Friday, January 21, 2011

What to do with Pakistan: Part Two


I haven’t forgotten you Pakistan, but China stopped by and the whole day job got in the way.  Now where were we.  Last time I was commenting on T.X. Hammes and more generally about the messy history between Pakistan and the U.S.  This post is about just a few of the pros and cons of disengagement with Pakistan.

So what happens if the U.S. disengages from Pakistan?  First the pros:

  • Greater autonomy to operate on the Afghan side of the AfPak border
  • Be less concerned about the Pakistan public reaction to U.S. actions
  • Have greater mission clarity and direction from unilateral action plans

And now, the cons:

  • Loss of access to superior human intelligence network.
  • Loss of international legitimacy for the mission since it would likely be unilateral.
  • Loss of input/leverage over Pakistan’s nuclear program.

This is not even close to an exhaustive list, but I think it illustrates the point.  It’s easy to knock the current policy, but it’s very hard to come up with an alternative.  There are benefits from disengaging from Pakistan, however Pakistan, if not the best of allies, is an important power in a region that we can’t afford to have a blind spot.  I have a feeling the frustrations that T.X. Hammes outlines are some of the same frustrations voiced in meeting rooms at the White House, the Pentagon, and the State Department (or at least I hope they are) but sometimes there isn’t a good alternative and all you’re left with is the least bad alternative.  Obviously as a super power it sounds neither super nor powerful to pursue a least bad policy, but I don’t see a clear alternative.  Do you?

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