My colleague Anatol Lieven has an opinion piece on Pakistan in The Times today ‘Mistrust of the West is stronger in Pakistan than fear of the Taleban‘. Anatol is a guy I listen to carefully even if we disagree. In the article he writes what strikes me as amongst the most depressing conclusions I’ve heard in a long while. I wish he were wrong but I fear that he is not.
In a way, however, you really have to know only one fact to understand what is happening: and that, to judge by my meetings with hundreds of Pakistanis from all walks of life over the past nine months, is that the vast majority of people believe that the 9/11 attacks were not an act of terrorism by al-Qaeda, but a plot by the Bush Administration or Israel to provide an excuse to invade Afghanistan and dominate the Muslim world.
If that were not bad enough consider what are the chances that this attitude is not merely prevalent in Pakistan but pretty consistently held throughout the Muslim world? If we’re really in a ‘war of ideas’ the gulf between us suggests that it is going to last a long, long time.