OK, so the big post Bin Laden story is about how messed up our relationship with Pakistan is. Our alliance with Pakistan, much like the mess in Afghanistan, is a hangover from the Cold War. When the British Raj ended in the South Asia, Pakistan and India emerged as bitter rivals. India tried to steer a path of "non-alignment" in the Cold War. But India early on moved closer to the Soviet Union.
Monday, May 09, 2011
Pakistan decided an alliance with the US was the way to go. Pakistan was a charter member of CENTO (a less well known part of the series of treaties, including NATO, designed to contain the spread of communism inside a ring of regional alliances, the third organization was SEATO). Pakistan had already established a separate relationship with China in 1950, being one of the first countries to recognize the Communist government following their defeat of the Chinese nationalists in 1949.
The 1960s, 70s and 80s saw the complex alliances get entrenched. As the US enlisted China as an ally against the USSR, a kind of three way alliance between the United States, Nationalist Pakistan and Communist China formed. All of it was based on convenience. The US wanted allies against the USSR. China wanted support against the USSR and India and Pakistan wanted support against India. This three way alliance was useful when the USSR invaded Afghanistan with Pakistan playing a crucial role in US efforts to support the anti-soviet resistance in Afghanistan. Part of Pakistan's foreign policy had always been enlisting Islamic fundamentalists as proxies both in their conflict against the Soviets in Afghanistan and against India (especially in Kashmir). All of this led to the emergence of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
But in the post cold war era, the goals of the US have shifted. Russia is no longer the greatest concern. Rather, US foreign policy is focussed on containing Islamic fundamentalism and China. Pakistan is a particularly unreliable ally for both goals. At the same time, democratic India is looking increasingly like a better ally in that region on both dimensions. India is a large, fast growing developing country that is already a relatively stable democracy. They have an inherent incentive to see containing China as a benefit and they are a frequent target of Islamic fundamentalism.
So why do we still need an alliance with Pakistan at all? So long as we have troops in Afghanistan, we need Pakistan's cooperation to keep them supplied. Afghanistan is land locked and any connection to the Indian Ocean must go through or over either Iran or Pakistan. Iran is out of the question so... Pakistan's military elite has us by the short hairs. And since they know we need them and they're helping us is politically costly for them domestically, these elites demand exorbitant payoffs in the form of massive military aid and indulgence when they do things like sell nukes to North Korea or support terrorism against India or hide Bin Laden from us.
Also, our support for secular elites in Pakistan is the only thing keeping that country away from sliding into becoming a nuclear armed version of Afghanistan. Granted those elites are way too cozy with people who mean to do us serious harm. But we have little choice at this point but to try to influence the Pakistanis as best we can. The faster we pull out of Afghanistan the easier it will be Pakistan to be friends with us and the less they'll have us by the short hairs. In other words, us pulling out of Afghanistan will strengthen our bargaining position with Pakistan just as it makes it easier for Pakistan to be cooperative with us.
In the long run, our best outcome would be to build friendly relationship with both Pakistan and India and use their mutual friendship with us to establish something like the peace that now reigns between Greece and Turkey. Getting out of Afghanistan helps that. Frankly, even if things deteriorate in Afghanistan after our departure, it's better for us to be out.
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 11:28 AM