Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wisely called Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar Tuesday to express regret over a U.S. air strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last November. She also issued a statement saying, “We are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military.”
As a welcome result, the Pakistan government agreed to finally re-open crucial supply routes and border crossings that NATO forces need for their continuing mission in Afghanistan.
Another result: Some Americans are again decrying what they at times fairly regard as President Barack Obama’s misguided impulse to apologize for America when no apology is warranted.
But in this case, the administration said it was sorry only after a diplomatic standoff, which lasted more than seven months, over that U.S. air strike.
And for what it’s worth, Secretary Clinton’s statement did not include the words “apologize” or “apology.”
That didn’t stop Pakistani Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira from rubbing it in Tuesday by saying: “The reality is that the nation has been able to bring the world superpower to offer an apology.”
While that gloating is galling, and while our armed forces report that the air strike was an act of justified self-defense, eating a little crow to get the big concession of re-opened supply routes was the right move. The accord might even help reverse the general deterioration of U.S.-Pakistan relations.
As Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., put it in a statement of his own: “I am very pleased we were able to resolve this situation and am hopeful we can now build stronger relationships with Pakistan, particularly in the area of counterterrorism operations. These supply lines are essential to supporting our troops in Afghanistan, and I believe the terms and conditions negotiated by Secretary Clinton’s team are acceptable to American interests throughout the region.”
And lest President Obama’s critics forget, one reason Pakistan is upset with America is his bold decision to take out Osama bin Laden 14 months ago with a Navy SEALs mission deep inside that nation.
The gratifying success of that operation, prudently launched without warning to Pakistani officials, can’t erase President Obama’s foreign policy missteps, including his continuing failure to slow Iran’s march toward a nuclear arsenal.
And certainly the United States shouldn’t make a habit of saying we’re sorry when we’ve done nothing wrong.
But as the current commander in chief has learned over the last three and a half years, it’s much easier to criticize a president’s foreign and military policy decisions than to make them.
And while saying “we are sorry” to Pakistan leaves a sour taste, knowing that it will help U.S. and NATO troops makes that bitter medicine easier to swallow.