Economic Protectionism Threatens National Security
by southasiawatch, Thu Jul 23, 2009 at 06:56:27 AM EDT
Economic protectionism does more than threaten economic recovery these days, it also threatens national security. Economists agree that economic protectionism is a losing strategy for strengthening GDP. Barriers to free trade and commerce actually harm native economies by proliferating protectionism globally as nations respond by passing defensive barriers of their own.
But the domestic economy is not the only thing threatened by some protectionism under consideration in the US Congress right now. The Kansas City Star reports, a new trade measure proposed by the White House would provide for "Reconstruction Opportunity Zones" in Pakistan, a lynchpin in the war on terror.
The administration strongly supports the zones, which if successful, could generate employment and help quell the terrorist threats to the U.S. and its forces fighting the Taliban-al-Qaida insurgency in neighboring Afghanistan.
"If this (bill) was amended, it could really turn things around," said Afan Aziz, the chairman of the Northwest Frontier Province wing of the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association. "It could, we estimate, provide employment for 700,000 to 800,000 people, and think of all the families that would support. Then, no one would want to turn to the gun."
Richard Holbrooke, U.S. special envoy for the region, said the last month the aim of the bill is to rebuild the lives of refugees displaced by the Pakistan army's clashes with local Taliban insurgents and al-Qaida. "An opportunity for them to have this kind of chance through this bill is all the more important," Holbrooke said.
Of course, domestic interests groups are up in arms about the threat of having to compete on a level playing field, and are putting their own advantage above that of the security of the nation.
On the other side of the debate are U.S. textile manufacturers, who said that any easing of the restrictions approved by the House last month will threaten American workers in a sector that's already lost tens of thousands of jobs.
As we have learned from the past few years, economic desperation too often plays a role in the recruiting of low-level terrorists. The recent confession of Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, a gunman in last year's terrorist assault on Mumbai, shows that he was lured into the world of Islamic terrorism by the idea that he would make more money.
"I don't think I am innocent," he told the court Monday, and then proceeded to tell the story of how he went from being a poorly paid shop assistant in small-town Pakistan to the face of the carnage in Mumbai.
At first, he said, all he wanted was to be a bandit. So he and a friend headed for Rawalpindi, a city near Pakistan's capital and the country's military headquarters. They searched for bearded men, figuring Islamist militants could train them to use weapons and fight, according to the court's record of Mr. Kasab's confession, which offered no indication of when the events took place.
Allowing Pakistan to grow its domestic economy and provide jobs and economic opportunity for Pakistanis is a vital effort to building on recent successes and defeating militants. Failing to pass the measure to provide "Reconstructino Opportunity Zones" in Pakistan is just too great.