Pakistan is not an Islamist theocracy like Iran. It is ultimately a democracy where governments are elected. It of course has a long history of military rule, but I would separate Pakistan from Iran and how it should be treated by the West.
I think Iran is far more complicated, with issues that trace back to its revolution in 1979 . That plays into difficulties with Saudi Arabia and the U.S and the politics of the Middle East. Pakistan, on the other hand, is an ally to the West for many reasons. It is a country that the U.S. relied on to help force the Soviets out of Afghanistan; something that ultimately led to the collapse of Soviet Union.
Pakistan is used by the U.S. and indeed other western allies to restrain India - a country which has shown phenomenal growth over the years. China also views Pakistan as geographically important. China has recently opened seaports in Balochistan province and it's spending billions of dollars to create an economic corridor from China all the way through Pakistan to the Arabian Sea.
“The West really has no choice in its reliance on Pakistan, because of where it sits in the world.”
But when it comes to the West and its reliance on Pakistan as an ally, the West really has no choice because of where it sits in the world; also because of Iran and its return to the global stage after the nuclear agreement. Pakistan is useful to the U.S, to the UK, but it's also useful to countries like China.
We mustn’t forget that Pakistan does act as a negative force, especially in countries like Afghanistan. That relationship has proven to be very problematic especially for the U.S. The U.S. spent extraordinary amounts of blood and treasure in Afghanistan but the results of that effort is falling apart. Afghans and many quarters in the U.S. blame Pakistan for this because of Pakistan's support for groups including the Taliban.
Pakistan has paid a high price for this double game. On the one hand, it’s supporting the West. On the other hand it’s supporting armed groups. These groups have ultimately turned on Pakistan and in the last seven or eight years Pakistan has seen extraordinary violence inflicted on its own civilian population. Strong tactics by the current outgoing military chief General Sharif have subdued this somewhat. So while Pakistan has tried to play its own game and assert its own muscle, regionally that has blown back on them. But I think the West still needs Pakistan as an ally for lots of reasons.
The short answer to this question is ‘we don’t know exactly’. The longer answer requires a closer examination of the relation between news media and society. This involves concepts such as media power, audience reception and of course morals.
The thing about media power is that researchers don’t agree on how much influence the media have. If we go back to, say, the 1930s it was generally accepted among media researchers (and politicians for that matter) that the media were all powerful. Propaganda machineries had their heyday in totalitarian societies, best exemplified by Fascist and Communist states.
These countries would systematically produce propaganda to influence their populations’ sense of ethics and morals, focusing on topics such as race superiority or the evils of capitalism. For today’s viewer these news products can seem crude, but they did influence thousands if not millions of people at the time.
However, people’s understanding of news media changed and with it the perceptions of media research. As news media proliferated with the advent of TV and online media it became clear that the relation between media content and audience perception isn’t 1:1. People use news media in different ways and while some will accept the messages others will negotiate or perhaps even reject them. Some very recent and very illustrative examples of this are the British EU referendum and the US election.
Some researchers argued for an ‘agenda setting’ model where the media might not determine what we think but they do influence what we think about. In this view, ethical and moral dilemmas can be brought up by the news media but it’s up to the individual consumer to decide their own stance. Other researchers argued for a ‘framing’ model where the news media present things in certain ways to promote certain viewpoints. In this view, news media will suggest ethical and moral stances but it’s still not given that the audience will buy into them.
“The boundaries between right and wrong are constantly moving. What was right 100 years ago might be wrong today, and what was wrong then might be right now.”
What we can with some certainty say, however, is that the boundaries between right and wrong are constantly moving. What was right 100 years ago might be wrong today, and what was wrong then might be right now. Think death penalty and homosexuality. The news media play a role in drawing and redrawing the lines between right and wrong in our society by raising moral issues, identifying wrongdoers and suggesting solutions.
One of the central platforms for this is crime news. Crime plays a very small part in most people’s lives, but it still takes up a very large proportion of the news we consume. Crime news often follow the same pattern: a crime is committed, the police investigates, arrests are made, sentences are given. In that respect, crime news is rarely ‘new’. However, it can be seen as a ‘daily moral exercise’ where we as citizens get to recalibrate our moral compass and make sure we’re in line with what is acceptable and what is not.
Another way the news media can influence our ideas of ethics and morals is through moral panics. This was explored by the sociologist Stan Cohen, who explored how the mods and rockers of 1960s Britain were demonised and labelled as and public threats by the news media. To begin with these two groups weren’t much more than bored teenagers going to the seaside and getting into arguments with other groups. But as the news media picked up on the story (and dramatized it quite heavily) the panic spread and youth culture became a moral matter. It arguably still is, since young people and their habits are often criticised for being immoral.
So the longer answer says that ethics and morals are constantly negotiated and renegotiated and the news media play an important role in this. It’s impossible to put a number on it, and each individual and each social group will probably respond to news in different ways. But it’s undeniable that there is some influence. Finally, since this text is a media text, I’ve also, very subtly, incorporated some ethical and moral stances of my own in the hope that the reader will adapt them. Failing that, though, I will just have to accept that the reader is perfectly capable of making up their own mind. By the end of the day, that’s what we’ve all got to do when it comes to ethics and morality.
In the short term, at least, they seem to be on the back foot. The land they control in Syria in Iraq is shrinking – and they controlled, for a time, a territory the size of the United Kingdom. Their leading people on the battlefield, quite senior people, are being killed. Their capability to launch the sort of attacks they have before is ebbing away, which suggests a period of relative decline.
Their goal was always to turn the entire planet to God’s greater glory – to bring about the end of days and the second coming of the Lord. This is a group that ultimately has a milleniarian vision of transforming the world in God’s image. That’s a very high bar to clear, but they start with what they start with, and build upwards. For IS, they were always very focused on their Levantine space, and if you read the ancient texts, you’ll see that those lands are very important, as the place where the war that will transform everything will start. So they had a vision of the world as it should be, but they’re also people who don’t much like the governments in those places, which leads to this mesh of personal angers and a bigger ideology which knit quite tightly together.
What is still going well for them is that they continue to exist, and are able to launch some quite substantial attacks, and to control a certain amount of territory. For a group like this, survival is important. And the attacks outside their territory are important, in a number of ways. They’re attacks on an enemy – you’re fighting us, so we’ll fight you. And there’s a political idea behind it as well – they’re trying to stir an ultimate clash of civilisations between the West and Islam and bring about the end of days.
With the taking out of their leaders, there’s a debate in the counter-terrorism community about what it actually means. Some people think decapitation of a terrorist organisation leads to bigger problems – what you’ll sometimes see is that after the removal of a senior figure, factions within the organisation will want to rise up and prove themselves, which they’ll do by doing something more atrocious than the last guy.
You look at al-Shabab in Somalia for example – their leader was killed, the next guy comes in, and you see the Westgate mall attack. The other model is that if you decapitate groups, they sometimes wither and die. You think of the Shining Path in Peru – their leader was taken out, and it kind of disappeared, because it turns out it was really a one-man band.
But an aggressive attrition of the middle ranks of people does have an impact on a group’s ability to function. If you keep hammering that middle level, you break the fighters away from the leadership, and that’s what we’ve seen happening to Islamic State recently. The leaders have to stay hidden, and aren’t in contact with many people. But if you take out the people around them, their ability to direct the organisation changes – if the guy who was looking after the accounts gets killed, who has that information now? Maybe there was a guy who knew where all the safe houses were. Look at Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, who was very involved with Islamic State’s external operations – when he was killed, a lot of those would have been lost, or confused. A lot of these relationships are built on trust, and that doesn’t automatically transfer to the next guy.
The numbers which have been circulating recently suggest that the numbers of people from Europe going to fight with Islamic State is down to 10% of what it was last year. There are two main reasons for that. One is that security forces in Europe and elsewhere have a much better understanding of how recruitment networks function, and how to disrupt them. The other is the fact that the attraction of the group has reduced: Islamic State is no longer as powerful and successful as it was. If I’m going to go off and fight for someone, I don’t want to fight with a bunch of losers.
Raffaello Pantucci is the author of We Love Death As You Love Life: Britain’s Suburban Terrorists.
He righted a sinking ship at the start of his first term. You go all the way back to the 2008... not just recession, far worse than that. Coming in, providing the confidence that America wasn’t going to go into a depression, pushing through the stimulus package, getting out of the immediate crisis in the financial and banking system, that’s a huge achievement. We now know that we should have seen it coming, that the entire foundations of the global financial system were on very shaky timbers, but everyone had blinded themselves to that or talked it away, so when it hit, towards the end of the Bush administration, it hit so quickly, and the Bush administration was frankly hapless.
Since then, if you look at the measures we usually look at, for example employment, inflation rate, he’s been pretty steady. The US has had a long period of gradual economic growth, there’s been a recovery in jobs, it has come out of recession, inflation is still very low, the stock market continues to rise, and that’s all very solid.
All that said, there are issues around the economy. Obamacare has still not dealt with the related problems of an American healthcare system which is still far too expensive and does not provide for all citizens, or reisdents. And there’s this intangible, which is that a lot of people don’t feel like they’re better off.
Since the 1980s, there has been a rise in income disparity between the wealthiest and poorest, largely because of the policies of the Reagan administration, which simply slashed taxes on the people at the top end. America really hasn’t dealt with that income disparity issue for a generation, because it would force very tough policies on taxes, for example. It has not dealt with changes in trade and investment in a global market, which is why you get so much backlash, which Trump has seized upon, against trade agreements.
So you can’t call Obama’s administration a real boom period, like we had under Bill Clinton in the 1990s, coming out of the end of Cold War, but when Obama came into office in 2009, he quite rightly said that the Bush administration had been like a group of boys that had been partying for eight years, so it was a question of coming into a relatively wrecked house and trying to rebuild it.
So Obama put out the fire, but does that mean the structure is completely rebuilt? Well, no, but that’s not purely an American issue. We’re looking at a global economy which is retrenching for a number of reasons, and that’s going to last not just beyond Obama but beyond the next presidency. This is a generational issue.
A group of foreigners live together in a closely bounded area, often seeing each other for dinner or for children’s sporting events. The mothers usually see each other as they drop their children off at their mother-tongue school, sometimes meeting for coffee afterwards if they don’t have a husband coming home for lunch. They’ll usually order in their native language.Another group of foreigners live scattered across the city, meeting once a month for a political meeting. They are all fluent in the language of the host country, often married to locals, and most have jobs, but may use their native language often at work. As integrated as they are, they still like to work together for political aims in their home country, organizing extraterritorial voting, sometimes a protest against politics in their home country, sometimes just for a social event.
Here's the question: what do you call them? You might call them expatriates, you might call them migrants. What nationality did you think I was writing about above? If you thought I was talking about Turks, Pakistanis or Algerians, chances are that your thoughts went to ‘migrants’. If you thought I might be referring to UK citizens, Germans or US citizens, you might rather have thought of ‘expatriate’. Did those sound like “typical” behaviors of migrants? You’re right – they are. (And there are a lot of other behaviors that are “typical” also.) But I wasn’t talking about Turks, Moroccans, Algerians or Pakistanis. I was talking about UK citizens in the first scenario and US citizens in the second. Both are scenes you will routinely see in Brussels, where I live, and in many other cities around the world.So where’s the difference?
Migrants from the Global North, or OECD countries, tend most often to be referred to as expatriates, especially in Europe, whereas those from the Global South are more often called migrants. Yet my research with US citizens shows that these two groups have a great deal in common. They are often living in a foreign country for a number of years, with uncertain return plans. They share integration challenges – struggling to find work, coping with a new language. Children born abroad often cope with a “neither-nor”, or dual, identity. And perhaps, above all, they are seen as representing either their home country or their migrant group. The stereotypes and assumptions assigned to each group are of course different, but the phenomenon and mechanism of being identified first as belonging to a group and then as an individual is the same. Here is a link to a short piece I wrote, drawing on my research with US citizens in France, Germany and the UK, in which I reflect a bit more on this.
Amanda Klekowski von Koppenfels is the author of Migrants or Expatriates? Americans in Europe(Palgrave, 2014)