Friday, May 6, 2011

Grenada and Pakistan - a striking difference

In a comment to the Doug Mataconis post that I previously cited, I mentioned an episode that I read about in Tip O'Neill's autobiography. Here's the episode, from the chapter of Man of the House that talks about the invasion of Grenada:

One of the points I raised turned out to be rather embarrassing.

"Grenada is part of the British Commonwealth," I said. "What does Mrs. Thatcher think about all this?"

"She doesn't know about it," said the president.

That didn't sound right to me. Mrs. Thatcher was our closest ally, so how could we go into Grenada without informing her? Clearly, in all their excitement about the invasion, the White House had overlooked the British connection.

Sure enough, as we left the meeting, Bob Michel, the House Republican leader, told me that the president was already on the phone with Margaret Thatcher. We could hear Reagan's side of the conversation, and from his fumbling and his apologies it was obvious that she was enraged.

What was the issue here? While the United States has its Monroe Doctrine in which we take a protective stance on behalf of the Americas, the United Kingdom also takes a protective stance on behalf of former members of its empire.

Foreign Affairs described the episode in this manner:

The British government's surprise and anger at the intervention was unconcealed. The foreign secretary opined that "no such action was called for" and regarded the involvement of the United States as "a matter of regret." Even Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, President Ronald Reagan's political soul mate, publicly broadcast her view that Western democracies should not use force to "walk into other people's countries."

What lay behind London's annoyance was the sure knowledge -- and not merely the suspicion -- that the British government had been deliberately kept in the dark about Washington's intention to invade Grenada, a small state that was regarded at the time as within the United Kingdom's sphere of influence.

So why is this relevant today?

Because it appears that in its operation to capture and kill Osama bin Laden, the United States sent forces into Pakistan, possibly without the knowledge of Pakistan.

And Pakistan is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.

Granted that there are differences between Grenada and the politically incorrect Geronimo operation. We did not invade Pakistan. Pakistan, unlike Grenada, is a powerful country that does not need British protection. The United Kingdom is on record as opposing bin Laden's organization, and was not officially opposed to the reign of Grenada's Revolutionary Military Council. And Pakistan has been in and out of the Commonwealth of Nations numerous times.

However, at the moment Pakistan is in the club; we trespassed within the country; and the United Kingdom didn't object.

The next meeting of the Commonwealth of Nations heads of government is going to be very interesting.
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