Sunday, August 13, 2006

Uygur on the Pakistan Solution

Cenk Uygur argues that our involvement with Pakistan is the right way to fight terrorism throughout the world - diplomatic engagement wherever possible, and enlisting the help of Islamic governments to work together to combat the true terrorists. There are a few things I'd add.

Another thing we've done exactly right in Pakistan that Uygur doesn't mention is the large amount of American aid provided to Pakistan in the aftermath of the terrible earthquake there last year. It wasn't even that much aid, or that expensive - but it caused a substantial rise in public sympathy toward America among the Pakistani public - no small feat.

If we went further and engaged in the kind of "weapons of mass salvation" campaign advocated by Jeffrey Sachs, even though it would involve a large rise in our foreign aid spending, it would still be only a drop in the bucket of defense spending, to which it might properly be compared, since could do a lot to shift sentiment to our favor in would-be "terrorist breeding grounds", in a grand extension of the Pakistan earthquake aid effect, and genuinely make our nation more secure.

Another major characteristic to account for in Pakistan's case is a leader who seems to be guided by rational pragmatism rather than dogmatic fervor, in Pervez Musharraf - something shared in common with Mohammad Khatami and maybe Bashar al-Assad, but unfortunately not with Ahmedinejad, or the clerics who wield the true power in Iran, or, say, Kim Jong-il. Opportunities for diplomatic engagement with those leaders on the level of our engagement with Musharraf don't exist, nor do the distinctions between them and rogue elements within their borders in terms of threats to the American interest.

The example of the Pakistan Solution also can't be discussed without mentioning that allying with Pakistan has still been something of a deal with the devil - it means going along with a nation armed with nukes that it never should have been allowed to acquire, even overlooking its past proliferation of nuclear technology to other unsavory regimes, strengthening the undemocratic administration of a general who seized power in a coup d'etat, and supporting a perennial threat to a great democratic nation on its border, India - which works as long as we are closely involved, but that is only a quasi-stable state.

The Pakistan Solution, or better yet, a magnified version of it, might work with Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, possibly with Sudan and Burma. Iran is a unique case, with a large and well-educated and generally pro-American citizenry. In North Korea, the regime is the problem and there is no domestic element with competing interests to the state. If there is one state more than any other that has little chance for a successful resolution without a proactive policy of regime change, and a compelling need for such resolution to liberate its people and remove its capacity for imminent threat, it is the regime of the "Dear Leader" Kim Jong-il.

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