Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Pakistan is all over the news these days. And well it should be. Our relationship with Pakistan is a complicated mess. I won’t even try to sort out all the pieces, just a few.

We are reluctant allies who need and don’t trust the other.

We violated their sovereignty when we went into their country to get Bin Laden without asking or telling them. They didn’t like us doing that.

We don’t care that they don’t like what we did. We’d do it again.

We think they are playing a double game – supporting our war on terror while aiding and abetting terrorists.

We think that if we tell them what we’re going to do they’ll tell our enemies.

They have weak political leadership, a failing economy and a stockpile of nuclear weapons that could fall into the hands of the bad guys. They say the weapons are secure. We’re not so sure.

They think their main enemy is India. We disagree.

They say they are actively pursuing the bad guys on their border with Afghanistan. We don’t think they’re doing enough to stop the flow of men and materiel being used against us.

Since 9/11, and before, we’ve sent them billions of dollars in aid, much of which has probably been wasted, stolen or misused.

And so on . . .

While I’ve lived in South Asia for years and visited many times I’ve never been to Pakistan. I confess to holding a negative opinion of Pakistan since I was in India in the 1960’s. The Pak military was cozy with our military and seen as an ally against the Soviet Union. India was cozy with the Soviets. From our embassy in Delhi we tried to tell Washington that it was shortsighted to not question Pakistan’s motives. Few American policymakers bought our assessment. I was happy when E. Pakistan rebelled against W. Pakistan and became Bangladesh in 1971.

It is tempting but not smart to tell Pakistan to go fuck themselves.

If Afghanistan were no longer important to us . . .

If we had a constructive relationship with Iran . . .

If India and Pakistan were not at each other’s throats . . .

If Pakistan’s nuclear weapons were secure and not a threat. . .

In other words, if the world were totally different than it is today, then maybe we could ignore Pakistan. But it isn’t and we can’t. Nor can they ignore us.

So for the moment it’s an unpleasant standoff. I trust that cooler heads will prevail in Washington. I don’t trust that the same will happen in Islamabad. We can only hope.



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