Missing the point

Regular readers may or may not be aware of my take on Pakistan: broadly, I’m against it.

Less glibly, I’m disturbed by its descent into fundamentalism (chiefly driven, as in the Middle East, by the hopeless corruption of its secular rulers), by its dictatorial president (is it better to have a dictatorship than a theocracy… probably yes, but that’s not saying much), by its woeful lack of economic progress, and by the way that its secret service backs terrorism in India. It’s one of those countries like Iran, which doesn’t pose a threat to the rest of the world or oppress its people as badly as Iraq and North Korea, but is still a worry – and it’s hard to come up with a good long-term strategy for dealing with it.

All that said, this New York Times article (found via the excellent OxBlog) seems to be rather wrong-headed. It relies on the premise that US officials are blithely unconcerned by the revelation that Pakistan’s top nuclear scientist was running a nuclear bomb shop (and the decision to pardon him), that the administration has granted Pakistan free rein to do whatever it likes as long as it agrees to chase the ex-Talibanites who lurk around the Afghan border, and that the decision to declare Pakistan a “major non-NATO ally” is driven by the State Department’s love and respect for Pervez Musharraf.

While I’m as happy as any Brit to mock the intelligence of US Intelligence, the NYT’s analysis seems somewhat unlikely to be true.

It seems more plausible that rather than pursuing closer ties and ingoring Pakistan’s rampant dodginess, Washington has come to a bargain with General Musharraf: “tell us *everything* about who you sold nuclear material to, stop selling it, and co-operate with us absolutely on tracking the Taliban, and not only will we not invade you, but we’ll also not make you look like an imperialist stooge in front of your rebellious people. Hell, we’ll even formally agree to be your ally – now don’t go starting a war with India and making us look stupid, or payback will occur.”

This seems to be a very good way of fighting terrorism and rogue states – even if public humiliation, threatened war and ritual denunciation are more fun.

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