Who Strains the US-Pakistan Relationship?

December 1st, 2011 at 9:08 am David Frum | 31 Comments |

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I’m beginning to think we need to learn the Urdu word for chutzpah. The US discovery that Pakistan for years gave shelter to Osama bin Laden is now being taken as an example of American strain on the US-Pakistani relationship.

Oh and by the way, has Pakistan ever apologized for supporting the killers of US soldiers inside Afghanistan? Thought not…

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31 Comments so far ↓

  • Houndentenor

    Pakistan has the bomb. We can’t allow their government to collapse and be taken over by something resembling the Taliban or the Mullahs in Iran. That means taking some behavior we wouldn’t tolerate from other countries. Please suggest alternative strategies. We don’t have a lot of options there.

    • Probabilistic

      The Pakistani border posts were in a remote location on a hill top. The surrounding terrain looks quite barren. It’s difficult to see why an errant missile would hit those posts. It’s way more likely those posts were fired upon intentionally. But why? Why was there a 3 hour skirmish? Did fleeing Taliban seek refuge in those border posts? What was the response of the Pakistani border guards in those 3 hours? And, aren’t there lines of communication between NATO and Pakistani military? One would think 3 hours is long enough to get messages across, presuming remote border posts have Sat phones.

      As to the larger question: I agree with you. There aren’t too many options available. The US can increase the cost to Pakistan of its bad behavior, but only to an extent. Otherwise, there is the threat of total failure. I suppose, the US will have to deal with this unhappy equilibrium.

  • midwest guy

    Of course the Pakistan leadership (both military and civilian) is guilty as charged. However, it is completely dishonest to imply that all of the blame is on their heads, given our own behavior in the region over the past decade or more. There is plenty of blame to go around for what has happened in Pakistan, but providing a simplistic, grossly incomplete comment such as the one above is not helpful to any genuine understanding of the situation. This is a time when we urgently need thoughtful solutions, not finger-pointing.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    Let me get this right, Obama must stop his apology tour (which he has never done) because America never apologizes for anything, yet Pakistan has to apologize for our killing some of their soldiers…or something.
    I am fine if Obama doesn’t “apologize” over the incident at the border. I am not privy to the intelligence, but if we genuinely screwed up and killed their soldiers by accident, then I am also perfectly fine with apologizing for it. As to Pakistan not apologizing to us for whatever nefarious things the ISI has done, I don’t care, it is a primitive society. We are better than them. We know we are better than them. It is not demeaning to us to behave in a better fashion then them and if an apology is in order, so be it, even if they themselves think it is some great victory that we do so. In a sense it would be a win win for both sides (though to be honest there is no winning when soldiers die, at least we would do the right thing)

  • kuri3460

    The bottom line is that the US/Pakistan relationship is complicated for both sides. Publicly, both governments need to pay lip service to a population that sees the other side as evil, but privately, we benefit from their cooperation just as they benefit from ours.

  • armstp

    Frum, I think you need to remember who is actully invading who’s territory!!!

    The Pakistanis have every right to be distrubed by what the U.S. is doing in Pakistan and the region.

    Your debate buddy Greenwald makes some very important points about what the U.S. is doing in Pakistan.

    His title: “The Endless War and the Neocon Dream” seams to fit you exactly right Frum.


    [I]“Those unreasonable, inscrutable Pakistanis are angry just because the U.S. entered their country by air and killed 30 of their soldiers today. As a result, they have demanded that the U.S. vacate its drone base on their soil. What an outrageous over-reaction: I’m sure the U.S. would be extremely understanding if a foreign nation came and killed 30 U.S. soldiers on American soil from the air.”[/I]

    “The fruits of liberation”


    • Probabilistic

      The Pakistanis have every right to be disturbed

      I understand their outrage. No society wants to see its soldiers killed. At the same time, Pakistan has been a mal-actor. It has harbored and fostered terrorists and have been using these groups to foment trouble in Afghanistan. It has shown complete unwillingness to deal with this issue. In fact these are agents of the Pakistani state. Pakistan doesn’t pretend to hide this any longer.

      Taliban launching attacks in to Afghanistan and then retreating to their Pakistani sanctuaries is one form of invasion. The US hasn’t followed ‘hot pursuit’ most of the times but on occasion it has. This seems to be one of those instances.

      • jakester

        The Pakis all but created the Taliban and even hooked OBL up with the US aid pipeline in the 80s. It would be like Leninists in the USSR “helping” us subdue Maoists in some ‘Stan.

        • Probabilistic

          It would be like Leninists in the USSR “helping” us subdue Maoists in some ‘Stan

          Good and funny analogy. There wasn’t and isn’t much of an option open though. US thought it could induce and pressure Pakistan to carry out its objectives. Pakistani military found itself facing a strategic threat right after 9/11/01 when Bush gave them an ultimatum. They were able to play a dangerous situation very well to their advantage. Did just enough to keep the US wrath at bay. Got paid heftily in the process but never giving up their geo-strategic goals in Afghanistan. Right now they think they have better chips than 10 years ago. Hence the new found stridency.

        • margoharris1

          We pay the Pakistani’s and they pay the Taliban not to attack them. A friend of mine was an medical aide worker in Afghanistan and she said people would tell her all the time that they thought the Taliban was being paid by America and worked for us.

      • armstp

        That is one simplisitic view of the world.

        I am afriad it is a little more complex.

        As Jakster points out it was pretty much the Pakistan and the U.S. that created the Taliban in the first place, but that is besides the point. The Pakistan military is using the Taliban and similiar groups to keep or gain some control over Afghanistan or at least to keep it unbalanced. It is in their interest, given India’s interests in Afghanistan. We cannot expect that they will not continue to do this. Unless we are willing to declare war on the Pakistani military, we are fighting a losing battle.

        End of the day U.S. really has no right to fight the war that it is fighting in Pakistan. We should not even be fighting the war we are in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda is long gone. Bin Laden is now gone.

        We are in their country and they are not in our country. Keeping dropping bombs on Pakistani civilians heads. I am sure that will win a lot of apologies from the Pakistanis and strengthen our relationship.

  • blowtorch_bob

    Assuming of course OBL was behind 9/11. Or indeed he had anything to do with it. No conclusive evidence has yet emerged linking OBL to the plot. In fact, the plotters lived and worked in the U.S. in the year prior. The case can be made it was the U.S. who was harboring terrorists.

    • jakester

      oh no, not a troofer!

      • drdredel

        9/11 is the only point in history where the word “truth” has been associated with something negative (as far as I know). It’s unfortunate that there’s a wacky conspiracy fringe that has all sorts of really idiotic ideas that they push forward which make it very difficult to ask the kinds of questions that Blowtorch_bob’s post points to.

        Why are we so reluctant to
        a) admit that there are huge gaping holes in the factual account of what happened
        b) more eager to sus that info out?!

        It’s a fact that at least 1/2 (I believe 9) of the alleged terrorists were later confirmed to be alive and well (and in no way associated with islamist goals) in Saudi Arabia. This isn’t a contested fact. This means that we don’t, in fact, have the identities of the actual people that did it. In and of itself this is proof of nothing, and many of us who would like to know the “truth” are entirely prepared for it to be a very banal truth. Personally, I’m not eager for it to be some huge Hollywood blockbuster of a plot. But I’d like to know what actually happened, even if the details aren’t overly sensational, and am curious why this desire is met with such resistance and scorn. I assume it’s because of the various suggested plots that have been circulated, and indeed that is a shame.
        Everyone agrees it was a really major event in our history, and yet everyone is super eager to not ask any questions, not hold anyone accountable, and just sweep as much of it under the rug as possible.
        I find that bizarre.

    • LFC

      BTB, please tell me that was snark.

      • blowtorch_bob

        Not a snark. No conclusive evidence linking OBL with 9/11 has ever been found. Check the 9/11 commission report. Plot has been traced to Germany and that’s it.

        As well, no evidence linking the Taliban with 9/11 has been found. In fact, in the months leading up to 9/11 the Bush Admin. was actively lobbying the Taliban on behalf of Unocal of Chicago for pipeline access right thru southern Astan. Even gave the Taliban $50 million for wiping out the heroin trade. So they were buddies.

  • Carney

    As is almost always the case on the Mideast, Frum is exactly right.

    • baw1064

      So the solution to fixing the U.S.-Pakistani relationship is to send more money to Israel? In fact, isn’t that the solution to every problem in the Middle East?

  • JosephP

    The U.S. mistakenly kills 30 Pakistani soldiers. But Frum thinks it is chutzpa for Pakistanis to complain, because he believes there is evidence that they sheltered bin Laden.

    Frum is often more thoughtful than the typical conservative. But here he reverts to a characteristic neo-con formula: The U.S. is the victim and the ones outraged at Pakistan because of the bin Laden allegations, and Pakistanis have their nerve getting annoyed just because we are indiscriminately bombing their citizens.

    • jakester

      Trouble is, the Pakistanis have been enabling and supporting the Taliban and other Muslim terrorists, like in Kashmir and Mumbai, for decades so in essence they created the whole mess there to begin with. So their support for the USA and NATO was at best self serving duplicity. They would feel more comfortable with additional hardline western loathing Islamic regimes on their border than US controlled Afghanistan or Hindu India.

  • Oldskool

    I think I’ll go with whatever decisions the guy makes who took out OBL and was against invading Iraq.

    • Fart Carbuncle

      Then you support the guy whose enhanced interrogation policy helped take out OBL, and support the rule of Saddam Hussein.


      • jakester

        Yes, that is classic retardo-con reasoning:
        If one opposes invading a country and deposing its regime, that automatically means he is the supporter of that regime

      • Oldskool

        That makes absolutely no sense. Could you type something in English please.

      • pnwguy

        Let’s see. I’m not in favor of invading Venezuela. Does that mean I’m a Hugo Chavez supporter? Same with North Korea. I guess I prefer Kim Jong-il in power. And I’m against invading Russia and China. I didn’t realize I was such a fanboy of Putin and Hu Jintao. I learned something from your post.

  • Dazedandconfused

    We’ve been watching Talib’s use those bases for years. Somebody got sick and tired of it. David is right on this one.

    The Paki’s know they are not innocent, but they have to put up a good show for the populace. Apologies will be exchanged at lower levels, and everybody will try to get this under a rug as soon as they can. Open warfare with Pakistan is just soooooooo not in anybodies interest.

  • Bingham

    I couldn’t care less. What I do know is that we can nuke anybody we want to from Diego Garcia and save the US taxpayer and servicemember quite a bit of money and heartache by going with that strategy. Sounds like a plan to me.


    Pakistan is in a tragic position. It is fated to be China’s quick and dirty outlet to the Persian Gulf, so China will always want to influence it. China is next door but the US is half a world away and that will never change. And don’t forget that much of Pakistan’s population consists of people who were ethnically/religiously cleansed out of India in 1947. A foundation like that that tends to f**k up a country’s self-perception.

  • ottovbvs

    Simplistic claptrap from Frum which I’m sure plays well with those of a simplistic outlook but doesn’t pay much attention to the realities of either geography or international power politics. If the Pakistanis order us to quit the country then the war in Afghanistan is pretty much over and we might as well come home. I wouldn’t regard this as a disaster but many would. As it is today the effective ruler of Pakistan General Kayani has issued a general order that Pakistani forces can return fire if engaged by NATO so this opens up the prospect of the Pakistani airforce launching attacks on American troops operating on the border.