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The Pakistani Four-Step


We all know the Pakistani four-step:

1) Large parts of the country where al-Qaeda and its affiliates openly congregate are a “badlands,” a “frontier,” or a “tribal land,” supposedly out of control of an otherwise concerned government, eager to stop terrorism, but too often impotent to do so—and extremely sensitive to charges that its intelligence services or military cadres might in some quarters be sympathetic to radical Islamists who destabilize democracies in nearby India and Afghanistan.

2) Western suggestions for more order are deemed illiberal support for military juntas; Western suggestions for more democracy are derided as naive calls for plebescites that will empower popular jihadists. Taboo is the suspicion that a large majority of Pakistani people sort of likes the idea that its homebred Islamists from time to time kill Hindus, Afghans, Americans, Christians, and assorted Crusaders and Jews. We are told ad nauseam that Pakistani public opinion concerning the U.S. is “at all time lows,” never that U.S. public opinion toward Pakistan is even lower, or that we are more concerned about the present good will of a democratic India, than the disdain of an autocratic Pakistan where the 9/11 killers reside.

3) The suggestion of lunacy, as well as the notion of a “failed state,” is not unwelcome, since it reminds the U.S. that it should continue giving billions in aid, both military and civilian, inasmuch as otherwise an unpredictable nuclear and Islamic Pakistan is not always in control of terrorists who might get fissionable materials, or, due to its religious zeal, might not necessarily behave according to the Cold War laws of nuclear deterrence, or because of its poverty can’t be held to account.

4) When all else fails, the Pakistani Westernized elite simply blames the U.S., past and present: During the Cold War we armed dictators and jihadists alike (apparently the alternative of becoming a Soviet protectorate was preferable); during the war on terror we energized strongmen (apparently we were to accept that the architects of 9/11 were ensconced on Pakistani territory and free to destroy the Afghan democratic experiment). Taboo also is the suggestion that most of Pakistan’s problems are self-created, and involve deep-seeded religious zealotry and intolerance, rampant corruption, a lack of transparency, and medieval practices of land tenure (always interesting to hear anti-American critiques from members of the Pakistani baronial class).

As I understand the subtext of U.S. current policy—we pay Pakistan billions for (a) locking up their nukes, (b) the privilege of hunting terrorists, largely, but not always, through drone missile attacks—and Pakistan has plausible deniability. (c) It deplores U.S. intrusions when we screw up and either kill someone too prominent or get caught on tape; and (d) we loudly deplore Pakistani terrorism when its terrorists go beyond killing a few Christians or diplomats and do something like Mumbai.

I suppose all this is sustainable, but a large number of Americans (who wonder why seven years after 9/11 the killers are still traversing Pakistani provinces) are getting tired of the same old, same old, and might wish to wash their hands of Pakistan—and out-source the problem to India.


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