Pakistan’s civilian and military governments are holding peace talks this weekend. The army chief and the president got together and talked after weeks in which each side has been seen as trying to turf the other out. Rumors of coups, ‘creeping’ or otherwise, have roiled the press — and have often emanated from credible military sources. The civilians have talked about firing top military leaders and did fire a three star general from his post as defense minister.Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders hate each other and need each other. The military needs a civilian sock puppet to deflect criticism and take care of all the boring stuff the military doesn’t want to do. The civilians need military permission to access all the graft that comes with even the appearance of power and they need the military’s guns to preserve the profoundly unjust property relations at the base of this allegedly “Islamic” republic’s deep structures of inequality and feudalism.Pakistanis accuse the Americans of taking sides in this struggle, but in reality there is little for us to like on either side. The civilians are deeply corrupt, and American leaders, who (we should never forget) get briefed on things like the financial activities of foreign leaders, sometimes know horrible, hair-curling things about what various politicians are up to. The military on the other hand is not our friend, and its obsessive dedication to the losing and destructive contest with India is steadily destroying Pakistan and making it, and its nuclear weapons, more vulnerable to the nutcases waiting in the wings.Finally, the one thing that the military and the civilians agree on is that blaming the United States for all Pakistan’s woes is the best way to deflect public anger about the appalling state of what should be a rapidly developing country.There are good and patriotic people on both the civil and military sides of the Pakistani system. Over the years, it has been my good fortune to meet some of them. But the trouble now, for the US and even more for Pakistan, is that so many clear headed, honest and pragmatic people in uniform and in mufti are marginalized by a system that seems fatally flawed. If Pakistanis find a way to start the renewal of their country, the US has excellent reasons to pitch in and help out. But the present sterile standoff between a failing government and a misguided military leaves the Americans little to hope for from either side.