The US Presidential debates are still over a month away, but the campaign frenzy is nearing its climax and mud slinging has slowly started to peak. The numerous comments made during last weeks Presidential debates are still being carefully analyzed with a magnifying glass and their subsequent meanings deciphered endlessly. As we may recall Pakistan was a hot topic in the discussion last Friday, due to its strategic importance on the war on terror, today an email report has surfaced where an ex-US Ambassador to Pakistan challenged McCain’s reference to Pakistan being a failed state in 1999 [I’m glad somebody stood up for us!! ]
During the debate if we may recall, McCain referred to Pakistan as a failed state in 1999 when President Musharraf came into power via a military coop, McCain in turn accused Obama to have not understood the problem in Pakistan and blamed him for an unrealistic plan of action. But in an interesting move William Milan the US Ambassador to Pakistan at the time of the coup, has categorically come forth to say that it’s McCain who doesn’t understand.
Matthew Yglesias asked Ambassador Milam about this issue and his response was
There are a number of interesting books, including a forthcoming one by me, that cover the 1999 coup by the Musharraf-led army. You might want to look at those already published by Steve Cohen, Hasan Abbas, Hussain Haqqani (long before he became the present Pakistani Ambassador), and especially Ian Talbot’s updated history of Pakistan.
I think that all of them would agree that, while there were a lot of things wrong in Pakistan during the years leading up to the 1999 military takeover, Pakistan was not a failed state as we normally define such states. I am on record as stating publicly that, having come to Pakistan from Liberia a year before the takeover, I had a pretty good idea of what failed states look like, and it was not one.
I feel this is a definite breath of fresh air, to see someone standing up for us and issuing a very strong statement for Pakistan, looking back I might partially agree with Ambassador Milam that in 1999 there was definitely a financial crisis but Pakistan was no where near to being labeled as a Failed State, though I must concede that there was definitely a buzzword around town talking about the failed state scenario but I am sure we were not at the brink of disaster back then, but if the ex-US Ambassador to Pakistan says that Pakistan was NOT a failed state, I would have to take his word for it and surely not be dependent on GHQ issuing a clarification of such sort back then