- By David RothkopfDavid Rothkopf is visiting professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His latest book is The Great Questions of Tomorrow. He has been a longtime contributor to Foreign Policy and was CEO and editor of the FP Group from 2012 to May 2017.
Reading this weekend’s New York Times‘s article on the deftness and ease with which the rich in Pakistan avoid paying taxes, an idea struck me. Well, actually to be perfectly honest, it struck my father — who passed it along to me. The fact that he is currently lying in a hospital being pumped full of mind-altering drugs doesn’t in any way undermine the quality of the idea. In fact, it just makes me want some of those drugs.
Because it is an idea of striking clarity and manifold levels of appeal.
In short, it may well be that two of the biggest threats facing the United States America — the decay of nuclear Pakistan and the rise of the Tea Party movement here at home — suggest a grand solution fraught with opportunity (and delicious ironies).
We need to keep an eye on Pakistan, but can’t officially send troops there. Further, we can’t afford to keep the ones we have in Afghanistan (who are actually there to keep an eye on Pakistan … shhhh … don’t tell anyone) there indefinitely. And beyond that, we don’t want to put our valued troops needlessly at risk.
At the same time, at home we are confronted by a new political movement whose leaders drape themselves in the flag and then proceed to espouse a worldview that is alternatively un-American (anti-immigration in a nation of immigrants, anti-personal freedoms like choice, pro-infusion of politics with religion) and ante-diluvian (anti-science, pro-vigilantism, pro-solving problems at the point of a gun). They are out of place here and lord knows — given our history of success without them — they are expendable.
The tea-baggers want a country? Let’s give them one: send them to Pakistan.
It’s a marriage made in heaven. Admittedly, there may be some disagreement as to which heaven, but let’s leave that to them to work it out.
Think of the ways the Tea-bagger worldview makes Pakistan a much more natural place for them to live than America:
- Tax Policy: As noted at the outset and in the Times article, inequality in Pakistan is growing at least in part due to one of the reasons that it is here: the rich don’t have to pay taxes. Here, we can thank George W. Bush for that. There, they can thank inefficiency and corruption. But the result is the same: the U.S. government has got to cut big checks to make up the difference in both places — as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised to do again this week while visiting Pakistan. But if the tea-baggers left and that eliminated political obstacles to actually implementing sensible tax policies in America, perhaps we could stop kiting those checks and starting writing ones we can actually cover.
- Gun Control: Sharron Angle will be in hog heaven in Pakistan. (Except for the absence of hogs, given Islamic prohibitions on the consumption of pork, of course.) But Harry Reid’s certifiably loony gun-loving opponent will love the fact that there ain’t no silly debates about the meaning of the Second Amendment in Pakistan. There are probably more AK-47s in the country than there are books (see how perfect this fit is?). What’s more, in places like Baluchistan and Waziristan, it makes a heck of a lot of sense to actually have one than it does say, well, anywhere in the United States. What’s more, returning fire in a gun-battle with extremists seems a lot more ethically defensible than hunting moose from a helicopter. (You helicopter hunters know who you are. You can’t deny it. It’s irrefudiatable.)
- Religious Tolerance: Pakistan offers many provinces where the level of religious tolerance is seemingly the same as that of the tea-baggers-roughly zero. Admittedly, tea-bagger intolerance is manifest in the factually-dodgy assertion that America is a "Christian nation" founded on "Christian principles," whereas extremist intolerance in Pakistan is manifest in stoning non-believers to death. But the distance between these two views is actually must less than it appears to be at first glance.
- Love of Foreigners– Again, nearly zero. Angle and her Teabuddies want to shut down our borders and criminalize looking Mexican. The Pakistanis have long had their own border problems and, the recent "trade deal" with Afghanistan aside, they have had real problems getting along with their neighbors. In fact, they are as allergic to foreign influences as America’s extreme right — and both are united in their hatred of Hollywood values and Lady Gaga.
- Foreign Policy: Quite apart from all the above reasons, there are probably mountaintops in Pakistan from which you can see the former Soviet Union. Which we know is all it takes for tea bag political hobbyists, including the Queen Tea Bag herself, to assert foreign policy expertise and affords yet another link between these two seemingly different but actually remarkably similar groups.
Here is a country with a large population committed to policies rooted in the values and outlook of centuries ago and a large group of Americans with a similar nostalgia for hangings, gunfights, superstition, racial and religious conflict and witch hunts. So theoretically, despite Pakistan’s historically documented, deeply rooted strain of anti-Americanism, this may well be the one group of Americans with whom they have the most in common and thus, the ones with the best chance of building the bridge we need between our two cultures. And if we had to learn to live with less of the mean-spirited, misguided shrillness of the bagger rhetoric, I think we could handle it. And if it all ended badly for all involved, well, we could probably live with that, too.