Sunday, May 8, 2011

Bin Laden and Pakistani Aid

Osama Bin Laden has been killed. People are celebrating. I don't think we should be celebrating. Pakistan should certainly not be celebrating. As a Westerner in the UAE, I see moderate Arab Muslims shrugging their shoulders and those more conservative shaking their heads. No one is shouting. Pakistanis, notably those from Peshawar and the surrounding region,  give off no impression at all. But they in particular, should be worried. Take a look at this picture from the NYT:

If 96% went towards military, what does that leave little ol' development (plus overhead)? Not very bloody much. And now, with Osama dead, can we expect this stream to continue? Not bloody likely. Looking at it this way, it has been in Pakistan's best interest to keep Osama hidden and keep the taps flowing.

Traditionally, this is the time when the US disengages from a situation and leaves a mess for other organizations to fill in. The prize has been won. This reminds me of this video from a few years back in which Thomas Barnett makes a hawkish, yet perfectly acceptable presentation about how the US military needs to be comprehensively engaged in post war efforts to build peace and security.

Of course, Osama's death does not make this a post conflict zone, and in fact may do just the opposite.  Nonetheless, the strategic switch from offensive to developmental should be engaged.

I read a statistic from Paul Collier once (which I can't find now, of course) that said something like 40% of post conflict zones in the past 15 years that have attained some kind of peace have reverted back into hostile zones.

I brought up military spending at work today. People were surprised to hear that the US spends about as much as the entire rest of the world combined on their armed forces. A Syrian friend of mine replied lamenting about how rich his country would be if they weren't continuously funding the military. I told him of the untold billions Canadian PM Stephen Harper is going to spend on fighter jets. "For what?" he said.