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America as Jackie Chan

George Friedman argues that by fighting terrorism with allies -- and not just Pakistan -- who are themselves part of the terrorist nexus, the U.S. has enmeshed itself in an insoluble contradiction. It has denied itself any chance at victory as the price of having to fight terrorism.  He asks whether America, by the choice of its allies, has implicitly adopted the strategy of not winning, lest it destabilize its friends. Nowhere was the problem more evident, Friedman said, than in Pakistan.  Pakistan objectively supports terrorism for both domestic political reasons and to use as a weapon against India. But it also needed American help for domestic economic reasons and as a weapon against India, so it lied to everybody to get what it wanted.

The Pakistani solution was to appear to be doing everything possible to support the United States in Afghanistan, with a quiet limit on what that support would entail. That limit on support set by Islamabad was largely defined as avoiding actions that would trigger a major uprising in Pakistan that could threaten the regime. Pakistanis were prepared to accept a degree of unrest in supporting the war but not to push things to the point of endangering the regime. ...

Nothing in the capture of bin Laden changes the geopolitical realities. So long as the United States wants to wage — or end — a war in Afghanistan, it must have the support of Pakistan to the extent that Pakistan is prepared to provide support. ...

This is the ultimate contradiction in U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and even the so-called war on terror as a whole. ...  Broadly fighting terrorism requires the cooperation of the Muslim world, as U.S. intelligence and power is inherently limited. ...

The United States must either develop the force and intelligence to wage war without any assistance — which is difficult to imagine given the size of the Muslim world and the size of the U.S. military — or it will have to accept half-hearted support and duplicity. Alternatively, it could accept that it will not win in Afghanistan and will not be able simply to eliminate terrorism. These are difficult choices, but the reality of Pakistan drives home that these, in fact, are the choices.