Friday, March 11, 2011

The Pakistan Media's Take On the Stanley McChrystal Firing

While Matthew Hastings' article on the shenanigans and poor attitude of General Stanley McCrystal and his staff provoked a great deal of heated debate. Leading scions of media criticized Hasting for how he obtained his information, for the fact that he reported on the matter at all. Even Hastings' patriotism was questioned. Obama's decision to remove McCrystal provided controversy as well.

In contrast, mainstream Pakistani media enthusiastically approved of Obama's dismissal of McChrystal. A June 25, 2010 cable from the American Embassy in Islamabad to the Secretary of State on the big stories in the Pakistani media documented the reaction of mainstream Pakistani media. Below are the choice selections of the reactions captured by the US Embassy in Islamabad:

Editorial: Institutions Above Individuals, an editorial in the populist, often sensational national English daily "The News" (cir. 55,000) (06 /25)

The dismissal of a top-ranking general by the U.S. President may be an unusual event, but, as President Obama has said, the tough decision, taken at a vital point in the nine-year war in Afghanistan, drives home the importance of institutions and the fact that they are more important than individuals.... The U.S. military, despite its strength and size, has through time developed sufficient maturity to keep itself aloof from affairs of government and to accept decisions made by Presidents. This has a long background of institution-building, with the dismissal of General Douglas McArthur in the 1950s too resulting in no disruption in U.S. affairs; there was no coup d'etat, no warning statements from the men in uniform.

The tradition of civilian authority held firm.... The wider impact of the change in command in Afghanistan is yet not known. Pakistan will be watching events to its west attentively, given that developments in Afghanistan have a direct impact on the war against militancy at home. Only time will tell if there is to be any change and the nature of this if one does indeed occur.

Editorial: The FaIl Of A General, an editorial. in the center-right national English daily "The Nation" (cir. 20,000) (06 / 25)

"If the top commander in a theatre of war entertains disparaging views of the civilian bosses, there would be a disconnect between the two in this vital matter. McChrystal's exit, no doubt establishes civilian control over the military - a fundamental principle of democratic set-ups - but, as the General has supporters both in the armed forces and civilian institutions, like for instance, Congress, it is not going to be smooth sailing for the President. However, with President Obama asserting, "it is a change in personnel-, but it is not a change in policy", one should not expect a much more different outcome of the war when General David Petraeus takes over.... Did the realization that the war efforts have come up against a dead-end cause McChrystal frustration and also lead him to adopt this questionable attitude?"

Opinion: McChrystal's Sacking And Afghan Endgame, an op-ed by Shafqat Mahmood in the populist, often sensational national English daily "The News" (cir. 55,000) (06/25)

"More than the notion of establishing civilian supremacy, it was important for the first black president in U.S. history to assert his authority over the military.... People like McChrystal argued that to make the Taliban amenable to negotiations, they have to be put under pressure. This view prevailed despite opposition. Hence, the troop surge and the operation in Helmand and another in the works for Kandahar. The first operation has been unsuccessful and the second will fare no better. The Taliban will perhaps negotiate but on their own terms. The demand on Pakistan is strange. On the one hand, we are being asked to launch a military operation against the Taliban in North Waziristan and apprehend them in other places if they are here. And, on the other, there is a desire for us to facilitate dialogue with them. Thus, they are asking us to attack those who they want us to help become friends with. These and other contradictions will play themselves out in the next two years. Since
it is in the vital interest of Pakistan to have a friendly Afghanistan, we will have to broaden our links to all the Afghan people. The Americans will leave but we have to live here. It is best to start building bridges with everyone. "

Further commentary is document in pages 4-7 of the PDF. The rest is a potpourri of commentary of other American issues such as Gary Faulkner's journey, Holbrooke's meetings, and American policies. 

Pakistani Media Reaction Cable                                                            

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