Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Pakistan is really tough. As I said the other day, they are not committed to our fight, are sitting on about 100 nuclear bombs, have a weak government, see India as the main threat to their homeland, and are overwhelmingly anti-American. And that’s just for openers.

Add that Pakistan provides a sanctuary for:

1. Their local Taliban

2. Indigenous tribal warlords who hate the government

3. Mullah Omar and the Afghani Taliban leadership

4. Plus Osama Bin Laden with his Al Qaeda buddies

And you get the feeling we’ve got a bit of a problem on our hands.

Our leverage is almost nonexistent. Traditional ploys and genuine good deeds don’t work:

1. We agree to give them $7.5 billion in economic assistance over the next five years and they’re pissed off because they think we’re adding too many conditions.

2. We give them billions in military aid and it’s either the wrong kind or not enough.

3. We talk sweetly to them and they don’t respond.

4. We talk tough to them and they don’t respond.

5. The conventional wisdom on the streets and in the universities is that because of our war in Afghanistan terrorists are killing and maiming their people.

6. From time to time our drones take out some bad guys, but inevitably kill innocents in the process, which fuels their anger at us.

7. It is said they tacitly approve of our actions, but those views never see the light of day.

The main reason we are in this fight is to limit Al Qaeda’s capacity to attack us again. That’s a valid justification. And I could argue that even though our strategy hasn’t succeeded, we have thrown them off balance. But that’s a puny payoff.

Now we’re being asked to take another giant step down this road. The trouble is that the road we’re on doesn’t lead to the bad guys. One, it’s still under construction and two, even if we make it into a sleek superhighway it won’t take us to where we need to go – the mountains of northwest Pakistan.

Again, the hawks will say if we don’t stay the course in Afghanistan the Taliban will retake the country and provide a safe haven for Al Qaeda as they did in the 90’s. And we’ll be back to where we were before 9/11. Maybe they’re right. Which brings us full circle. We cannot win unless the Afghans step up and make it happen.

As for Pakistan – there is a chance. They need to be tough on their internal enemies and stifle the fissiparous tendencies with which they are confronted. If they do they can buy the time they need for education, economic development and social justice to take root. This will open up new possibilities for their people to lead satisfying, peaceful lives. We should offer to be helpful, but in the end it is up to them.


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