Ambassador Cameron Munter, American diplomat and career foreign service officer, spoke Feb. 6 at Riverside’s Mission Inn about perceptions of mistrust between the U.S. and Pakistan.
When Munter’s former high school history teacher introduced him, he said the ambassador “was the poster boy to critical thinking. He knew to question everything.”
Munter carried his critical-thinking skills into his career, working as the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan for two years and serving in Serbia, Baghdad, the Czech Republic and Poland.
Now Munter serves as a professor of international relations at Pomona College, where he received an honorary doctoral degree in 2012.
He said that the United States has been trying over the past serveral years to establish a long-term relationship with Pakistan.
In 2009, the United States set up a $7.5 billion long-term assistance program to help the country.
The problem, Munter said, is that the U.S. could not deal with the battle between Pakistan’s long-term and short-term needs.
“The problem that the United States has with Pakistan is that there is a set of dually narratives in both countries,” Munter said. “The Americans have a sense that the Pakistanis are duplicitous. We give them money. They don’t do what we say.”
Munter added that Pakistanis think the United States uses them whenever it wants. He said these narratives are what got in the way of making policy.
Most terrorists come out of Pakistan, Munter explained, but the terrorists are not under Pakistan’s control. The U.S. expected Pakistan would hunt down Osama Bin Laden, but the Pakistanis were unable to pursue him.
The U.S. shook its trust with Pakistan through intense pursuit of terrorism, Munter said.
During a drone strike four months ago, 50 Pakistani people were killed.
Dr. Daniel W. Skubik, professor of law, ethics and humanities and international lawyer, explained that there are “targeted” attacks and “signature” attacks.
Targeted attacks go after known terrorists and signature attacks target groups of people based on suspicious activity.
The drone strike Munter mentioned was a signature attack. Later, it was discovered that most, if not all, of those who died in the attack were innocent civilians, Skubik said.
Skubik added that signature attacks that kill innocent civilians happen because of poor decisions that are based on incomplete intelligence.
“As Ambassador Munter indicated, there are more signature attacks than there are targeted attacks,” Skubik said of that information.
The Pakistanis are opposed to U.S. drone attacks and to military activity in their country without the cooperation of their military, Skubik said.
“Ambassador Munter also said that the vast majority of Pakistanis, apart from the drone strikes and other military actions, like the United States and want to have a good relationship with the U.S., but they want their sovereignty respected by the United States,” Skubik said. “They want to have some say as to what goes on inside its borders.”
Munter offered a solution — the U.S. needs to lax its guard on terrorism and fix its relationships with other countries, such as India, China and Turkey.
The U.S. could act as a bridge or mediator to reduce the tension between the countries, Skubik said.
“On the one hand, the U.S. is in a good position to be a bridge or mediator because it has interests in good relations between India and China, has interests in good relations between Turkey and Iraq. It would be in the U.S. interest to see those tensions diminish,” Skubik said.
“On the other hand, because the U.S. has interests, and it’s known by India and China, or by Turkey and Iraq, that the U.S. has particular interests with (taking) a particular position on the issues between these countries … the U.S. might not be in the best position to be a mediator.”