Waiting for That Biden-Imran Call


Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and US President Joe Biden.

There’s little the Pakistan Prime Minister can do to detoxify Biden’s thoughts.

Muhammad Ali Siddiqi

IS a call from Joe Biden to Imran Khan going to decide the fate of humanity, or of Afghanistan and Pakistan — singly or collectively? The answer seems to be a yes, going by the perturbation over the issue in some government circles who seem never to have bothered to know how the American ‘system’ circumscribes a president’s ability to be on his own. Only his aides would have told Donald Trump which countries share a border with China.

Americans by the very nature of their education are focused on their country. This is one of their major advantages and has made America great, but it also translates into a shocking inability to grasp the intricacies of a foreign, especially non-European problem. Yet, in spite of this legacy, some American executives excelled at geopolitics.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was in a class by himself and made Churchill sweat at Yalta. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the only president who participated in the two world wars, played his cards well during the Cold War, while Richard Nixon was exceptionally brilliant at external relations, helped in no small measure by that legend, Henry Kissinger. His people were unkind to him, but he proved his mettle after he was no more president. Also to leave a name in history is Jimmy Carter, who stunned the world by his dramatic success at Camp David, 1978, where Israel agreed to quit the Sinai Peninsula in return for Egyptian recognition of the Jewish state.

While the disastrous commando raid on Iran denied Carter a second term, Bill Clinton, a Rhodes scholar, was well-armed academically. Mauled by Monicagate, Clinton scuttled his chances of success at the three-party summit at Camp David 2000 by choosing confirmed Zionists, including Dennis Ross, Madeleine Albright and Martin Indyk, as his delegates. As pointed out by Clayton Swisher, in his book The Truth about Camp David, Clinton couldn’t play honest broker because his team acted as an Israeli delegation. Since then the quality of American presidents in terms of their grasp of international relations hasn’t inspired much confidence among friends and foes.


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