If Franz Kafka covered the Pentagon for the Washington Post, he couldn’t have done better than yesterday’s backgrounder by Greg Miller and Karen DeYoung, titled, “Adm. Mullen’s words on Pakistan come under scrutiny.” Unnamed Obama administration officials told the newspaper that “Adm. Mike Mullen’s assertion last week that an anti-American insurgent group in Afghanistan is a ‘veritable arm’ of Pakistan’s spy service was overstated and contributed to overheated reactions in Pakistan and misperceptions in Washington.” But the officials didn’t want to be quoted publicly so as not to be seen challenging the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
A serving officer tells the truth in public about Pakistani spooks plotting with jihadi fanatics to attack a U.S. embassy and murder Americans? And the State Department types lurk in the shadows complaining that he’s exaggerating? It must be that the Kingdom’s coming, or the Year of Jubilo. The fact that the striped pants set doesn’t have the temerity to refute, or let alone rein in, the estimable Admiral Mullen after he exposed Pakistani collaboration tells a great deal about the mood of the American people.
Judging from the questions thrown at me on radio talk shows during the past week, Americans have no patience for putative allies who conspire behind our backs to murder American personnel. They want to know: Why do we put up with this sort of murderous betrayal from Islamabad?
Why, for that matter, have we let Iran get away with the murder-by-proxy of American soldiers in Iraq? The answer in both cases is that our commitment to stability in the region compels us to pretend that inherently unstable, murderous, and dangerous regimes are pillars of public order who must be appeased and protected. That is the fundamental flaw in American foreign policy, and it infected the Bush Freedom Agenda from the beginning.
Why didn’t we deal with the murderous mullahs of Tehran years ago when it became evident that they intended to acquire nuclear weapons? With characteristic candor, Mike Mullen explained why in a March 6, 2009, interview with Charlie Rose: “What I worry about in terms of an attack on Iran is, in addition to the immediate effect, the effect of the attack, it’s the unintended consequences. It’s the further destabilization in the region. It’s how they would respond. We have lots of Americans who live in that region who are under the threat envelope right now [because of the] capability that Iran has across the Gulf. So, I worry about their responses and I worry about it escalating in ways that we couldn’t predict.”
I complained at the time, “A rough translation of Mullen’s remarks into civilian political language is that the quixotic notion of building democracy in the Middle East led the United States into an Iranian trap.” Iran could (and still can) act as a spoiler in Iraq and make shambles of our trillion-dollar investment in Iraqi democracy. The Bush administration held back from hitting Iran because, as Mike Mullen explained, our nation-building exercise made American warriors into targets and hostages.