An ongoing topic on the World’s Affair Board (one of the better forums out there) is the problem of Pakistan. Many of the users have surprisingly negative opinions of Pakistan, some advocating severing all diplomatic ties or letting the Taliban overthrow the Pakistan government. The most surprising assertion, to me, was that some on the website viewed Pakistan as the heart of our Islamic problem. Is Pakistan the newest, most important front in the war on terror?
One can't discuss the problem of Afghanistan without mentioning Pakistan, specifically Pakistan's’s Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA), where the Taliban train, rest between missions, and plot future actions against the Afghan government. Thus, one cannot solve the problems in Afghanistan without solving them in Pakistan as well.
So what do we do about Pakistan?
Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar have their own plan. They authored a bill promising 7.5 billion in aid over the next five years to support Pakistan’s efforts against the Taliban in their country. Militarily, we will continue to use drone strikes to target top Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders. Even further, the Pentagon has established the Pakistan Afghanistan Coordination Cell to better coordinate efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
I applaud the Kerry-Lugar bill. As my failed states post hopefully made clear, a successful Afghanistan with a failed Pakistan is just as bad (if not worse) for the US than a failed Afghanistan and successful Pakistan. The solution is continued doses of preventive medicine.
If Pakistan fails, the US, NATO or the UN will have to get involved. Nuclear weapons could end up in the hands of terrorists, and the country would become a haven for Islamic extremism.This would cost billions of dollars and thousands of lives, US and foreign. While still functioning now, Pakistan has several clear warning signs of state failure. They have a higher infant mortality rate than Iraq and hundreds of radical madrassas.
Senators Lugar and Kerry are on the right track. They sent aid to the government of Pakistan to keep it from failing but I say we double down. As a society, we should match the 7.5 billion our government will invest. Not governmental aid, but aid from people and foundations. We have already sent aid to a Pakistani government that wavers in it’s support of the US. Now we need to send aid to a Pakistani people that at best are tolerant of the US and at worse openly despise us. By lending a hand to help fight the problems of ignorance, economic stagnation, and chronic illness, we will gain an ally in the region and prevent their state from failing.
Remember, if the US doesn’t help Pakistan, radical Arabs will. In fact, Saudi oil money already has. Islamic extremists spend millions educating Pakistani children in radical madrassas throughout Pakistan. We need more people like Greg Mortenson and his Central Asia Institute. He uses a budget of only a few million dollars to build hundreds of school. Imagine if the US could send hundreds of Greg Mortensens armed with tens of millions of dollars.
If, as a people, we reach out to Pakistan, as a people they will reject extremism. Its not impossible. The world’s largest Islamic nation--Indonesia--supports America, Pakistan could too.