Former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Discusses Diplomacy at Oldenborg

Former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter gave a lecture entitled “Diplomacy and Crisis in Pakistan” on Sept. 14 at Pomona College’s Oldenborg Luncheon Colloquium. 

Munter, who also gave the Pomona commencement address this year, spoke at Oldenborg about rebuilding relations with Pakistan and touched on several events that occurred in the two years that he held office, including the covert mission that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011, the U.S. airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani troops and the closure of the NATO supply routes. Munter called his time in office, which lasted from October 2010 to May 2012, “a bit of an ordered retreat.”

On the topic of the 2012 U.S. election, Munter said that either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will have to work to repair U.S.-Pakistan relations, although he said that the current administration is more likely to balance short-term and long-term goals in Pakistan.

“Given the fiscal policies of the Republicans and given their concern about American military strength, I don’t think we are likely to see as much of a focus on Pakistan’s long-term prospects, and that may be, in fact, all we can afford,” Munter said. 

He said that the Democratic administration would keep a long-term commitment to areas that USAID funds, such as energy, education, health and infrastructure, whereas a Republican administration would likely make more cuts in aid.  

Concerning the Pakistani elections, which will be held in 2013, Munter said that wariness about the U.S. is expected. 

“Not too many people will get many votes for being the friends of Americans, just as here, not too many people will get the votes by being friends of Pakistan,” he said.  

Munter said that the two countries need to lower their expectations of one another. 

He said that the U.S. needs to “get away from the idea that we can transform a country with assistance, and instead look to things like business relationships where we show a social face of the United States.”

Professor of Economics Tahir Andrabi agreed with the former ambassador. 

“There is a need in the U.S. to see Pakistan through a lens other than that of terrorism,” Andrabi said. “There needs to be more of a people-to-people, business-to-business and economy-to-economy interaction.”

“Munter did a good job of outlining how easily bilateral relationships can change and how there is a fragile line between friendship and enmity in both countries,” Anna Turner PO ’15 said.

Professor Philip A. Streich, a visiting assistant professor of politics and international relations, spoke highly of the former ambassador.

“His perspective is that of a professional practitioner, but he comes from the viewpoint of a scholar as well,” Streich said. “He knows about the deeper issues, the factors, causes, correlations of different phenomena like violence, unrest and the deeper meaning of the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan. He understands the need for having empathy.” 

“It was an excellent talk,” Reid Goodman PO ’15 said. “The ambassador drew on parallels between both countries and addressed issues in a very humanizing way.” 

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