Rethink diplomacy

Thus far, concentrated military attacks in Afghanistan seem to be the only foreign action with a definitive, realistic goal. The State Department’s diplomatic campaign seems contingent on people’s beliefs changing with their government’s political statements. The administration needs to rethink its policies before it exacerbates the problem.

For instance, America’s new relationship with Pakistan seems destined to explode. During the past several years, the country fervently supported the Taliban and turned a blind eye as terrorists funneled through Pakistan into Kashmir, leaving a sizeable militant fringe in their wake. But after the attacks, Pakistan’s government almost immediately sided with the United States, despite objections from many Pakistanis. Most will not change their long-held beliefs because of their three-year-old government’s new position. In fact, their rage over the new alliance seems to grow daily, so as the United States pounds Afghanistan, new problems are quickly arising due south.

As if to punctuate the issue, India chose to fire artillery into Pakistan on Monday. Indian military officials released a statement explaining the attack was retribution for “the Pakistani army’s repeated involvement in aiding and abetting terrorist activities.” A brilliant political move on India’s part, the attack’s rationale leaves the United States to explain why it’s fighting a war on terrorism by befriending nations that have harbored terrorists.

The explanation must go beyond American involvement in Pakistan, though. U.S. officials have lately courted Iran – which held several Americans hostage for 444 days in the late 1970s. Monday, State Department officials even tried to block several former hostages’ anti-Iranian testimony in a civil case against the nation, according to The Associated Press. One of the former hostages, Barry Rosen, said, “The U.S. government ought to be ashamed of itself.”

At the moment, though, they seem too busy contradicting themselves as, also on Monday, U.S. officials chastised Israel for killing a suspected terrorist. When asked how the United States could tell Israel not to kill terrorists in light of recent U.S. military actions, a State Department representative said there are no parallels between the two situations. “We oppose the policy of targeted killings,” he said. Obviously, the State Department’s leadership isn’t dense enough to miss the blatant contradiction. However, if they are using this as a shortsighted diplomatic tool to woo Palestinian authorities and sympathizers, the department is putting the nation in a precarious position. Russia allied with Israel on Sept. 5 and has since tried to paint all Chechen rebels as Islamic extremists, a blatant but useful falsehood. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is currently trying the same thing regarding Palestinians. As the new political rift between the United States and Israel grows, America could find itself having to choose between alienating Russia and getting into a war in Chechnya.

This convoluted mess of political entanglements carries frightening possibilities. If the State Department lacks a comprehensive plan of which all these anomalies are a part, it must step back and rethink its approach before it sends this conflict out of control.