High Noon in Pakistan
Published on: May 8, 2011
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  • WigWag

    his is a very interesting analysis from Professor Mead although I hope he doesn’t mind me pointing out the typo in this paragraph,

    “But even that doesn’t get to the heart of the matter. The US and Pakistan have had a long relationship, but the love has long since gone out of this bromance. Our interests are likely to diverge much more radically than at present as the US exit from Afghanistan draws closer.”

    Unless I’m mistaken, the word he is looking for is “romance.”

    For those interested in a fascinating account of Pakistan from a brilliant young journalist who spent alot of time living there, I recommend “To Live or To Perish Forever: Two Tumultuous Years in Pakistan” by Nicholas Schmidle. I believe that Professor Mead may know him and I suspect he would agree with me about Schmidle’s perspicacity.

    The situation in Pakistan is so bad that one is forced to wonder whether it’s time for the United States to adopt the radical position of advocating for the complete dissolution of the country. Professor Mead mentions the secessionist movement in Baluchistan, but the Northwest Frontier Provinces and the inaptly named “Federally Administered Tribal Areas” really aren’t controlled by the Pakistani central government either. In Sindh, Punjabi dominance at the national level is bitterly resented as it is everywhere in Pakistan and even the Muslim Kashmiris now understand that uniting with Pakistan is a fool’s errand and they seem to prefer an autonomous status instead. The Bengalis figured out in 1971 that Pakistan was a lost cause and won their freedom at great cost. It seems to me that Islam is not enough to unite the rival ethnic/linguistic groups that make up Pakistan and that in the long run, partition might be better for everyone.
    Professor Mead mentions the Pakistan-Saudi relationship that might play a role in modulating Pakistani behavior but another bilateral relationship in the region that may have long-term international consequences is the Indian-Iranian relationship. I wonder whether a stronger tilt by the Obama Administration towards India and against Pakistan might help wean the Indians off of their increasingly important and lucrative relationship with Iran.

  • WigWag

    Apparently in retaliation for the U.S. raid to kill Bin Laden, the Pakistani intelligence service has leaked the name of the CIA station chief in Islamabad. This is sure to infuriate the Obama Administration (it’s the second time the ISI has done this in less than a year) and cause U.S.-Pakistani relations to deteriorate still more.

    Additional information about this can be found here,


    By the way, in my last comment, I questioned the use of the word “bromance” by Mead. After looking it up in the “Urban Dictionary,” I see that it is slang for an unusually strong nonsexual relationship between two straight males or a romantic relationship between two gay males. Could this be what Mead was alluding to when he called the relationship between Pakistan and the United States a “bromance?”

  • I think “bromance” was exactly what he meant.

    “Bromance” is a portmanteau of the words bro or brother and romance. A writers touch of satire rather than a typo.

  • cobra

    Pakistan calls China it’s ‘all weather friend’ chiefly because they think China will help them destroy India, Pakistani military’s chief and only aim in life. However China probably is more wary. Apart from fear of unrest spreading to Xinjiang, they might be worried about drug runs from Afghanistan into mainland China. After all if US military leaves Afghanistan and if US aid stops, Pakistani military will have to resort to drug trade to fund itself. Unless of course China replaces US as aid giver.

  • Alex Ragen

    It’s utterly naive to think that anything motivates Pakistanis, elite and poor alike, more powerfully than jihad, and the prospect of defeating the militarily strong but morally confused Great Satan and imposing Islamic rule upon the despicable infidel.

  • Mahajan

    A very incisive piece of writing by Prof Mead and other comments are equally pointed. For Pakistan the day of reckoning has come. There is no way it can lie out of this mess

  • jb

    Interesting article. There’s been a history of problems with US – Pakistan relations, but not sure last weekends events should be the last straw.

    Since last weekend’s military action that took out Osama Bin Laden, there have been a lot of questions about how Bin Laden could have hidden at that suburban compound for what might have been 5 years without the assistance from individuals within Pakistan’s government, military and/or intelligence organization.

    Many are now asserting that Pakistan authorities must have helped Bin Laden. Our senators, talking heads and others all asserting without any doubt that Pakistan helped Bin Laden hide. There are now threats to penalize Pakistan, cut off our funding support, limit our collaborative efforts and more.

    Although a thorough investigation is in order, we should postpone any assumptions or incriminations without more information.

    It’s important to keep things in perspective and appreciate Pakistan’s efforts in the global war against terrorism. They have been victims of terrorist acts. More terrorists have been captured or killed in Pakistan than any other country. They’ve made a lot of sacrifices in this war.

    It’s also important to distinguish between Al Qaeda, the Taliban and militants within that country and Pakistan’s relationship with each. Our common enemy is Al Qaeda. It’s not as clear with respect to the others.

    Last night on 60 Minutes, President Obama mentioned the US got tipped off about the possibility of Bin Laden being at that location last August. However, by the time those helicopter’s lifted off with the special forces towards Bin Laden’s compound last weekend, there was still only “circumstantial evidence” that Bin Laden was there. The President confirmed there was no direct evidence despite months of watching the compound closely.

    Let’s put that in perspective. With all the resources of the US and its allies (including satellites, drones, covert operations, local “assets” and more), we could not confirm that Osama was living on that compound after several months under our “microscope”. The compound was surrounded by high walls, there was no direct line of sight into the buildings and likely contained paranoid occupants.

    Moreover, Pakistan does not have the same resources as the US.

    Why not ask if he could have hidden in a similar compound within the US? Sound ridiculous?

    Consider the tragic abduction of Jaycee Dugard. From the time she was an 11-year-old, until she was a 29-year-old woman with two children, she was kept locked away in a backyard compound of sheds and tarps by a couple who police say abducted her. Not some isolated location, but in a neighborhood in California. She was kept hidden for almost 20 years at the home of a parolee who had a record and was visited by authorities on several occasions.

    And then there was Eric Rudulf (“Olympic Park Bomber”) who eluded the FBI and other law enforcement for several years in our West Virginia despite being on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives for years.

    There are likely other examples of folks being hidden within the US for long periods of time.

    I live in the suburbs and must admit I don’t know all my neighbors despite living here for years. In the burbs, some people just keep to themselves. Likely not any different in Pakistan. In fact, Abbottobad looks like a very nice quiet town.

    Were any Pakistani officials involved in keeping Bin Laden safe and hidden over the past few years? Maybe. But way way too soon to make any assumptions.

  • Michael

    This is a wonderful piece. Thanks Professor Mead. It puts on the table all the “potential” players in this game.

    I personally feel that the current US policy of softening on Taliban isn’t going to work in the long time when ISAF departs. Pakistan will again try to gain its strategic depty in Afghanistan using Haqani network.

    They’ll keep their ruthless campaign up against the Baloch freedom fighters and Tehrik-e-Taliban while they’ll keep supporting their foreign policy instruments like LeT and JeM in Kashmir.
    If Pakistan gives up these groups, Pakistan will most certainly loose control over Afghanistan and Kashmir which may eventually lead to further igniting independence sentiments in ‘Azad Kashmir’ and Balochistan/FATA.

    Their strategy of a security state facing an existential threat is the only fabric binding their society.

    I wish President Obama all the best in the coming months.

  • Luke Lea

    re: “A. Q. Khan, ringmaster of the nuclear proliferation”

    I am a minority of one, but personally I have my doubts whether Pakistan even has nuclear weapons. Of course I’ve read all about the activities of Mr. Khan, and I remember Pakistan’s nuclear “tests” — all five on one day! (No sense wasting time.)

    Rather than trying to imagine how major powers and the Pakistani elite could or would conspire to fake Pakistan’s status as a nuclear power, I will simply call attention to the dog that didn’t bark.

  • Shah Rukh Kahn

    A few disagreements in an otherwise great summary of the U.S.- Pakistan relations. First, Saudi Arabia as a source for stabilizing Pakistan. Saudi money/clergy is much to blame for the wahabbinization of South Asian muslims, including Pakistan over the past two decades. More Saudi influence means more “literal” interpretive Islam foisted amongst its followers in South Asia, an extremely risky alternative. Second, Pakistan perfidy is nothing but Punjabi perfidy. Cauterize punjabi Pakistanis, and you have contained the disease. Third, when Pakistan seeks “strategic depth” in Afghanistan, western policy makers incorrectly interpret it as against India. The Afghanis/Pashtus do nor recognize the Durand Line, which lapsed in 1993. It is the fear of Pashtuns reclaiming their ancestral land illegaly occupied by Pakistan which drives Pakistan to have total control of Afghanistan. Perhaps, if the Afghanistan/Pashtus were allowed to reclaim the Pashtun land from what Pakistan calls the “lawless frontier,” can Taliban/Pashtuns feelings can be assuaged and peace restored. Next, Americans MUST always have a presence in AfPak region, lest a Saudi-Pak-China axiz forever shuts them out. The good professor has written about the restive Baluchistan, a state forcibly annexed by Pakistan in its initial formative years. An American-friendly state of Baluchistan astriding between the Middle East, Central and South Asia ensure USA’s dominance in the region. Lastly, the pusiliminous Indians must be kicked out of their lethargy and forced to assert themselves in stabilizing the region. Peace!

  • Chhabra

    Interesting analysis by Prof. Mead. Point to note here is most Indians have always believed that Pakistan has had harbored terrorists for the past few decades, and even Osama was being sheltered by ISI without any credible data. However, current raid proves without doubt to the world that Pakistan is nothing but a failed state, and but be treated the same as Afghanistan or even Iran. What a pity for average Pakistani to be born and stuck in that environment? The best chance that Pakistanis have is build a better and stronger capitalistic society to get out of this failing statbe of political affairs or the world needs to prepare for managing twin failed-states (Pakistan and Afghanistan).

  • arya

    Of course all of these problems could go away if The Greedy and Stupid West could come to its senses and stop supporting the biggest Evil of all time Mullahs of Iran who Invented Islamic- Terrorism in 1979 with the direct help of their Masters British and Jimmy Carter,

    31 years later we are witnessing that the whole scenario of British-American Conspiracy of 1979 was a huge Miscalculation and nothing else.

  • Jim.

    “This matters. The administration’s ability to put its relationship with Pakistan on a clear path will go far to determine both the speed at which we are able to leave Afghanistan and the nature of the post-US situation there. More, what is at stake in both Afghanistan and Pakistan is still America’s security at home. President Obama clearly understands that defending Americans from 9/11 style attacks remains the most important item on his job description. Getting Pakistan right is a must.”

    The WWII Doolittle raid against Tokyo provoked a retaliation on the part of the Japanese. (The resulting Battle of Midway was a miraculous victory for America — a victory so staggering and so unlikely it qualifies as divine intervention.)

    What would a retaliatory effort by the Pakistanis, for the SEAL raid?

    Well, the obvious (and achievable) enterprise would be for hostile elements in the Pakistani military to make our withdrawal from Afghanistan look like a Vietnam-level loss.

    Does Obama have a contingency plan for measures like these? Considering their track record on military/foreign policy planning (so eloquently outlined by Niall Ferguson — http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2011/02/14/niall_ferguson_explains_how_obama_blew_it_with_egypt.html ) I’m skeptical.

    Winning the Battle of Abbottobad but losing the war in Afghanistan will mean Obama loses in 2012.

  • Jeff Matthews Snarky [improper name deleted –ed]

    Professor Mead’s column should be required reading for the State Department and the literate members of Congress.

    That said, I disagree entirely with the conclusion. There is no there there in either Pakistan or Afghanistan. Two corrupt duplicitous governments with whom America cannot reach honest agreements. Pakistan should be given an ultimatum–hand over or kill Mullah Omar and Ayman al-Zawahiri (perhaps with a cover story that burnishes Pakistan’s image) or we terminate all aid. Karzai is no more legitimate a ruler than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Why are we there? There is no end game for Afghanistan.

    Obama could insure his re-election by exiting both Iraq and Afghanistan prior to year-end. Bring the boys home.

  • blacksheep

    You all should share the responsibility for turning Pakistan into a jihadi mess….

    Rest assure, Pakistan isn’t going anywhere, it will suffer and dreaded Pakistani mullaa and their savage terrorists will be eliminated, however, in doing so, the US will perish too because the barbaric killing of millions around the globe cannot be swept under the garb of freedom promotions and democracy as there is a God because history is evident of the fact that such pompous and arrogant powers eventually perish too, so, I urge you to prepare too as the havoc you have caused around the globe shall not be forgiven.

  • Julian

    This behavior of Pakistan is completely in line with what it has been doing since it’s birth in 1947. It was created with a promise of a Muslim paradise against the evil Hindu influence. It courted America from the very beginning under the false pretense that America will come to Pakistan for strategic help against the Russians. “Gentlemen, Our Army can be your Army…” is a famous quote from the Pakistani dictator Ayub Khan who came to power after the mysterious death of the first elected prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan. Ayub Khan like most tin pot dictators had no idea about how to run a country, so the first thing he did was to pole dance in front of the Americans for economic assistance. He also assisted the hardliner Islamic parties of that time. Americans humored him and tried to help him in whatever manner possible. Alas, he showed his real colors soon enough and declared war against India in 1965 using the weapons and money supplied by USA. Sure enough, he lost the war and with it his throne also.

    He was followed by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto an elected political leader. Bhutto’s short reign of power can summed up in one famous quote he made “even if we have to eat grass we will make nuclear bombs.” Well, Pakistan is doing both, till date. Bhutto used the right-wing extremist parties and changed the constitution at their behest for his own political advantage. He formally laid the foundation of the extremist Pakistani society we see today. Soon thereafter, in April 1979 he was executed by the next tin pot dictator Zia-ul-haq.

    Zia-ul-haq increased the pace of radicalization and weaponization of Pakistan. When the Soviets entered Afghanistan in 1979, USA found a willing partner in Zia-ul-haq. Zia used the money and weapons supplied by USA to create the monsters of Islamic jihad in his own soil. Unfortunately the official policy of Pakistan supporting terrorists did not stop after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. They turned the monsters towards their enemy number one, India who bore the brunt of the terror attacks while the Americans and Russians quietly slipped back to their own borders.

    When Pakistanis complain that the terrorist activity in Pakistan started because of USA they are lying as usual. The process of radicalization and Islamic jihad started much before America even got involved in Pakistan. It started right from the day first dictator Ayub Khan came to power and has continued unabated since then. The truth of the matter is that Pakistanis have gotten used to easy money and extremist ideology. They want to live in comfort with the American dollars while they overtly and covertly support the terrorists and their organizations. Pakistan is like a prostitute who wants to be paid for it’s services, while complaining about being raped. And as they say “Old Habits, Die Hard!”

  • Anthony

    “More what is at stake in both Afghanistan and Pakistan is still America’s security at home….Getting Pakistan right is a must…the Obama administration can’t make geography go away.” That said, how much of Pakistan’s problems can be tied to its history with India and which Washington foreign policy has perhaps failed to adequately address? India and Pakistan correspond to Israelis and Arabs in that neither has come to terms with the existence of the other. Obama administration/U.S. foreign policy in WRM’s ‘moment of truth’ vis-a-vis Pakistan would be well advised to strategically consider the aforementioned as we reengage post Osama Bin Laden.

  • dean wermer

    There’s been a fair amount of speculation on the web – quite a bit from reputable sources – that all was not as it seemed with respect to the Abbotabad raid, i.e., did Pakistan or elements of the military/ISI/government cooperate? or provide the location of OBL? or had OBL under house arrest/watch? or cut a deal to allow the helicopters in and the raid to proceed? etc., etc. I’m curious as to Mead’s take on this and how it might impact his analysis.

  • Trimegistus

    The nation of Pakistan was founded on one idea only: religious intolerance. It was partitioned from India because the Muslims of western India simply could not stand the idea of being part of a pluralistic state, one in which they did not dominate all other faiths. Expecting Pakistan’s leaders to behave rationally is ludicrous. They are thugs and crooks ruling a nation of fools and fanatics. The sooner we sever all ties with them and leave them to sink into a new dark age, the better.

  • ssg1987

    To the guy wondering whether Pakistan has nuclear weapons, there is no doubt that it has.
    //The Saudis may be religiously radical by some standards, but as long as they believe in the strength of the US umbrella they are conservative geopolitically.///

    Are you kidding me? by some standards? They are the most radical country in the world.What were the nationality of 9/11 attackers? Saudis are the biggest banker of Jihad and Islamic fundamentalism in the world. The effect is felt even in India in radical madrassas and among Muslims. The radical Islamic agenda is independent of US policies.

    //India, of course watched the raid closely. India, a victim in the past of Pakistan-supported terrorist violence, has the same concerns about Pakistani nukes and terror groups that Washington does.///

    No, it doesn’t. Its concern is far greater, and real. Washington’s concern before till just a few years back was almost fake, when it watched as Pakistan gathered, stole and illegally bought everything they needed to build nuclear weapons. it actively worked to keep India out of Afghanistan so that Pakistan is pleased. it actively helped make Pakistan’s military capabilities comparable to some degree to India’s.

    As an Indian, and as someone who has lived among secular Muslims in India, I can tell you, only internal democratic and secular mass movement can curb Islamic fundamentalism. American pressure will be ineffective. furthermore, as an Indian, I am tired of the Pakistani jihadi terror backed up by a nuclear threat, and a pacifier in the form of Washington each time India wants to take action against the terrorists. Let this end. Take out Pakistan’s nuclear assets if you can, put it under IAEA safeguards, and hope for a secular revolution.

  • Archaeopteryx

    It might be noted moslems in India are better off under the mostly hindu regime of India then they are under their own rule in Pakistan.
    Or Iran, or Jordan, or Syria, or just about any moslem regime with the possible partial exception in Turkey.
    The partition of the British Raj into India and Pakistan was artificial, and at least in part a parting shot of revenge and resentment by the ejected English.
    Perhaps the world would be better off if India simply conquered Pakistan.
    It’s not as if India does not have just cause, and restraint might break with another Pakistani act of war like the attack on Mombai.

  • Tom Holsinger

    I disagree that the United States can materially influence Pakistani support of terrorism, including terrorism against us, by talking at them. The reason is that Pakistan is a fake state. It is not a failed state. It is a fake state. There never was a Pakistani state in the Western sense. What Westerners see as an organized state is just a facade.

    The result of this is that there is no one arbiter of Pakistani action, or group of factions, capable of restraining the support of terrorism by other major factions in Pakistan.

    What we see as a Pakistani “state” is just a vehicle by which the various Pakistani power factions/family-based groups extract resources from the Pakistani people, and gullible foreigners, for their own purposes, and keep foreigners from upsetting their power.

    The Pakistani Army, chief among the Pakistani power factions, knows how to share the wealth in a better, less corrupt manner than Pakistani civilian politicians (who are very corrupt and have sharing issues) and the Jihadi nuts (who are on a mission from God).

    This is why the Pakistani army periodically takes over the Pakistani state, and then cedes it back to the civilian politicians. It knows it can’t run everything and it needs civilian front men to get money from the West.

    Furthermore the concept of a Pakistani “nation” does not really exist save in the minds of foreigners. The Muslim peoples of Pakistan, and even the Pakistani army, present an extreme form of what passes for Canadian nationalism, in which Canadians primarily view themselves and their country as “not American”.

    Only the Pakistanis view themselves as Muslims opposed to India. They really, really hate India. Few Canadians hate America. The vast majority of Pakistanis hate India.

    This means that terrorist activities aimed at India, including but not limited to Kashmir, are a prerequisite activity for any Pakistani power faction attempting to gain dominant power there. Our attempts to limit Pakistanis terrorism against India are an on-going threat to Pakistani domestic stability, such as it is.

    India’s immediate problems and the WORLD’s stem from Pakistan. It is the Disneyland of jihad and India is their neighbor. Outside Afghanistan, the rest of the world is escaping the mayhem because India is both next door and a soft target. And Abbottabad showed that distance is no barrier to Pakistani supported terrorists.

    Pakistan does this because it can, and thanks to its nukes, the failed Pakistani state is safe to continue these policies. That isn’t “screwing the pooch,” “jumping the shark,” or “squeezing all the toothpaste out of the tube.” It is coldly rational from their point of view.

    America, like India, can do whatever it wants internally to stop its current terrorist problem, but Pakistan will continue to sponsor terror.

    There will always be some terrorist clique that one of the Pakistani state power factions will have built up to start the terrorism cycle all over again.

    India, for all practical purposes defeated Pakistani terrorism in Kashmir Israeli technical assistance.

    Pakistani terrorist then attacked soft targets inside India like Mumbai. What Abbottabad showed is the Pakistanis did that “attacking of soft targets” to America first, on 9/11/2001, as well.

    While America has some allies among Pakistani factions against some more Islamist factions, but is difficult to impossible to differentiate between Islamist and “non-Islamist” factions because, when it comes to terrorism against India, they are indistinguishable.

    The truth we have to face is that there is no one there who can enforce peace over all the Pakistani factions, and turn the ISI’s Islamist terrorists off, because Islamist hate — versus India or America — is the only thing that can rally popular support for the Pakistani State.

    As a result, the Islamist factions inside the Pakistani state have more deniability for terrorist operations than the Mullah’s of Iran. To be blunt, the Pakistanis were playing a game of “Moderate Iranian Mullah” with us…until we found and killed Osama Bin Laden.

    Whatever their colorings, the members of the Pakistani state — civilian or military — and the Pakistani people hate India. The only thing that unites Pakistan in any meaningful way is hate of India.

    Every faction influencing the façade of a Pakistani state will use that card to stay in power domestically, whatever they are saying to the West. They will use our assistance to vie for power against other Pakistani state factions, but they all will lie to any and all outsiders about war and terrorism with India. They need it to much to maintain the Pakistani state facade in existence.

    We can’t influence their behavior by talking at them, and use of force is deterred by Pakistani nuclear weapons. Until we eliminate their nuclear weapons.

  • The Diplomad 2.0 has a similar article on Pakistan.

  • Steve C.

    A realpolitik relationship with Pakistan might look something like the relationship an employer has with an employee. They perform certain acts, behave in a certain way and they get paid. And payment is always contingent on performance.
    You gave us Zawahiri, here’s a billion dollars. You let us operate drones in the tribal areas. Here’s 500 million dollars. Nothing this month. No money.
    As noted above, the population of Pakistan has suffered a great deal from the war on terror. Thousands of Pakistani soldiers have been killed or wounded. Just what type of military leadership does that nation have? A military leadership that would sacrifice thousands of their soldiers in combat while the spies in the next building over provide weapons and cover for the bad guys. A military leadership that would tolerate dozens of terrorist bombings of the civilian population while the spies in the next building provide money and information to the same terrorists who organize those bombings.
    I used to think Pakistan was a dysfunctional nation state, now I’m beginning to think it’s a non-functional nation state. As painful as it might be, maybe the best course of action is to deprive them of their nuclear weapons (through B2 bombing missions or a special forces snatch and grab). Once that threat is neutralized, it would be easier to just drop them once and for all. We might even be able to persuade China to cooperate in snatching their nuclear weapons. It’s not like they like the idea of having an unstable nuclear power on their border.

  • crypticguise

    Pakistan suffers from the same 7th Century barbarism as do all Islamic cultures insisting on Sharia Law and strict adherence to the sociopathic teachings of Islam.

    Muslims can NEVER be trusted to deal ethically with non-Muslims. They are NOT ALLOWED to be friends with kafirs (Non-Muslims). The best they can “fake” is a faux friendly face while they conspire behind the kafir’s back.

    There is NEVER going to be a raproachment between adherents of Islam and non-Muslims. It is not allowed by Islam. The ultimate goal of Islam is total control of all people, Muslim and non-Muslims. The Muslims as Master and the non-Muslims as dhimmis and/or slaves.

    Any idea otherwise put forth by a Believer in Islam is a lie.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    I am curious to see the names of who was helping Osama, as there is sure to be names in the intelligence taken from the compound. No doubt there are people trembling in their sandals that their name is in the data.

  • zugswang

    Breaking up is hard to do.
    To all on team India. India would not want the dissolution of Pakistan either, because that would mean,possible separation for Kashmir how ever remote that possibility might be.
    And Indians who have imagined the map with a nice crown on top, don’t like the funny triangle that would result without Kashmir.
    Same reason for not wanting a Tamil state in SriLanka despite having 60 million well read, relatively well off Tamilians in India.
    Besides India needs to extend at least all the way to Mt Kailash, home of Shiva which is now in China. And Kandahar (Gandhari in MahaBharat) to keep all the mythological stories whole.

  • Jimbocru

    Prof Mead,

    A wonderful article ! — Thanx !

    There’s another thing that the US Govt can do — and totally free itself of the Pakistani abomination

    Simply Create a Protection Zone in Balochistan — ala — Kurdish Protection Zone in Iraq — the Balochis hate the Taliban & Pakistani Punjabis — for the killings & systematic disappearances of all their Senior leaders.

    Now if we did this — We could provide Afghanistan with a Sea Port & our logistics issue in AFG would disappear — We could sit in Afghanistan & kick the Pakistanis every now and then to remind them who’s the don !

  • Luke Lea

    Off topic but don’t miss this inside look at another important Muslim society, Saudi Arabia: http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/36025

  • Luke Lea

    According to news reports, Pakistan began its nuclear program by stealing blueprints for centrifuges and then manufacturing them at home. I don’t find that story credible. Neither does Israel, apparently. At least they don’t seem worried.


  • T Hunter

    Pakistan is a failing state. Built on foundations of sand as a “Muslim Nation”, it has never had true democratic government, and it is increasingly easy to see that in a decade or so the territory formerly known as Pakistan will belong to India, Afghanistan and Iran (oh, and China might take a few mountains in the north).

    The big questions therefore are: WHEN will that come about, HOW will it come about, and what will happen to the nukes during the probably violent transition?

    Thank God the Abbotabad op gives us all some confidence the US will be standing ready to do something about that last point.

  • Balaji

    An excellent analysis. At this point in time India needs to act in a mature manner but at the same time the international community and the U.S. in particular needs to look at radical options in tackling the ‘Problem of Pakistan’. How about another approach with possible long term good results ? Looking at the analogy of the banks where the too big to fail argument was given, they were bailed out but the bonus culture does not seem to have abated. Now a long term solution that has been proposed and is actively being looked at (both in the U.K. and U.S.) is to split the investment arm from the retail arm of the banks. It looks to me that a similar option should be considered very seriously by the international community by Balkanizing Pakistan and in the process,if possible, de-nuclearizing them. Have a look at a link which suggested just that, a few months back. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-hughes/balkanizing-pakistan-a-co_b_635950.html). This becomes all the more necessary, valid and justifiable following the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbotabad. Undoubtedly it is not by any means an easy option and one that will be particularly unpalatable to the Pakistanis. Nevertheless, a serious debate should at least start along these lines in the Obama administration and in the international community.

  • anona

    The thing that has Pakistan totally worried is the fact that the U.S. demonstrated to them; “We can go anywhere, at any time, and take out anyone in your country”. And that they can’t (up to now), do a thing about it.
    Now about the duplicitous ‘playing to both sides of the street’. It’s a great way to get slammed from both sides. A nation without allies is in deep trouble.

  • Bill Phelps

    We need Pak just to provide a land route into Afgan. Once we are out of Agan, Pak can stew in its own juices.

  • Tom Holsinger

    George Friedman at Stratfor generally agrees with Walter Russell Mead, but feels we cannot change our current policy towards Pakistan because the Pakistanis simply can’t deliver more than they are currently doing.


    Here is Friedman’s conclusion:

    “… This is the ultimate contradiction in U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and even the so-called war on terror as a whole. The United States has an absolute opposition to terrorism and has waged a war in Afghanistan on the questionable premise that the tactic of terrorism can be defeated, regardless of source or ideology. Broadly fighting terrorism requires the cooperation of the Muslim world, as U.S. intelligence and power is inherently limited. The Muslim world has an interest in containing terrorism, but not the absolute concern the United States has. Muslim countries are not prepared to destabilize their countries in service to the American imperative. This creates deeper tensions between the United States and the Muslim world and increases the American difficulty in dealing with terrorism — or with Afghanistan.

    The United States must either develop the force and intelligence to wage war without any assistance — which is difficult to imagine given the size of the Muslim world and the size of the U.S. military — or it will have to accept half-hearted support and duplicity. Alternatively, it could accept that it will not win in Afghanistan and will not be able simply to eliminate terrorism. These are difficult choices, but the reality of Pakistan drives home that these, in fact, are the choices.”

    I don’t agree with Friedman that we have no choice but to continue our current policy, but do agree that there is NOTHING we can do to modify Pakistani behavior.

    That was the point of my first post. There is no state or national government, in the Western sense, as such in Pakistan. The government is just a facade. No one group or group in Pakistan can keep major factions from supporting terrrorism against other countries, and this includes terrorism against us.

    This is my major disagreement with Mr. Mead. IMO the Pakistani factions are operating solely on internal stimuli. We can certainly injure and diminish those who are sort of cooperating with us, but we can’t make them strong enough to do more than they are, and we can’t hurt the factions attacking to deter them from attacking us.

    All we can do is use our military power to reduce their effectiveness in attacking us. Given that Pakistan has nuclear weapons, any military attempt by us to significantly reduce the capability of the hostile factions requires that we eliminate Pakistan’s nuclear capability and the existence of the Pakistani fake state, so they can’t build more.

    That would certainly make the whole place a vast terrorist heaven lacking only nuclear capability.

    This is a Gordian Knot problem. There is a means of dealing with that, but we won’t do it until we are hit again at home, and badly, by Pakistani state-supported terrorism. Here I am talking about Wretchard’s _Three Conjectures_.

  • ssg1987

    To all in team India, thank you very much. I am not used to see Westerners supporting India so much at the cost of Pakistan. Tom Holsinger’s post more or less summarizes the pain and frustration India feels while dealing with Pakistan.

    A few words about Kashmir: India was formed of hundreds of free Princely states, who willingly (or unwillingly, as in the case of Hyderabad), surrendered their thrones to the Republic of India. We do not want to reverse that process. Breaking Kashmir off from India will validate jinnah’s two-nation theory, endanger the stability of the rest of the formerly princely states of India, and make Muslims in India very confused. After all, the fight in Kashmir is now about about a Muslim majority population who has driven out the Hindu population from that place and considers it an abomination to live in a non-Islamic secular state. there are open calls of Jihad from the leaders of Kashmiri movements. India cannot tolerate jihad inside its society. Jihad from across the border is bad enough.

    Maybe the person who said it here is right, maybe the solution lies in giving Balochistan independence.

  • James

    I can’t believe the nerve of the Pakistan military threating to use force if we enter again. We should let them know that the next time we find an American enemy terrorist receiving santuary in their county, in the largest compound in town, they won’t have to look far to find us. Instead we give them aid. Why? So they can give subsistance to our enemies? You would have to be truly stupid to believe the government did not know who inhabited that compound.

  • Peter

    1) “I favor generous and long term assistance to Pakistan as part of a long term relationship.”

    D[arn] decent of you, Mead …. with other people’s money. Sure, the U.S. taxpayer should can continue to borrow money from China only to squander it in hell holes like Pakistan, Iraq, etc. So when the roll is called by future historians as to those who helped bankrupt America with such folly, be sure to raise your hand.

    Look, if nothing else, Pakistan shows some people are completely incapable of forming a civilized nation, and maybe not even a nation. Maybe a 50-year dose of colonalization is what Pakistan needs.

    2) Anona says: “The thing that has Pakistan totally worried is the fact that the U.S. demonstrated to them; “We can go anywhere, at any time, and take out anyone in your country”. And that they can’t (up to now), do a thing about it.”

    It’s a bit more than that, friend. Should the U.S. want, it could literally break the back of Pakistan in over the course of a few weeks, and it could be done without resorting to nukes.

    3) U.S. policy should be to de-nuclearize Pakistan. Fact. Not to do so would be the same as allowing a dysfunctional ten year kid old to run around the school yard with cocked and loaded 9mm handgun.

  • angus

    America tried the same strategy Mead suggests after the Soviets withdrew in 1989. Worked well?

  • Luke Lea

    re: COFKATWOT (Conflict Formerly Known As The War On Terror)

    Defeat them over here, not over there. We have vastly over-rated the competence of our enemy.

  • “A few disagreements in an otherwise great summary of the U.S.- Pakistan relations. First, Saudi Arabia as a source for stabilizing Pakistan. Saudi money/clergy is much to blame for the wahabbinization of South Asian muslims, including Pakistan over the past two decades. More Saudi influence means more ‘literal’ interpretive Islam foisted amongst its followers in South Asia, an extremely risky alternative. Second, Pakistan perfidy is nothing but Punjabi perfidy. Cauterize punjabi Pakistanis, and you have contained the disease. Third, when Pakistan seeks ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan, western policy makers incorrectly interpret it as against India. The Afghanis/Pashtuns do not recognize the Durand Line, which lapsed in 1993. It is the fear of Pashtuns reclaiming their ancestral land illegally occupied by Pakistan which drives Pakistan to have total control of Afghanistan. Perhaps, if the Afghanistan/Pashtuns were allowed to reclaim the Pashtun land from what Pakistan calls the ‘lawless frontier,’ can Taliban/Pashtuns feelings can be assuaged and peace restored. Next, Americans MUST always have a presence in AfPak region, lest a Saudi-Pak-China axis forever shuts them out. The good professor has written about the restive Baluchistan, a state forcibly annexed by Pakistan in its initial formative years. An American-friendly state of Baluchistan astriding between the Middle East, Central and South Asia [could] ensure USA’s dominance in the region. Lastly, the pusiliminous Indians must be kicked out of their lethargy and forced to assert themselves in stabilizing the region. Peace!”

    I wonder if, decades from now, our obsessively close relations with “Saudi-Paki-China” won’t prove a most telling monument to two distinct pathologies in American public life:

    1) Our singularly short-sighted and unimaginative Russophobia (if I may badly paraphrase Joyce Kilmer):
    “I think that I shall never see
    An evil worse than Muscovy.”

    2) Our loss of any rational and coherent sense of national self-interest, as we increasingly pursued utopian globalist – might I even say corporatist? – fantasies of an American world empire (which “empire,” I daresay, may in retrospect prove to have been a most expeditious way of “midwifing” an economically and politically unified Eurasia – and one that ends up largely excluding [!] American influence).

    Now in a perfect world – one, please note, that we’ve yet to succeed in creating, for all our schemes of ever-so-rational globalization – there’d be a unified Pashtunistan independent of the Pakis, and linked to the rest of Afghanistan perhaps via the traditionally Pashtun-occupied monarchy (why was there never any serious discussion of its revival? Last I heard the idea was quashed by Zalmay Khalilzad). Then again, in a perfect world we’d also have had a unified, independent Kurdistan.

    Note that Pashtun nationalism, which I believe even now is a relatively secular thing, is in any case a phenomenon altogether distinct from the more or less pro-Pakistani Islamist “nationalism” of the Taliban. And in this connection, btw, does anyone remember Badshah Khan, the mid-20th-century SECULAR Pashtun nationalist? He actually agitated for an autonomous and unified Pashtun state as part of an un-partitioned India, and, naturally wanting nothing to do with ANY projected Pakistan, even collaborated with Gandhi to that end. The fact that any such broadly-supported secular Pashtun movement is inconceivable in our “modern” AfPaK – why, what an eloquent reminder of how FAR the region has progressed since those dark, horrid socialist decades of the mid-20th century, under the gentle guidance of US “security” agendas!

    Meanwhile such a Pakistan as we Yanks have helped to birth, in our inestimable Cold War wisdom, continues to harbor the bomb, and for some reason shows very little sign of further educability in its responsible use. Nor am I sure of what use the Saudis would be in bringing the Pakis to their senses. Indeed, unless and until the Saudis cease ALL sponsorship of Wahhabism in the Islamic world, I too would much prefer we didn’t use them at all. China is – one hopes – a different matter entirely. As the few readers of my befuddled blog can attest, I’m no Sinophile – at least not when it comes to the Anti-people’s Republic. But I can’t see where they have anything LESS to lose from the seepage of Sunni jihadism into Central Asia than we or the Russians do. We all have a common interest in preventing the further jihadification of Islam in the region, as Professor Mead has argued in several places. My hunch is that Chinese pressure on Pakistan may be our best bargaining chip. IMO a very good argument in this direction – and assuming I’m reading both correctly, a further exploration of Mead’s point – is Patrick Doherty’s article in “Foreign Policy”: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/05/09/dear_china_help_us_fix_pakistan.
    Perhaps I’m being a shade too naively optimistic re the post-Maoists, but the author has managed to persuade me so far.

    Obviously there are no HUMANELY ideal solutions. Our sweepingly Russophobic globalist idealism has seen to that. Personally I’m almost as fearful of the Sinicization of Central Asia as I am of its Talibanization. But sadly enough, right now it may be the best outcome we can hope for. Ideally I’d much rather see China turn away from Central Asia altogether, and focus – an enlightened Russia permitting – on the development of the Soviet Far East and North Pacific (even as I’d love to see Russia forget about eastern Europe and the Balkans, that it might concentrate its attention – ideally in partnership with Iran and India – on stabilizing Central Asia, where both its and their real security issues lie). But we don’t live in such an ideal world, and, again, our global American idealism very likely has made it not only unreachable but unthinkable. My best hope is that we can appeal to the Chinese in terms of their national and cultural interests as a people (“Sure, Mr Huang, you can do business with jihadists, but can you LIVE WITH THEM?”), as distinct from what I like to call their corporate and civilizational ambitions. As for the latter, I think it’s safe to assume that the more obsessed the Chinese become with aims of that sort, the more they’ll be tempted to disregard even the most basic security needs of their own people. In which event, of course, we all stand to lose.

    As Professor Mead has stressed, we are reaching certain “limits of viability” in our dealings with Pakistan – and hopefully with certain other such “allies.” Sadly, up till now there seem to have been NO limits to our willingness to work with certain geopolitically useful countries, no matter much their people may have openly (and their leaders unofficially) hated us, so long as they were willing to do business with us. In other words, so long as they were willing to LET US IN, they were more or less our pals. The Russians, bad and dangerous as they undoubtedly were, do not ever seem to have hated us. Or at least not as viscerally, or apocalyptically, as do great masses of Egyptians, Pakistanis, Saudis, etc. The Soviets made themselves very obnoxious, and occasionally threatening, by nibbling round our edges. But my impression is that our most contentious issue with them was that they would not LET US IN – at least not in the way we most wanted to be let in (foreign direct investment, global corporate arrogance and high-handedness, etc). We’ve proven we can live with enemies; it’s rivals, competitors, “autarkists” that we’ve always loathed. Now we’re discovering, the hard way, that people who can be great – or at least greatly convenient – to do business with can also be intolerable to live with. And so long as we Americans remain a nation and a people, and care about ourselves as a people, that discovery will always make us think twice about pursuing a deeper intimacy with some of our most deeply-ingrained enemies.

  • marty martel

    No matter how tough Obama administration gets, it is highly doubtful that Pakistan will change its behavior.

    It is interesting to note what previous ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson wrote about Pakistani Generals.

    Previous US ambassador Anne Patterson to Pakistan, wrote in a secret review in 2009 that ‘Pakistan’s Army and ISI are covertly SPONSORING four militant groups – Haqqani‘s HQN, Mullah Omar‘s QST, Al Qaeda and LeT – and will not abandon them for any amount of US money‘, as diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks show.

    No matter how Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator John Kerry spin it, ambassador Patterson had NO reason to mislead her own State Department and U. S. government.

    Pakistan will not sacrifice what it perceives to be its ‘national assets’ regardless of the fact that those ‘assets’ are Islamic fundamentalists spreading terrorism around the world.

    Thus U. S. has to start with the open eye that it has been duped by Pakistan until now for claiming to have joined U. S. fight against terrorism when it was actually spawning, nurturing, sheltering and supporting Islamic fundamentalist terror outfits on its soil all along.

    U. S. has to discard the baloney that Pakistani nuclear weapons are in danger of falling in the hands of Islamic fundamentalists while the fact is that whole Pakistani government including its civilian leadership, army and intelligence are all ’Islamic fundamentalist’ spreading terrorism around the world.

    How can Pakistan be in danger of falling to the Islamic fundamentalists if Pakistani Army and ISI are SPONSORING those very Islamic fundamentalists led by Osama bin Laden, Haqqani, Mullah Omar and Hafiz Saeed as reported by ambassador Patterson?

    Sooner the U. S. wakes up the better. It has lived under delusion long enough.

  • Riki Tiki Tavi

    The US has historically hedged against authoritarian and totalitarian regimes by fostering democracies in their neighborhood. By doing so, the US has furthered both its interests and its values. Two exceptions to this general rule are the Middle East and South Asia. In the latter case, the big country that needed to be hedged against happened to be a democracy surrounded by authoritarian regimes. By backing a willing Pakistan as a hedge primarily against communism, and secondarily against India, the US gave primacy to its interests instead of its values.

    As long as India remained an economic backwater, the US had a relatively easy task of maintaining regional stability. The US armed Pakistan, but never to the point that it could seriously undermine democratic India. India, while “tilting” toward the Soviet Union in 1971, in response to the earlier US “tilt” toward Pakistan, also never undertook any provocative policy initiatives such as offering basing rights to the Soviet Navy. The old hyphenated Indo-Pak policy that the US followed in South Asia started to come unglued during the 1990s mainly because of accelerating economic growth in India, a result of economic reforms undertaken during the late 1980s, and further deepened during the 1990s. There was nothing particularly logical about the old policy of hyphenation, except that it was a relatively cheap policy for the US to pursue. However, a democratic India growing at 7-8 percent per year to be hyphenated with a failing authoritarian Pakistan would have proved too costly for the US in the long run. To the US’s credit, it recognized this ground reality and changed its stance to deal with each of the two nations according to their respective geostrategic weights. The Indo-US civil nuclear deal is testament to this de-hyphenation.

    This leaves Pakistan in a difficult strategic quandary. Communism is dead. Russia is weak, no longer an expansionist threat to either Pakistani or Western interests. India is a committed democracy, on the same page as the US when it comes to larger Asian security issues. In this new environment, how does a state like Pakistan market itself? Many of the key strategic reasons that led to past US support don’t exist any more. If the US still wishes to use Pakistan as a hedge against a bigger, stronger India, an Islamist Pakistan that indiscriminately foments terror around the world is too blunt an instrument. Terrorism by its very nature is a blunt instrument, thus dangerous, and when combined with nukes, supremely dangerous. The US, of course, has spoken from both sides of its mouth on terrorism. It tried for a long time to parse distinctions between terrorists of local reach and global reach, hoping beyond hope that Pakistan would control the latter in which case the US would turn a blind eye toward the former. But blunt instruments do not lend themselves to sharp (local/global) distinctions as both the US and now the Pakistanis are learning to their dismay. Only negative reasons remain for US support to Pakistan, namely that without US help, Pakistan will implode. But vital relationships cannot be sustained on flimsy negative principles for any appreciable length of time.

    For Pakistan to reinvent itself will be gut wrenching, for nothing short of a complete makeover will suffice. If prosperity and security are Pakistan’s goals, the existing institutional/power structures of Pakistan (army + feudal chieftains) can never deliver. In that sense, Pakistan has become a classic reactionary state. The more its functioning power and institutional structures are supported, the further behind the Pakistani nation will fall. Until now Pakistan’s stability has been cemented by strengthening its Islamic identity, by fomenting hatred of India, and by marketing itself to the US as a geostrategic hedge (for more on this read the book entitled “Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military” by the Pakistani ambassador to the US, Hussein Haqqani). All have led to dysfunction that is plain to see. But rather than engage in an honest self-examination, Pakistan continues to look for easy scapegoats. Much is heard in Pakistan about America’s “unreliability.” But, did Pakistan really expect that the US would turn its back on a country that has made an honest attempt to learn from the revolutionary message of 1776 AD, and instead forever side with a country that wishes to live by the message of 622 AD. This is self delusion in the extreme. Sadly, it shows that Pakistan’s strategic thinkers have a poor understanding of the US, of the US’s “exceptional” self image, and of Pakistan’s place in the world.

    Pakistan claims that Kashmir is the “core” issue between India and itself, and many in the US are naïve (or cynical) enough to repeat this clever piece of disinformation. No, the core issue between India and Pakistan is Pakistan itself. A nation that deliberately foments hatred of India and defines itself as “not India” cannot be at peace with India no matter what the fate of Kashmir. To claim that but for Kashmir the Pakistani Muslim basically wants to live in peace with Hindus only begs the question: why then was Pakistan necessary? Pakistan was not necessary for Muslim security nor for Muslim prosperity, for it’s obvious that Pakistanis enjoy neither. Yes, Pakistan was necessary, but only for Muslim vanity. The ceaseless quest for a chimeric parity with Hindus was how this vanity was expressed historically, ultimately leading to partition; and to a Pakistan, willing to rent itself out in return for military and diplomatic support with which to engage in brinksmanship with India, even as this renting out damaged Pakistan’s self esteem and filled Pakistanis with self loathing. But Pakistan’s vainglorious elites don’t and never have cared. The extent to which Pakistan has been willing to damage its own social fabric in pursuit of that chimeric parity with India is really stunning to behold. Ah, vanity! From the very beginning Pakistan has been nothing but a project in Muslim vainglory, goaded on by others when convenient, but ultimately has only itself to blame. Deadly sins are, well, deadly. There is a “great deal of ruin” in a nation like Pakistan, as The Economist magazine recently observed.

    Pakistanis face a stark choice–they can either opt for progressive change from within, or further marginalization and eventually forced change will arrive from the outside. No nation can defy the world forever, especially a weak one like Pakistan. Nukes did not save the reactionary South African apartheid regime, nor will they save the reactionary state of Pakistan.

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