Sometimes, the most unwise steps are taken by those who see themselves as smart. Perhaps, too smart! There is an old Punjabi saying that a crafty crow falls into excrement.
Not being exposed to looking at the world through different angles and passively swallowing the information being fed is tantamount to a soft brainwashing. Brainwashing is not the sole domain of Goebbels or the Bolsheviks.
Implanting so-called “moderates” as a defensive rampart against militancy has been another disastrous folly. It led to the asinine policy of bolstering those figures in Afghanistan and Pakistan, who had no resonance, respect, or traction amongst their own public. The results tell how well this experiment worked. One leading expert at Brookings Institution called the current setup in Pakistan as “the best government Pakistan has ever had.” Chicago 2012 saw the head of this “best government” being publicly snubbed by the head of the US government.
There was considerable headmistress-style lecturing in Washington about the Memogate episode. Imagine the fate if a US envoy to Moscow during the days of the Cold War had been implicated in trying to hand over the US national security apparatus to the KGB? It certainly would not have elicited an “enlightened moderate” response.
Over-manipulation seldom works because it is done in bad faith and with a smug sense that “we know better” and that the other side is too dumb to figure out schemes of duplicity.
Take a look also at craven segments of Muslim intelligentsia that have flourished in the West. Just examine how carefully - dreading that the doors of patronage may close - they skirt around the core issue that has poisoned Western-Muslim relations. In a recent address in Washington, Prince Turki of Saudi Arabia said that the Palestinian issue is at the heart of the conundrum that affects US-Arab ties as well as the sentiments of the entire Muslim world.
Bypassing the Palestinian cause has been a colossal mistake leaving the cancer gestating. Now it has metastasized and may no longer be easily controllable.
Deeper damage may have been done by formally well-educated elites, who have succumbed and have been suborned, rather than by misguided militants. The stagnated status quo is already showing signs of crumbling.
The Western moment of ascendancy may be beginning to fade. Witness how during the 2008 presidential race, Senator John McCain, without proper vetting, picked a vice presidential running mate, Sarah Palin, who had neither the minimal talent nor temperament to handle the task ahead. A recent movie, Game Change, sheds light on why she was picked and how she performed. It reveals the shallowness of US intelligentsia.
At the end of the day, there is no substitute for good intent and good sense.
n The writer is an attorney-at-law and policy analyst based in Washington DC. He is the first Pakistani American member admitted to the US Supreme Court Bar.