There was a pretty good article about Pakistan in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. It was mostly about the relationship between the Pakistani government and the Taliban in Pakistan’s northwestern province. It didn’t say anything terribly new, but I found it helpful to see everything laid out.

I’ve never been to Pakistan, but from what I’ve read it seems to be a perfectly pleasant place in the main cities. But Pakistan has a strong interest in keeping Afghanistan weak, and has always been the primary supporter of the Taliban. Although Musharraf signed up to support the U.S. after 9/11—supposedly Richard Holbrooke more-or-less told him to support the U.S. in Afghanistan or he would be next—his policy all along has been to do the minimum required to keep U.S. support. That U.S. support didn’t save him in the end, and it hurt the U.S. image to be seen supporting a near-dictator. So far the new leadership appears to be just as ready to take lots of U.S. dollars for doing as little as possible.

At the time of the invasion of Iraq I remember thinking that we were invading a country for which we had very weak evidence of nuclear weapons development, while ignoring the one three countries over with demonstrated nuclear capability and a long history of belligerence and working against U.S. interests. Since then we have learned a lot more about how A.Q. Khan sold Pakistan’s nuclear secrets to U.S. enemies. The Pakistani government has never bothered to actually punish him for doing so, despite promises made to the U.S.; this is not surprising considering he is a national hero for developing the Pakistani bomb.

Not that I think we should invade Pakistan, of course—that would be nuts. But the U.S. should definitely stop giving money and military support to a government which is quite likely to use them in ways we don’t like. The U.S. should focus on funding different efforts within Pakistan, such as setting up schools to compete with the Saudi-funded madrassas, and working to improve literacy and women’s rights. Those are steps which might over time defuse some of the tension and make Pakistan a more normal and friendly country. Military support pushes them in quite a different direction.


  1. faried said,

    September 17, 2008 @ 4:30 am

    There is a growing network of Turkish schools in Pakistan:

    Their approach appears to be working, but they’re limited to urban centers.

  2. Ian Lance Taylor said,

    September 17, 2008 @ 5:20 am

    Thanks for the link. Hope it works out.

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