Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Pakistan's Reluctant Resistance

I've been meaning to write about this for a few weeks now, but am just getting around to it. Matthew Yglesias writes on the concept of "strategic rents." Some countries occupy or control key strategic locations, and are thus much more important to international security than their contributions to world goods, services, money, or military would otherwise warrent. These include key shipping lanes, such as the countries around the Straits of Malacca, Gulf of Aden/Red Sea/Suez Canal, and Panama Canal, as well as Central Asia, including Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Pakistani leadership, including Musharraf and now Zardari, recognize Pakistan's strategic importance to the United States (especially now), and have been sitting on their hands in order to extract more resources from us. Can you blame them? It works. Each new proposal includes larger sums of money.
How can we end this cycle? I don't believe we can, at least not easily. Yglesias suggests we should show we are willing to "walk away," but with front page New York Times headlines proclaming our fear about their nuclear weapons I think Pakistan would call our bluff. I mentioned this concern before when the "AfPak" strategy came out: no matter what benchmarks we establish, are we really going to pull out troops, money, or support if Pakistan or Afghanistan does not meet them? Pakistan has us by the (strategic) balls; all we can do is pay through the nose.

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