The Corner

The Peters Plan

My friend and colleague on the New York Post op-ed page Ralph Peters has a typically bracing piece today arguing we should cut loose Pakistan. This seems folly to me. Pakistan is going to be ongoing frustration because it’s a fundamentally conflicted state with weak governing institutions. If it were otherwise, it wouldn’t have such a terrorism problem in the first place. We’re going to have to muddle along, trying to get it to do more against extremists and to foster the development of better state institutions. This is going to be another long, hard slog in a region full of them. The alternatives are either worse or implausible or both, because: 1) We can’t do the job ourselves, and 2) Leaving Pakistan to its fate will likely mean even more extremist gains and an Indian-Pakistan war–which Ralph contemplates–isn’t a solution. I think the mistake Ralph makes is defining our mission as solely killing terrorists, plain and simple. If there were a static group of terrorists whose specific identities and whereabouts were easily discernible without on-the-ground intelligence, maybe we could do this exclusively through military means. But that’s not the case. The number of people taking up arms will vary depending on their disaffection from the lawful authorities, which is why the capabilities and predilections of the governments in Pakistan and Afghanistan matter to us (unfortunately). And unless troops are on the ground, gaining intelligence and securing the population, you’re just going to play whack-a-mole, which didn’t work in Iraq prior to the surge or in Afghanistan in recent years.

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