Tuesday, September 9, 2008

All's Fair...

See, this is more like it. The Common Man drove around this morning, doing the things that The Common Man does, and gets his pants scared off by an NPR interview about Pakistan. According to Prof. Christine Fair, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation, in the U.S.'s post-9/11 mucking about, government officials have settled on Pakistan on the one best chance to fight off radicalism in the Muslim world. This policy is complicated by Pakistan's continuing attempts to support some extremists groups, but not others (an unsuccessful strategy Fair describes as "moderating extremism") and its gross corruption (in which high-value targets have been warned ahead of an impending attack by members of the Pakistani government and in which its new President, Asif Ali Zardari, has earned the nickname "Mr. Ten-Percent").

The danger lies in supporting a regime that has done and likely will do little to curb the threat posed by a resurgent Taliban and al Quaeda, and in putting all of the U.S.'s foreign diplomacy eggs into Pakistan's basket. By not engaging in diplomacy with Iran, who actually supported the U.N. effort to oust the Taliban, or any of Afghanistan's other neighbors, regarding the situation in Afghanistan, and in not engaging in an aid program designed to build up the citizenry in Pakistan, the U.S. has left itself vulnerable position with regard to its fight in Afghanistan. In order to resupply troops and bring in aid there, the U.S. is entirely reliant upon Pakistan, whose position is complicated and tenuous, and increased instability could make the war prohibitively expensive and dangerous to maintain, particularly as the U.S. takes public relations hits related to civilian casualties.

It's telling that it takes Fair an hour to truly delve into Pakistan, a nation of contrasts. They're an ally, but the sworn enemy of another great U.S. ally (India). They've commited resources and manpower to the fight against al Quaeda, but encourage terrorists in Kashmere who interact with the same terrorist groups they're fighting. They have a quasi-democracy, but the country's elites all seem to alienate the average citizenry and use their elected positions to entrench themselves and oppose democratic and anti-corruption reform. And it's not until the end that Fair gets to the truly disturbing notion that, frankly, no one knows enough about Pakistan to adequately explain where the Taliban and al Quaeda are getting the weapons they're using to terrorize the populace and fight the government.

Anyway, it's well worth listening to, as Fair is engaging and adept at making the intricacies of Pakistan understandable, and The Common Man is providing the link here. And in doing so, ask yourself whether fear and caution are manly traits. The Common Man doesn't mean abject, irrational fear, of course. But it seems to The Common Man that adequate fear leads to adequate caution and adequate preparation for risk. And isn't a huge part of being a responsible man (and a Boy Scout, The Common Man assumes, though he bounced out of Cub Scouts after a year of Webelos), being prepared? The Common Man wishes that America's foreign policy was being carried out by men and women with a proper level of fear about Pakistan, and would take precautions to make sure that, should something go wrong, the U.S. is not out of moves.

The Common Man plans to send this information to Connie and Fish and see if they (and their listeners) can help.

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