The Best Defense

Tom's suggested Pakistan policy: Short-term embrace, long-term divorce

Here is an elaboration on some of what I said yesterday on ABC's This Week . (Also on the show was Lawrence Wright, who has this terrific piece on Pakistan in the new issue of the New Yorker.)

I think we need to have a short-term plan that temporarily keeps us close to Pakistan, followed by a much different long-run strategy that cuts us loose from this wreck of a state.

In the short run, our goal should be to collect our winnings. Pakistan screwed up, bigtime. We have them off balance, and the blustering of their officials isn't helping their cause. Over the next several months, we should aim to use this situation to get the terrorists and information we want. 

And then get out. In the long run, we should back away from Pakistan. They believe they have us over a barrel, that (as Steve Coll has observed) they are too big to fail. They have nuclear warheads and they stand on our supply route to the U.S. troops in Afghanistan. So I think we need to accelerate the troop drawdown in Afghanistan, and move from a large footprint of conventional troops to a smaller footprint of Special Operators and support units conducting counterterror missions. (But note Petraeus' pushback over the weekend: "Targeted military strikes don't produce security on their own.")This reduced force of perhaps 20,000 troops could be supplied by air and through Central Asia. Expensive, yes. But cheaper than giving billions of dollars annually to Pakistan and seeing it spent on its nuclear program and corruption. We also should encourage ties between Afghanistan and Central Asia.

With our military posture in Afghanistan shifted, we then could move to a purely transactional aid plan with Pakistan: "For doing X, you get Y amount of money." No more money for promises, and certainly not $4 billion a year for being a frenemy. In the long run, our interests are much more with India, anyway. If Pakistan wants to retaliate by allying with China -- knock yourselves out, fellas.  

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The Best Defense

Quotes of the day: Obama on the 40-minute wait in the Situation Room

President Obama on 60 Minutes: "And you know, there were big chunks of time in which all we were doin' was just waiting. And it was the longest 40 minutes of my life with the possible exception of when Sasha got meningitis when she was three months old, and I was waiting for the doctor to tell me that she was all right. It was a very tense situation."

By chance, last night I was reading some material on the failed hostage rescue operating in the Iranian desert in 1980. It was heartbreaking for all concerned, and politically crippling for President Carter. I think one of the unexpected side benefits of getting bin Laden will be that the U.S. military has greater faith in Obama as commander in chief-and Obama in his military:

Q: How much did some of the past failures, like the Iran hostage rescue attempt, how did that weigh on you? I mean...

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I thought about that.

Q: ...was that a factor?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Absolutely. Absolutely. No, I mean you think about Black Hawk Down. You think about what happened with the Iranian rescue. And it, you know, I am very sympathetic to the situation for other presidents where you make a decision, you're making your best call, your best shot, and something goes wrong -- because these are tough, complicated operations. And yeah, absolutely. The day before I was thinkin' about this quite a bit.

United States Government Work/Flickr