Monday, September 22, 2008

Time for a new Pakistan policy

Here's a link to my most recent column for, arguing that the present U.S. policy toward Pakistan just isn't working for the U.S., and that it's time for reconsidering the relationship from the bottom up. I argue that the possibility of strategic disengagement -- proper diplomatic relations, but no aid, military or economic, except what is needed to help the Pakistani military keep the nukes out of terrorist hands. Those nukes are pretty well protected now, but things could get more unstable in Pakistan in the post-Musharraf era. Some have argued for economic aid, but that's likely to have little effect. It might be well-intentioned, but as Christine Fair of Rand told me, the way it's delivered is a big problem.

The U.S. typically hires contractors who hire sub-contractors and so on, and before you know it the money is eaten up and we're lucky if Pakistan gets ten cents on the dollar in schoolhouses, hospitals or whatever, and the construction usually turns out to be shoddy to boot, sometimes creating resentment rather than gratitude. We can't do much that's effective about al-Qaida in Pakistan with our current approach anyway, so we have to live with the knowledge that they're there and cope with things at the possible-attack end -- and do financial disruption and some real intelligence, which we don't do now.

Of course I would prefer an overall policy of strategic disengagement with the world outside North America -- proper relations, trade, tourism and whatnot unrestricted, but no military aid or meddling in the internal affairs of other countries, no matter how nasty their dictators. Maybe when I finish my book and get it published more people will see it that way.

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