Avoiding why

 Mowahid Hussain Shah
The dominant news story of the decade 2000-2009 has been 9/11 and its aftermath. It has been a decade of over-reaction, hubris, and policy failures.
The recently deceased William J Lederer, co-author of the influential 1958 novel, The Ugly American, which slammed US policies in Southeast Asia, had this to say after the attacks of 9/11: \\\"It pains me to say this: Our military leaders, agents, and diplomats are still ignorant about the countries they\\\'re assigned to. We\\\'re still fighting poor, hungry, angry people with bombs and tanks when what they would really respond to is food and water, good roads, health care, and a little respect for their religion and culture.\\\"
If America has to make headway in Afghanistan, it cannot do so without Pakistan\\\'s help. That much is being grudgingly recognised. Looking at the dysfunctional Afghan army and police, it is also being recognised that there are no credible Afghan partners to speak of.
But there is mistrust within Pakistan whether the US sees Pakistan as a target or an ally. To repair trust, the US has to take two steps. First, it has to dispense with the utilitarian attitude towards Pakistan, specifically, when you need it, go to it; when you don\\\'t, ignore it. It is a policy of consistent inconsistency. And it has been a prescription for acrimony and at the core of the underlying distrust and doubt. It is a relation where temporary convenience is given more importance than sustained commitment. It is the difference between a brittle marriage of convenience and a more steady union of hearts.
Second, the US needs to review its glacial approach toward the global climate which inflames militancy, by tackling the Kashmir conflict and the Palestinian problem. It would be a minimal good faith gesture breaking the deadlock of distrust. The question is not \\\'if\\\' it is going to be addressed, but \\\'when\\\'. It may not be a paramount issue for the Muslim elites, but for the Street, it is. Street sentiment has prevented recognition of Israel, which many among the elites quietly espouse.
The lava of militancy bubbles from the explosive volcanoes in Kashmir and Palestine. By dealing with the consequences, but not with the motivating causes, the US has avoided challenging its own flawed assumptions in tackling militancy. In other words, how to fight it without feeding it. Also, the American approach exposes the glaring flaws of its own system which has allowed narrowly focused vested groups, often with a single agenda, to hijack US foreign policy, at the expense of broader US national interests. The existing policies are too small to meet big challenges. It has, to cite the late Senator William Fulbright, made America into a \\\"crippled giant\\\".
There are precedents for course correction.
One example is that of Charles de Gaulle, when he came to the conclusion that the Algerian War was consuming the soul of France and, therefore, the best course for France to save it was to quit Algeria.
F W de Klerk, too, in South Africa, came to a similar conclusion when he became the president in 1989, by accurately identifying the two choices facing him: South Africa could continue its self-destructive apartheid system of white supremacy rule amidst the black majority and guarantee a certain blood bath; or it could acknowledge the political reality and moral inevitability of a multiracial society, and pave thereby the path for a bloodless transition.
The establishment in both the West and the Muslim world is equally responsible for the present mess.
The crushing incapacity of Muslim elites to govern honestly at home, and to frame counter-arguments and fight for legitimate rights abroad, has left ample space for militancy to flourish.
So far, the US establishment, by pointing fingers at foreign devils, has done a good job at blacking out discussion on the root causes of anti-Western militancy. It may have avoided answering the core question, \\\"Why?\\\" But it may find it difficult to change the lethal trajectory of its impractical policies.
The writer is a barrister and a senior political analyst.