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Time to Contain Pakistan?

An important op-ed in the New York Times (a phrase one doesn’t hear all that frequently these days) makes some points I’ve been making on this blog about the need for the US to develop a new Pakistan policy.  Pakistan’s army is in direct opposition to the US on core strategic issues in Afghanistan, and we need to deal with that.  Author Bruce Reidel led the Obama administration’s strategic review; his shift from engagement to containment as a Pakistan policy will have weight.  Reidel’s suggestions may not all work, but no policy is going to make us 100 percent happy in this very difficult situation. As he puts it:

AMERICA needs a new policy for dealing with Pakistan. First, we must recognize that the two countries’ strategic interests are in conflict, not harmony, and will remain that way as long as Pakistan’s army controls Pakistan’s strategic policies. We must contain the Pakistani Army’s ambitions until real civilian rule returns and Pakistanis set a new direction for their foreign policy.

I still think there is grounds to hope that Pakistan may change its policy if and when it understands that the US is seriously ready to shift directly and forcefully toward limiting Pakistan’s influence in Afghanistan and elsewhere, but there is no assurance that anything we do can change Islamabad’s mind.  Reidel’s approach may be the best guide to where US policy in this region is going, whether we like it or not.

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  • Mrs. Davis

    They remember more about Elphinstone than we.

  • Luke Lea

    “First, we must recognize that the two countries’ strategic interests are in conflict, not harmony . . .” Am I alone in the view that Pakastan is of almost no strategic interest to the United States or any other country outside the region?

    Now, granted, if that state indeed possesses nuclear weapons that would be a different matter altogether. But as Israel has demonstrated such consistent sang froid on the issue (contrast to Iran) I have come to doubt Pakistan’s putative status as an Islamic nuclear power.

    The way Pakistan demonstrated its status was fishy to begin with: five tests, in what looked like large dynamite explosions coming out of mountain sides (see YouTube), all done on one day. That’s not the way to learn anything.

    Moreover, there were strong motives on all sides to fake Pakistan’s status. The only implacable proponent were the political masses in the aftermath of India’s obviously genuine nuclear tests. The Pakistan elite would be happy to be thought a nuclear power instead of devoting the necessary resources to develop such weapons — resources which would have strained, if not exceeded, the industrial and technological capacities of their society.

    India would be happy to go along with such a deception. Israel, too, obviously. What about the U.S. and China? Well, it is hard to see why China would like to see an Islamic country on its border with real nukes. So they should be willing to do anything possible to fake such a demonstration, up to, and including, supplying a real nuclear explosion as long as the United States would have no objection.

    And why should we object. Our interests would coincide with China’s in this particular instance. As for our role? Well, we have the resources to fake a media event. Remember alls those investigative reports about Pakistan’s father of the bomb, the German and Canadian firms that had surreptitiously sold Pakistan the necessary technology, etc.? Tailor made for the CIA.

    The only reason this is important now is that it is the only remaining reasong why we care a fig about what is happening in Pakistan. At the very least Pakistan might have the courtesy to re-prove their status.

    I guess everybody has to have their own paranoid conspiracy theory. Except mine is benign, a reason not to fear instead of a reason to fear. Still a conspiracy theory, that I got to admit. And I may be mistaken, as so often I am on any and all subjects, especially politics. I merely raise the question.

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