The House Foreign Affairs Committee is set to mark up a fiscal 2012 State Department and foreign assistance authorization bill, and there’s some concern that the committee has aid to Pakistan in its sights. But the statements and actions of the House Foreign Affairs Committee do not represent a shift in US policy to Pakistan, they represent American politicians playing domestic politics in anticipation of the coming election year.
In fact, it’s not just Pakistan that’s in the cross-hairs of House budget hawks. The same committee also voted to end funding for the Organization of American States, calling the 63-year-old DC-based institution, “an enemy of the U.S. and an enemy to the interests of freedom and security.”
Keep in mind that the House is also where we’re seeing a fight over whether or not to fund the US. Politico’s Mike Allen reported yesterday that Republicans are fracturing over the way some in their caucus are handling budget issues.
Establishment Republicans practically spit contempt for what they call “the default caucus” – the small number of House and Senate members who say they won’t vote to raise the debt ceiling under any circumstances.
With Republicans still without a clear leader going into 2012, House Republicans are playing to a very conservative base that has a strong isolationist strain. Some of this is being acted out with no shortage of theatrics. This does not mean that official policy towards Pakistan – or any other state – has changed. In fact, just recently State Department Spokesperson Victorian Nuland reiterated that, “with regard to U.S. civilian assistance to Pakistan, that continues unchanged.”
The often confusing and opaque world of foreign diplomacy is difficult enough when trying to navigate the standard obstacles of language and culture. We should be careful, though, not to mistake what are domestic political battles for shifts in official policy towards any nation. The House Foreign Affairs Committee is an important and influential body, but at the end of the day, it is only one part of an intricate and balanced political process.