Obama is wrong about Pakistan

I didn’t watch the debate last night. But I did read parts of it, and I was particularly interested in the candidates’ exchange about Pakistan: In one of the more heated moments of the debate, Mr. Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, argued that he would take the war to Osama bin Laden’s cave door, whether ...

I didn't watch the debate last night. But I did read parts of it, and I was particularly interested in the candidates' exchange about Pakistan:

In one of the more heated moments of the debate, Mr. Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, argued that he would take the war to Osama bin Laden’s cave door, whether Pakistan cooperated or not. And it was Mr. McCain, the Republican nominee, who argued that without Pakistan’s cooperation, any such operation was doomed.

I have to say, McCain gets the better of the exchange. 

I didn’t watch the debate last night. But I did read parts of it, and I was particularly interested in the candidates’ exchange about Pakistan:

In one of the more heated moments of the debate, Mr. Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, argued that he would take the war to Osama bin Laden’s cave door, whether Pakistan cooperated or not. And it was Mr. McCain, the Republican nominee, who argued that without Pakistan’s cooperation, any such operation was doomed.

I have to say, McCain gets the better of the exchange. 

I’ve become convinced that Obama is making a huge mistake in endorsing the Bush approach, which will lead to disaster if it is allowed to continue. When FP asked five top Pakistani experts to tell us how to get Osama bin Laden, they all stressed passionately that the United States is heading down the wrong path by escalating a campaign of airstrikes in the tribal areas and, on at least one occassion, sending U.S. ground troops across the border.

There doesn’t appear to be any genuine counterinsurgency strategy in place to do what General Petraeus did in Iraq — protecting the local population from Taliban and other militant groups and seeking to win the hearts and minds of the Pashtun people. Instead, it’s bomb, bomb, bomb. I understand the political appeal of getting bin Laden. But if you get the al Qaeda leader but turn Pakistan into a failed state, that is a strategic defeat, not a victory in the war on terrorism. 

Nor is there any apparent effort to rein in what Pakistan sees as India’s attempt to encircle it in Afghanistan, or a major push to make progress on Kashmir. Many people seem mystified and frustrated by Pakistan’s "double game" in the war on terrorism. Fear of India is the root cause.

Does Obama get all this? I understand the politics here. But as policy, the Bush approach to Pakistan is sheer folly.

More from Foreign Policy

A worker cuts the nose off the last Ukraine's Tupolev-22M3, the Soviet-made strategic aircraft able to carry nuclear weapons at a military base in Poltava, Ukraine on Jan. 27, 2006. A total of 60 aircraft were destroyed  according to the USA-Ukrainian disarmament agreement.
A worker cuts the nose off the last Ukraine's Tupolev-22M3, the Soviet-made strategic aircraft able to carry nuclear weapons at a military base in Poltava, Ukraine on Jan. 27, 2006. A total of 60 aircraft were destroyed according to the USA-Ukrainian disarmament agreement.

Why Do People Hate Realism So Much?

The school of thought doesn’t explain everything—but its proponents foresaw the potential for conflict over Ukraine long before it erupted.

Employees watch a cargo ship at a port in China, which is experiencing an economic downturn.
Employees watch a cargo ship at a port in China, which is experiencing an economic downturn.

China’s Crisis of Confidence

What if, instead of being a competitor, China can no longer afford to compete at all?

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies in the U.S. Senate in Washington on Sept. 24, 2020.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies in the U.S. Senate in Washington on Sept. 24, 2020.

Why This Global Economic Crisis Is Different

This is the first time since World War II that there may be no cooperative way out.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Premier Li Keqiang applaud at the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 11.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Premier Li Keqiang applaud at the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 11.

China Is Hardening Itself for Economic War

Beijing is trying to close economic vulnerabilities out of fear of U.S. containment.