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8:51AM

WPR's The New Rules: "Why the U.S. Should 'Give' Af-Pak to China"

Nuclear Pakistan, we are often told, is the Islamic-state equivalent of a Wall Street firm: In geostrategic terms, it is too big to fail. That explains why, even as the Obama administration begins preparing for modest troop withdrawals from Afghanistan this July, it dispatched Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Islamabad last week to smooth over bilateral relations with Pakistan's paranoid regime, which were strained even before the killing of Osama bin Laden. But Clinton's trip and the Obama administration's instinctive embrace of Islamabad is a fool's errand, doomed by history, geography and globalization itself.

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.

COMMENT:  This piece fleshes out the most provocative scenario from the "4 options" column I penned two weeks earlier.  That column lands me a taping tomorrow on NPR's All Things Considered, and I wanted to state the most logical case more fully prior to going on.

One of the key things I think a genuine grand strategist is supposed to do is to remind decision makers of the logical consequences of their strategic choices.  We have made choices on Afghanistan, most importantly our unwillingness to regionalize the solution, because we're committed to "winning" in a very particular way.  We've also made some choices on China, as the Chinese have made some about us.  India and Pakistan intersect among those choices, and I believe we make a very bad choice by picking Pakistan amidst all those intersections.

Also, while I remain certain that China and the US are slated for high levels of strategic cooperation in the future for all manner of structural reasons, I think there are all manner of routes to that cooperative space, including some that involve serious learning for us both along the way.

But my definitions of good grand strategy require plenty of flexibility and adaptability along with the core principles.  I don't believe in fixing every state - just the ones that really matter.  I continue to think that Iraq was worth it - despite our fundamentally unilateralist pursuit of the outcome.  I think Afghanistan is worth it - if you accept the logic of a regional solution set.  But I have yet to be convinced that Pakistan, given its set of unique circumstances is worth it - or even salvageable.  

I see opportunity at this moment for President Obama, but only one option being provided.

Reader Comments (8)

If the POTUS or someone in his inner circle reads this, logic would demand that they have you, over for long lesson in grand strategy. One hopes the link to the full article at WPR remains open so future readers can access this important article.

May 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThomas Wade

"All Things Considered" has a large following. Good exposure. Good luck.

India and Pakistan are more likely to end up in a tragic and senseless war than the U.S. and China. Pakistan's military does not seem to have enough adults in charge to be able to handle the complicated business of controlling and securing "tactical" nukes. Has to make India nervous. Ought to make China nervous also. Ideology brought us close to nuclear war...religion may bring the world closer.

May 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTed O'Connor

Henry Kissinger agrees with China's perspective and orientation towards patience in that region. He noted in a Time Magazine interview that it is based on thousands of years of experience while the US has only a short history with international problem areas. The Chinese realize that every 'solution' there is an admission ticket to another problem.

I would suggest that India's own experiences could also make her more pragmatic than the US/UN/NATO mindsets.

May 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLouis Heberlein

Kipling demonstrated before and after insights on Western globalization efforts in his time:

(Before)
Take up the White Man's burden—
Send forth the best ye breed—
Go, bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait, in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild—
Your new-caught sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child.
—The White Man's Burden

(After)
Far-called, our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet.
Lest we forget - lest we forget!
—Recessional

May 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLouis Heberlein

Now I understand why India chose the European consortium to supply fighter aircraft. If the US defense industry wants to do business with India, the US goverment must make the choice between India and Pakistan more clear.

May 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJeff Jennings

Keeping the Indians nervous is the point of the having nukes and is sucessful Pak Military thinking.
Keeping the World nervous or deluding the Saudis that they have a nuclear 'option' makes hay for the Political classes.Laughably..even the Pakistan Taliban has declared that they don't want to jeopardise this state of affairs .
Pakistan needs to fail.
The US is a crutch that never cures but always comforts.
The shock of a US re-alignment with India ( as opposed to a simple dis-engagment ) seems attractive but never underestimate the Indians ability to navel gaze regardless of circumstance. Remember that they do not control nearly 30%+ of their own territory.Only the Chinese have a long view.
The Bureaucracy is the cancer in Pakistan ...whether its legal, customs, armed ( military) or political.I just met a man from Pakistan who used his influence to get his uneducated , 'Fast and Furious' knuckle head tearaway son a Government posting with a Government car.He has never done a days work and never will.
Sums up the upper echelons perfectly.

May 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJavaid Akhtar

Af-Pac.... Finally some clarity. I've had questions about the practical 'national interest' we (USA) have had in this region. Aside from covert ops to disrupt Al Queda types exporting terror, the area of nation building never really made sense. Time for China to start paying the tab for what it extracts... Now that they are invested, its time for them to protect their own supply chains.

June 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDan Hare

Everyone,
Nationbuilding always works, simply outsource the reconstruction efforts to neighboring countries and local labor and have them provide 90% of sys-admin troops, like the Balkans during the '90s. In all future cases, the bulk of reconstruction and troops are provided by China/India/Russia/Turkey/everyone else. Without dedicated nationbuilding for 5-7 years, all blood and treasure is lost and is repeated.
2nd time in Afghanistan/Pakistan, 2nd time in Iraq, 2nd time in Somalia. 11 years monitoring Yemen. All efforts mightily performed without nationbuilding and wearing out covert operations personnel over and over. The nationbuilding is necessary and I agree should be funded by neighbors although the US won't retain entire control over outcome, which is ok if they are moved into the economic core as a bare minimum (beyond 3000 gdp/capita).
The Pentagon needs to be out of business the right way, and shrinking the gap through funded nationbuilding (China/India/Turkey) does reach this goal.
Thanks.
Derek Bergquist

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDerek Bergquist

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