I have often wondered if historians would see the failure to fully and constructively engage Pakistan after Sept. 11th as the gravest of the Bush administration’s mistakes. Indeed, if Sept. 11th were an argument for nation building anywhere, it was in Pakistan. Of course, I don’t mean invading the country. But a far larger carrot and a larger stick were both called for, I think, by the fact that an unstable nuclear power turned out to have directly supported fanatics like bin Laden. Bush has been stinting with his carrots – he wouldn’t even give Pakistan a decent (and fair) deal on textiles which might have strengthened his domestic hand, and he hasn’t been particularly aggressive in promoting civil society or stability in the country either. The dispute over Kashmir is managed to avoid a crisis, but not engaged in any meaningful way.
If you think the war on Iraq diverted energy and attention from this effort – or rather, from what might have been this effort – then we ought to reckon that among the consequences of the war.
It isn’t clear yet what the consequences are of allowing Pakistan to continue rotting in this way. But I’m afraid they will be cataclysmic.