Our Pakistan Problem
Now that we found Osama bin Laden relatively out in the open, what should we do?


The denials of any prior knowledge of Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts are coming fast and furious from Islamabad. Some of them are quite ingenious as well as utterly disingenuous: For example, no one paid heed to bin Laden’s estate in Abbottabad because such large compounds are common in that city.

These routine sleights of hand will continue in the days and months ahead as American investigators run up against a guard of lies and half-truths. Faced with such deft stonewalling, what is the U.S. to do? One option, of course, is to simply accept the dissembling of the Pakistani security establishment. Bluntly put, both Democratic and Republican administrations have done so before. After all, they accepted the happy fiction that A. Q. Khan was a rogue operator who was also a lone wolf and no Pakistani regime was complicit in running his nuclear-arms bazaar.

On the other hand, given the blood and treasure that the U.S. has expended in Afghanistan since 2001, it may be time to change tack. Perhaps the Pakistani security apparatus can be gently reminded that American patience, though seemingly infinite, actually has distinct limits. Accordingly, unless it is prepared to finally eschew its labyrinthine ties to a host of jihadi organizations, the American taxpayer will no longer foot the bill for expensive weapons systems for Pakistan. The military in Pakistan has long thrived on this arms pipeline. The time may have arrived to suggest that it will be cut off unless some genuine reciprocity is on the horizon.

Sumit Ganguly is the director of research at the Center on American and Global Security at Indiana University, Bloomington.


The question now is why we continue to pour billions of dollars into Pakistan when they act not like a friend or even a neutral, but like an abject enemy. Is there any other conclusion to be drawn from their extension of sanctuary to bin Laden for five years? I guess the sick relationship went something like this: We called our Pakistani “partners” daily, asking for the latest intel on Osama’s whereabouts; their liaison put us on hold while he called the army’s “keep Osama safe” department. After learning Osama was still happy in his protected compound, the liaison resumed the conversation to inform us, “No, nothing new on our end.”

Why do we continue with this? Apparently for four reasons: One, the bad situation in Afghanistan would be worse if Pakistan were to go from being a duplicitous enemy to an overt one; two, there are “good” and “bad” Pakistani intelligence officers at “war” with each other, and we get as good information from the good guys as we receive damage from the bad; three, Pakistan has somewhere between 70 and 90 nuclear devices and in a tiff could “lose” some to either terrorists or fellow Sunni authoritarian governments; four, while it may be humiliating to see bin Laden at ease in his compound — no doubt with paper-mache cave sets and a soundstage in back of the house for his annual videos — as things are, we more or less go into Pakistan’s airspace and territory as we see fit.

Bottom line: The public is outraged; our intelligence and diplomatic communities grimace, expect the furor to pass, and then hope to get back to business as usual. But I don’t see much difference in Pakistan’s attitude toward us now versus when we broke relations over Dr. Khan’s nuclear-proliferation trade mart, except that in those days it was a lot cheaper and at least psychologically tolerable.

We should outsource our Pakistan problems to India, which is democratic, capitalist, stronger, far more pro-American, and the regional power with which we should have a real relationship based on mutual interests.

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern.