Dr Farrukh Saleem
On the face of it, Ambassador Cameron Phelps Munter has landed on unfamiliar territory and unchartered waters. Imagine: Ambassador Munter is a former Director for Central, Eastern and Northern Europe, a former Director of the Northern European Initiative, Staff Assistant in the Bureau of European Affairs, a doctoral degree holder in modern European history and a former professor of European history at UCLA.
Would an expert on European history be able to digest chaat, pakora and chana masala? Faces could be deceiving; Ambassador Munter relates very well to wars, hostilities, conflicts and revolutions. After all, he was the US Ambassador to the Republic of Serbia after protecting America's interests in the Czech Republic. Remember, the Bosnian War, the dissolution of Czechoslovakia and the Velvet Revolution?
Would the ambassador be required to punch above his weight in Islamabad? Well, he is the one who led the first Provisional Reconstruction Team in Mosul. And that's the city where Uday and Qusay Hussein were killed by the Americans. Remember, the Battle of Mosul? Plus, Mosul was HQ for the 101st Airborne Division, 172nd Stryker Brigade, 25th Infantry Division and the 812th Military Policy Company. In effect, the ambassador has been as close to the real thing – wars, revolutions, murders, dissolutions and reconstructions – as one can get.
Would the ambassador be repeating history in Islamabad? One cannot say for sure but every time history repeats itself the price goes up. The contract price of the new US Embassy in Islamabad, for instance, stands at a colossal $699 million in overt funds plus undisclosed millions in covert funding. Ambassador Munter will be on top of erecting the largest diplomatic fortress – a mini-pentagon of sorts – on the face of the planet.
America's foreign policy in Pakistan is now becoming a multi-headed monster. And, there are wars within-within the Department of State, between State and the Department of Defense (DoD) and DoD versus the intelligence apparatus. The principal executioners of Uncle Sam's policy in this country are Secretary Clinton, Secretary Gates, Ambassador Holbrooke, Ambassador Munter, Ambassador Raphel and USAID Director Andy Sisson.
Holbrooke, the 'Balkans Bulldozer', along with the tough-talking Munter as his hangman, are bent upon bulldozing America's policy over Pakistan. Raphel is known as Clinton's 'eyes and ears' in Islamabad and Sisson, the new addition, was once associated with the National War College. There once was this 'Hillary effect on ambassadorial nominations'. No more. Ambassador Munter's nomination indicates that Holbrooke & Co is winning and Clinton is losing colour (Munter is Holbrooke's protégé having served him in Europe when Holbrooke headed the Europe desk).
To be certain, America is re-evaluating its post-flood Af-Pak policy. Holbrooke-Munter & Co does not necessarily want to redefine America's policy in this country but have always been more prone to rely on the military half of the government rather than the civilian half.
Obama has handed over Af-Pak – or is it Pak-Af now – to Bulldozer and his Hangman. Washingtonians say, "If you have a bulldozer, you don't need a snow shovel." And they know that a "hangman is a good trade, he doth his work by daylight."