The Pakistan Problem

Obama made absolutely the right call when he did not tell the Pakistani government that we were going after bin Laden. While I think the Pakistani government tries to be sympathetic to us, I also think they are both compromised by Wahabbists within and desperate not to inflame a radical Islamist revolution in their own country.

Whether we should break off things with them is even more iffy. Having their government on our side makes it easier to chase down AQ operatives in their country and try to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of Jihadists. Pakistan is also being courted by China as a strategic ally, a potentially dangerous power shift.

But the Pakistani’s are not making it easy for us. Beside hiding bin Laden in their country, they’ve threatened to give the wreckage of the stealth helicopter to the Chinese. And yesterday, they outed our CIA station chief:

The public outing of the CIA station chief here threatened on Monday to deepen the rift between the United States and Pakistan, with U.S. officials saying they believed the disclosure had been made deliberately by Pakistan’s main spy agency.

If true, the leak would be a sign that Pakistan’s powerful security establishment, far from feeling chastened by the killing of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani garrison city last week, is seeking to demonstrate its leverage over Washington and retaliate for the unilateral U.S. operation.

Less than six months ago, the identity of the previous CIA station chief in Islamabad was also disclosed in an act that U.S. officials blamed on their counterparts in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI.

The new station chief, who runs one of the largest U.S. intelligence-gathering operations in the world, played an instrumental role in overseeing efforts to confirm bin Laden’s location before last week’s raid.

This is, to some extent, a temper tantrum by Pakistan. The Soviet Union and the US used to do this to each other in retaliation during the Cold War. But there’s a very real danger here of Pakistan sliding toward China and away from us. (On the other hand, the Chinese would probably find an alliance with Pakistan even more of a mixed blessing than we do).

The future of our relationship with Pakistan is going to be a real test of both Obama and Hillary Clinton. I don’t know if we can keep Pakistan on our side and I don’t know that we should. But without them, things get a lot more difficult. Patching up our relationship as best we can — at least in the short term — may be the least of several evils.

Long term, India is far more important to us and far less insane. We might be better off concentrating our efforts there.

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  1. Rann

    they’ve threatened to give the wreckage of the stealth helicopter to the Chinese.

    Frankly, I’d have been threatening military action over them taking it into possession in the first place and not giving it back with all humanly possible haste. If they do indeed give it to the Chinese, it should be considered an act of war.

    You make a good point about the necessity of Pakistan’s help, but there’s a fine line between making concessions to a necessary ally and letting someone… well, I used this in the other post, but it still applies… letting someone make you their bitch.

    If we’re really going to let Pakistan not only take our secret technology, but then sell it to the Chinese, that is not making reasonable concessions. That is rolling over, spreading cheeks, and not lobbying too hard for lube. The fact that they’re actually trying to play tough and pound their chests by outing the section chief is further indication that they think they can keep pushing us around and we’ll just take it.

    I think if Obama wants to refine his image as a Noble Hawk, he needs to lay it on the line and say, in an address to Pakistan and the world, “We are eager to seek allies. But allies make reasonable concessions to each other… and when one party becomes unreasonable, they cease to be an ally. Depending on their further actions, they can become an enemy. And the United States will no longer tolerate an enemy that threatens our rights as a nation, to the sanctity of our people and our property.”

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  2. AlexInCT

    Obama made absolutely the right call when he did not tell the Pakistani government that we were going after bin Laden. While I think the Pakistani government tries to be sympathetic to us, I also think they are both compromised by Wahabbists within and desperate not to inflame a radical Islamist revolution in their own country.

    You know I love to bash Obama at every given opportunity, and man does he give, but here he was smarter than Bush was. For some ungodly reason Bush kept believing Pakistan was honestly helping us in the GWoT, despite everyone in the military that spent time out that way pointing out they were not doing so. The decision not to let the Pakistanis in on this is the only reason bin laden is dead today. If they had been told, we would have missed him, as has been the case every other time we have warned them we where close.

    Whether we should break off things with them is even more iffy. Having their government on our side makes it easier to chase down AQ operatives in their country and try to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of Jihadists. Pakistan is also being courted by China as a strategic ally, a potentially dangerous power shift.

    I think we seriously need to look at the assumption their government is on our side. Pakistan clearly is in China’s camp, against India – whom we should ally with as soon as possible – and has divided loyalties. To me it is quite clear they pretend just hard enough that they support us, so they can keep getting the billions in military aid we give them, and not just helping, but are actually behind most of these terror groups. When you see how much training, equipment, shelter, and ideological aid the terrorists seem to be getting from the Pakistani military and the ISI, this conclusion, that they are not just fomenters, but an actual state sponsor, if not the biggest one, of terrorism, becomes inescapable.

    The question is why we seem to be pretending otherwise. Are we bribing them currently not to give the terrorists nukes? Is this relationship basically one where we figure even though they are screwing us we are better off being around them so we can know what they are up to? Or is this just the amateurs running the show right now, despite the fact they were smart enough to figure out Pakistan was playing us, just being amateurs, and hoping that Pakistan will see the light? What’s obvious is that we can not trust Pakistan.

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