Pakistan is often called the most dangerous country in the world. The foreign policy pros know this even of the public doesn’t and much ink has been spilled trying to figure out how we should handle this unstable, unpredictable country whose interests are often the polar opposite to ours. Pakistan has:
- High unemployment, 40% poverty, and maybe 50% literacy;
- Overpopulation and a youth bulge;
- Huge religious, ethnic, and tribal divisions, plus enormous economic inequality;
- It’s own Taliban as well as other powerful extremist movements that are openly trying to take over the country and frequently attack the government and civilians;
- Wars on its borders (Afghan, Kashmir) that feed the extremism and feed on it;
- Very high levels of anti-Americanism and a tendency towards paranoia about outsiders’ influence in and intentions towards Pakistan.
- Has more than 100 nuclear weapons and is expanding to 200;
- Doesn’t control much of its own territory (the “tribal areas”);
- Is notoriously corrupt;
- Cannot seem to provide the basic services to many of its citizens;
- Has an intelligence service that openly supports the Afghan Taliban and other U.S. enemies;
- Has a history of coups, countercoups, and assassinations.
Grim enough for you? Still, there is a broad consensus that we need to continue to deal with Pakistan because the alternative of disengagement would be calamitously risky – to the region and to us.
Can Pakistan be a true ally of America? I’ll open with a 5-10 minute overview of how our basic interests and Pakistan’s interests clash (and sometimes intersect). Then, we can discuss Pakistan in particular or maybe just how to deal with countries that view us with a lot of hostility and don’t see things our way.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS –
- What makes Pakistan “the most dangerous country in the world?”
- How stable/unstable is Pakistan? Is it really on the verge of being taken over by either (1) extremists, or (2) the military’s most anti-American elements?
- Can the major strategic differences between our two nations be reconciled? What if they cannot be?
- What should we do about Pakistan?
- In general, how should we interact with countries with whom, like Pakistan, we have major interests but their people and/or governments don’t much like us?
- The Ally from Hell, a long recent Atlantic Monthly cover story.
- The endlessly deepening crisis in Pakistan, a review of several recent books bemoaning the country’s many problems.
- We have to stay engaged. From as genuine U.S. Pakistan expert.
I will email a few international relations groups and associations to try to drum up interest in this week’s meeting.