Washington is abuzz with the headline news that the FBI is accosting two Pakistanis who allegedly have been trying to win influence and influence policy makers to their country’s advantage. They supposed are in the employ of the ISI. Politicos and commentators are waxing indignant at this affront to American sovereignty and the effrontery in aiming to corrupt elected office holders through campaign contributions.
A highlight of these revelations is that these agents contributed $250 to the Gore and Kerry campaigns -- each.
It is no coincidence that the announcement was made with great fanfare at a moment of extreme tensions between Washington and Islamabad. The Obama administration is pulling out all stops in an implacable campaign to break the resistance of Pakistani leaders to its call for an escalated campaign against the Taliban.
Condemnation of political lobbying suggests a double standard. Many foreign governments lobby Washington as several levels. True, their paid lobbyists are legally required they declare themselves as working for another country. However, there are various ways to circumvent the law -- as the pervasive presence of Israeli influence in the capital demonstrates.
This aggrieved reaction is noteworthy for what it says about the presumed naïvete of American officials are are susceptible to being diverted from the path of righteousness by the diabolical scheming of foreigners.
Equally worth noting is the failure to draw any comparison with American interference in the domestic political affairs of other countries. In Iraq, the United States has provided financial and technical assistance to their favorite Mr. Alawi in three successive presidential campaigns. American diplomats participated directly in the bargaining that eventually produced the current coalition government (albeit that in the end it was Tehran that shaped the outcome).
In Afghanistan, they backed Dr. Abdul Abdullah in his bid to unseat Hamid Karzai. In Pakistan, Washington insists on running its own large network of intelligence operatives without government sanction. In addition, it meddled in partisan politics by orchestrating the return of Benazir Bhutto while leaning on the government of General Musharraf to force back into exile her chief rival Nawaz Sharif -- who happens to be less sympathetic toward the United States. Their objective of a shotgun wedding between Musharraf and Bhutto wasn’t realized -- but not for lack of trying.
If Americans are oblivious to these contradictions, they are glaring in the eyes of Iraqis, Afghans and Pakistanis.
(Professor Michael Brenner teaches at the University of Texas, Austin, and at the University of Pittsburgh. He can be reached at: email@example.com)