakistani public opinion. The poll
recalls "Occam's razor," or the principle that when selecting from among
numerous competing hypotheses, choose the one that offers the simplest
explanation. To wit, Pakistanis really, really don't like us.
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fact, roughly three of four Pakistanis (74 percent) consider the U.S.
an enemy, which is up from 69 percent last year and 64 percent three
years ago. Of the 15 nations surveyed in both 2008 and 2012, Pakistan is
the only country where ratings for President Obama are no
better than the ratings former President George W. Bush received during
his final year in office. Pakistani public support is likewise
plummeting in terms of strengthening the U.S.-Pakistan bilateral
relationship (45 percent think it is still important, down from 60
percent last year); receiving U.S. financial and humanitarian aid in
areas where extremists operate (50 percent support, down from 72 percent
in 2009); and using the Pakistani military to fight extremists (support
has dropped from 53 percent three years ago to 32 percent today).
are numerous explanations for this abject failure of diplomacy and
bilateral relations. As a country defined since its inception by its
Muslim identity, Pakistan was always ambivalent about a conflict against
Islamic extremist groups. As a weak country threatened by a stronger
neighbor, Pakistan has also long stoked Islamic extremism, directing it
at India over the contested territory of Kashmir. In the Pew poll, 22
percent of Pakistanis actually had a favorable view, and 41 percent had
"no opinion," of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terrorist group active in Kashmir
that was behind the bloody 2008 Mumbai attacks in India.
also supported the Afghan Taliban as an instrument of influence in that
country during the 1990s. Perhaps not surprisingly, a solid majority of
Pakistanis in the recent Pew poll had "no opinion" about the Haqqani
network, an extremist insurgent group under the Taliban umbrella that
takes sanctuary in Pakistan's tribal area and regularly launches
spectacular suicide terrorist attacks on U.S. forces, the Afghan
government, and Afghan civilians.
Pakistani officials also
understandably felt abandoned by the United States after Islamabad and
the CIA helped drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan in the 1980s by
funding mujahedeen groups, including one led by Osama bin Laden, only to
have Washington turn its attention elsewhere. There is also a strong
and somewhat justified sentiment among Pakistan's current civilian
leaders that the United States was always more supportive of its
military strongmen like former President Pervez Musharraf, and thus
hypocritical on the subject of democracy. Finally, Pakistanis deplore
the United States' campaign of drone strikes against terrorist targets
on their territory as a violation of their sovereignty, even as their
own inability to police that territory is an open humiliation.
of which is to point out that the U.S.-Pakistani relationship is
agonizingly complex, even as the explanation for its fundamental
dysfunction is not: As the Pew poll points out once again, they really, really, don't like us.