Advancing a Free Society

Pakistan and America

Monday, October 3, 2011

In the summer of 2010, two revelations, of unequal importance and magnitude, illuminated the American-Pakistani relationship and its complications: a public opinion survey released by the Pew Research Center, on July 29, that delved into the attitudes of the Pakistani public on a wide range of issues (their opinion of the United States, their view of the war next door in Afghanistan, their attitude toward extremist groups, their outlook on the prospects of their country). The bigger story was the unprecedented document-dump by Wikileaks of 92,000 reports and documents on the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan spanning two administrations, from January 2004 through December 2009. The role of Pakistan, and its powerful Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (the isi), was in the eye of that storm.

The Pew survey first: There was something of a surprise in the findings. Some 2,000 adults, disproportionately urban, were polled. The needle had not moved; Pakistani opinion had not been swayed by the change in Washington from George W. Bush to Barack Obama. America’s overall image, the survey found out, remained quite negative in Pakistan. Along with Turks and Egyptians, the Pakistanis gave the U.S. its lowest ratings among the 22 nations included in the Pew Global Attitudes survey. In all three big and important Muslim countries, only seventeen percent had a favorable view of the United States. Six in ten Pakistanis described the U.S. as an enemy, and only eleven percent described the U.S. as a partner. Against prior expectations, only eight percent of Pakistanis expressed confidence in President Obama and in his ability to do the right thing in world affairs; this was his lowest rating among the 22 nations. There was little support for the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan; nearly two-thirds of those surveyed wanted U.S. and nato troops out of Afghanistan. A mere 25 percent of Pakistanis thought that a Taliban victory in Afghanistan would be bad for Pakistan itself. Such is the material, and sentiments, within Pakistan that the Americans, and Pakistan’s leaders, have to work with. Substantial American resources and aid have been committed to Pakistan, but 48 percent of those surveyed thought the U.S. gave little or no assistance. The anti-Americanism ran deep here, and was instinctive and unexamined.

Continue reading Fouad Ajami’s article in the Hoover Institution’s Policy Review