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The Diplomatic “(Non) Apology”

Drone attacks or half-hearted apologies - Pakistan remains the beneficiary of both.

Something happened recently that forever destroyed the goodwill of an apology and set a new Gold Standard for ambiguous responses to future diplomatic screw-ups.

On July 3, 2012, US Secretary Hillary Clinton issued a statement over the Salala massacre in Pakistan last November – which had, inter alia, the words “regret”, “condolence”, “mistake” and “sorry” at strategic places with enough ambiguity to leave something for everyone. http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2012/07/03/secretary-clinton-apology-to-pakistan-is-slap-in-face/

For the last seven months, the entire journalist-analyst-strategist universe was incessantly speculating on whether or not the US should apologise over the Salala massacre and its possible implications.

Why an apology? Here’s a small background. As it dawned on Obama that he is at heart a republican, and sovereignty is just a myth, he decided to have some fun with his drone toys and bomb away the bomber-friendly regions of North Waziristan in Pakistan. On November 26, 2011 US-led NATO troops also decided to join the fun and promptly attacked two border patrol check-posts in Salala killing 24 Pakistani soldiers. The troops were carrying just two Apaches, a gunship and were accompanied by a couple of fighter jets for good measure.

This led to a lot of bitching on both sides with claims of “you shot first” and “no, you shot first”, till everybody stopped caring. Pakistan immediately closed all routes of NATO supplies to Afghanistan and the US stopped dropping bags of cash on the roofs of the military and ISI headquarters.

Fearing a backlash from the world peace activists of Difa-e-Pakistan and the rising popularity of the messiah of the masses, Imran Khan, Pakistan started begging the US for an apology so that things could go back to the normalcy of the great old days of sovereignty, democracy and peace. And like an estranged couple with a love-child unable to bear the expenses in this neo-austere world, they decided to mend their relationship – but ONLY for the sake of their beloved Afghanistan. Which meant a cool billion dollars thrown at Pakistan by the US, and Pakistan throwing open the far cheaper GLOC supply routes.

Coming back to Hillary’s statement, the was-it-or-was-it-not apology sent journos, analysts, strategists and their half-brothers into a tizzy in their effort to make sense of the statement and spin it to support their version.

To understand what I am trying to say, let us see some of the tweets.

@nytimes: Pakistan Opens NATO Supply Line as Clinton Apologizes

@pragmatic_d: Ha. NYT headline says Clinton Apologizes whereas the story actually explains why it is not an apology.

@dawn_com: Pakistan opens Nato routes after US apology

@OmarWaraich: Artfully diluted in 2 ways: mutual acknowledgment & passive voice in describing mistakes. Not: “We’re sorry for what we did.”

@CChristineFair: Pak Opens GLOCS as Clinton Apologizes

@dhume01: Obama non-apology: the president “personally express(ed) his condolences on the tragic loss of 24 Pakistani soldiers this past week.”

@India_Today: Pak to reopen NATO supply routes as Clinton says ‘sorry’ for air strikes

@seemasirohi: “Sorry”= apology (suppose) but Clinton didn’t admit attack as mistake. Clever drafting on display.

@dhume01: Sorry @Reuters but if @AP @WSJ & @NYTimes agree that it’s an apology, then it’s a US apology

@d_jaishankar: The US “apology” to Pakistan (http://goo.gl/6YUXU) actually reads more like an acknowledgment of Pakistani culpability.

@chellaney: U.S. and Pakistan kiss and make up after a 7-month standoff. All it took was a U.S. apology, with a mollified Pakistan waiving transit fee.

@MichaelKugelman: Hm…good post by @FiveRupees; seems Clinton didn’t really apologize after all. But apparently it sufficed…

@pragmatic_d: Yes, that’s why it is not an apology but a regret. US-Pak Bottomline: Not a penny more for NATO trucks, no apology for Salala attack, no end to drone strikes. But wait for Pak spin now.

@binaryfootprint: She is sorry for the loss of lives not the attack..

You get the point by now.

Anyway, the masterfully-drafted statement by Madame Hillary seems to make everyone happy, with enough material to justify saying “what they have always been saying” and to justify doing “what they have always been doing.”

It also had something for the Taliban. And the religious groups of Pakistan. And Difa-e-Pakistan. They have the NATO supply trucks to attack! And they promptly pledged to die for their cause by killing the drivers. And they have 72 virgins waiting for them in heaven.

All’s Well That Ends Well.

I, for one, can never trust an apology anymore. I am going to put my fingers in my ears and go “Salalalalalalalalalala” blocking out the apologies and feeling nostalgic about the good old days when “lalalalala” meant a young and gorgeous Preity Zinta frolicking under a waterfall and going “Ya Hoooooo!!!”.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dA4vscgKqBE

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  • Munna

    Lol ! Very well articulated. I liked it very much. Waiting for more columns from you

  • Pingback: Supply routes opened for no money, no apology, no end to drone strikes - Page 7

  • Mounika

    Very well written article Ajay. Expecting many such articles from u.

  • ATA

    good one Mr. Ajayendar …. Waiting to see more such articles from you…
    Special thanks for bringing Preity Zinta in your article ;-)

  • armaan nayar

    your article roll down on a slippery slope so badly that I was about to leave it in between the way. its a bad article, low in substance and certainly drowning in sea of language. no need of exhibition of such a twitter continuum. though the said platform prohibits articulation of thoughts with the help of multidimensional and serious constituents but whenever I start reading anything in connection with DIPLOMACY or FOREIGN POLICY, I expect glued version of sophistication. you want to try another station, you can but I believe you need to gear up a lot for getting a welcome there. don’t produce a JOURNALISTIC excerpt of an event (certainly not madhu trehan’s vocabulary, she put even teleology to shame). I read you want to enter the domain of professional diplomats, but article seems far from such expected production. OR is it too much I am expecting on NEWSLAUNDARY. BUT STILL ITS ABOUT DIPLOMACY AT THE END OF THE DAY which should be kept away from journalistic version of lower-middle class novel expressions.

  • ajayendar

    I don’t understand your grievance with the article..or is your grievance aimed at newslaundry or madhu trehan or the world? the aim of the article was to show the readers the amusing reaction of a confused the journalist-analyst world to the clinton’s ‘apology’ and it certainly did that.
    Regarding your comment about me wanting to enter the domain of professional diplomats, I think Clinton’s statement is great lesson in diplomacy and I certainly played an ode to that.
    If the aim of your comment was only to rile a few feathers, you are more than welcome to do that. After all, critisizing the media is the raison d’etre of newslaundry and i am sure people here won’t be disturbed by criticism aimed at them.
    I am wondering now if asking for a bit of coherence in criticism a bit too much to ask for?

    • armaan nayar

      Coherence in an article, which claim to be an analytical work(especially if it is about diplomacy and international relation) is precondition to ever get qualify for scrutiny. you failed miserably on that. may be you have never ever read an article from a diplomat or you read too much of mainstream commercial media. personal introduction of yours is a mismatch with the bottom line of yours comprehension. whatever! i read newslaundary sometimes and comment on this article was a reaction of mine which i still hold as affirm as when i wrote the comment. you don’t want to take the criticism and translate it in the language of ” I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT’S YOUR PROBLEM”, your wish. in that case, i have no interest in commenting on your article. Self rightness is antithesis to criticism and you certainly seems averse to ultimate synthesis. your article, your page and your analysis, i have no interest to react to it anymore. CARRY ON WHATEVER YOU WRITE.

    • armaan nayar

      Coherence in an article, which claim to be an analytical work(especially if it is about diplomacy and international relation) is precondition to ever get qualify for scrutiny. you failed miserably on that. may be you have never ever read an article from a diplomat or you read too much of mainstream commercial media. personal introduction of yours is a mismatch with the bottom line of yours comprehension. whatever! i read newslaundary sometimes and comment on this article was a reaction of mine which i still hold as affirm as when i wrote the comment. you don’t want to take the criticism and translate it in the language of ” I DON’T UNDERSTAND YOUR GRIEVANCE”, your wish. in that case, i have no interest in commenting on your article. Self rightness is antithesis to criticism and you certainly seems averse to ultimate synthesis. your article, your page and your analysis, i have no interest to react to it anymore. CARRY ON WHATEVER YOU WRITE.

      • ajayendar

        As i made clear in my comment, i am not against criticism. You are more than welcome to have your opinion on the content and style. I only asked for some coherence in your criticism. I sincerely believe you misunderstood the aim of my article. It is not an analytical work on diplomacy or international relation and certainly didn’t claim to be one; a great amount of analysis was done on this subject by people much more capable than me. My intention was to make aware the readers about the amusing confusion that clinton’s statement has caused in the world of International relations analysts. I started off declaring the ambiguity of her statement and by the end established that through the twitter reactions. It was a great achievment on her part to keep happy, two heavily polarized sides. Do you disagree with that? Which is exactly why i am unable to understand you grievance at the lack of niche analysis on diplomacy and international relation as i wasn’t trying to provide any.

  • ajayendar

    the comment below is for mr.armaan nayar