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Oh, And What About Pakistan?

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.

three comments

You can certainly count me as one of the people who sees a failed Pakistan as much worse than a failed Afghanistan. Pakistan has nuclear weapons, and Afghanistan doesn´t. Pakistan is simultaneously in the middle of its own civil war with tribal militants, and in the latter thawing stages of a cold war/ border conflict with its traditional enemy India. The US has given billions in military aid even under the Bush administration, without them really taking a lot of initiative until recently. (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/07/washington/07policy.html)

I think nation building in this particular case is important, and you are correct in noting that the right person can make a little bit of money go a long long way, however you have to make sure you have the right person. Oversight is important, just throwing money at problems doesn´t always fix them in the most efficient manner possible. You can´t just trust it to Pakistani authorities, it would have to be a joint program. The GWOT is incredibly unpopular in Pakistan, and according to Musharraf´s autobiography the only reason he reluctantly joined was because they were strongarmed into it by the US.

Yeah, while I want to help Pakistan, I don’t want to condone what they have done so far, because they haven’t done much.

As for oversight, this is why individuals need to get involved. Individuals like Gregg Mortensen see instant responses and can avoid wasting money. Individuals like him are rare though.

I second the need for over sight. Good god I hate waste.