Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Many moons ago, in a blog that may still exist in some wasted and forgotten corner of the web, I wrote that the two most dangerous terror exporting countries in the world are Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. This belief persists. While either country presents its own unique set of problems and challenges, I feel that at this particular historical moment, Pakistan proves a worthy locus of examination.
Not so long ago, Presidential candidate Barack Obama stated that he would, as president, authorize an incursion into Pakistani sovereign territory if it meant capturing Bin Laden, and presumably any top Al-Qaeda leadership. McCain pounced unflinchingly, suggesting that Obama's statement - advocating a military action against an "ally" - reflected his lack of foreign policy experience and his lack of understanding on how to deal with complex global issues.
Now, it is a distinct possibility that what I am about to say will be lost on the average American. Despite our deep involvement in South Asia, it remains an ill-understood region. A blog is perhaps not the best place for a lecture on Pakistan 101, but let it be said simply that Pakistan has been engaged in colonial action in Afghanistan for the last 15-20 years, and this has largely been at the command and control of the Punjabi military elite and everyone's favorite intelligence service, the ISI.
Afghanistan may not have become a haven for Al-Qaeda. Afghanistan may not have become a country ripe for the kind of ultra-paternalist brutality of the Taliban. Without ISI inteference, Ahmad Shah Masood may well have taken control of Kabul, and kept the opium funded warlords out. Make no mistake, the chaos in Afghanistan and the lawlessness in places like Wazirastan are no accident, but rather the result of duplicity and machination. Pakistan has held imperial ambitions on Afghanistan since Pakistan's very birth. The chaos of the last 20 years have given it its finest opportunity.
Obama has implied publicly what many won't dare speak out loud. Pakistan is not a reliable partner in trying to rid the world of Al-Qaeda. Pakistan's ambitions are solely her own. The sooner we realize this as a nation, the sooner we can stop wasting vital resources supporting corrupt military regimes in a country whose relationship with democracy is casual at best. Some support will remain necessary, particularly with regards the protection of nuclear weapons and materials within Pakistan, but this can be done with an international effort, and does not require a "special" bilateral relationship.
Staying in bed with lesser demons to get the devil out of your house sounds at best like many nights spent in hell.