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.