Yesterday, the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority hailed the death of Osama bin Laden, calling it “good for the cause of peace worldwide.” That was so twenty-four hours ago.
Today, the “military wing” of Fatah, the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, said bin Laden’s death was a “catastrophe” carried out in a “treacherous manner” by “gangs of heretics” against “Jihad fighter” bin Laden, who “inscribed with his blood the landmarks of Jihad, leaving behind an entire generation that follows the path of Sheikh Osama.” They also cautioned the “American and Israeli occupier” not to get cocky.
These mixed messages highlight one of the most important and troubling attributes of Middle Eastern governments: they stink. Every one of them is riddled with corruption, double dealing, and factional in-fighting. The more “stable” ones keep this under control with methods that don’t sit very well with Americans. We expect a certain elegance to our corruption, and a shortage of hot lead in our in-fighting.
Pakistan is another good example. The government’s foreign office expressed happiness over his death, while certain other offices wondered what to do with the suddenly vacant house they built for him. President Obama’s 2012 budget included $3 billion in foreign aid to Pakistan. They’ve been getting billions from us for a long time. Some of that money paid for the fuel pumped into the jet fighters that tried to hunt down SEAL Team Six during their extraction.
White House counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan told Jake Tapper of ABC News, “It’s inconceivable that bin Laden did not have a support system in [Pakistan] that allowed him to remain there for an extended period of time.” However, “Pakistan has been responsible for capturing and killing more terrorists inside of Pakistan than any other country, and it’s by a wide margin.” For terrorist masterminds caught in Pakistan, it’s either a rope around the neck, or free cable TV.
The snake pits of the Middle East are not a welcome environment for simple, idealistic foreign policy. Are the people who harbored Osama bin Laden for ten years better, or worse, than Hosni Mubarak was? We gave him billions in foreign aid, too.