The Kagan Proposal

If the Pakistani government cannot control the military-jihadi complex in its territory, the international community should step in

Many pundits have spoken. Most of them explained just how difficult and dangerous the situation in Pakistan is. But only a few had some good ideas on how exactly Pakistan’s military-jihadi complex—the nucleus of a terrorist threat to many countries—could be contained, if not completely dismantled. One of those few is Robert Kagan. Mr Kagan’s proposal deserves to be taken seriously in the capitals of any country, not least because what happened in Mumbai could happen in any of the world’s cities.

One can feel sympathy for Zardari’s plight. He and his new civilian government did not train or assist the Pakistani terrorist organizations that probably carried out last week’s attacks in Mumbai…So if the world is indeed not to be held hostage by non-state actors operating from Pakistan, what can be done?

…Rather than simply begging the Indians to show restraint, a better option could be to internationalize the response. Have the international community declare that parts of Pakistan have become ungovernable and a menace to international security. Establish an international force to work with the Pakistanis to root out terrorist camps in Kashmir as well as in the tribal areas. This would have the advantage of preventing a direct military confrontation between India and Pakistan. It might also save face for the Pakistani government, since the international community would be helping the central government reestablish its authority in areas where it has lost it. But whether or not Islamabad is happy, don’t the international community and the United States, at the end of the day, have some obligation to demonstrate to the Indian people that we take attacks on them as seriously as we take attacks on ourselves?

Would such an action violate Pakistan’s sovereignty? Yes, but nations should not be able to claim sovereign rights when they cannot control territory from which terrorist attacks are launched. If there is such a thing as a “responsibility to protect,” which justifies international intervention to prevent humanitarian catastrophe either caused or allowed by a nation’s government, there must also be a responsibility to protect one’s neighbors from attacks from one’s own territory, even when the attacks are carried out by “non-state actors.” [WP]

16 thoughts on “The Kagan Proposal”

  1. I would welcome Kagan’s ideas, with some caution of course. While Pak’s case is clear-cut, other cases where this ‘principle’ and precedent might be sought to be applied in the future may not be.

    I read Kagan’s article a few days back and wondered what the tea leaves are saying. There’s little doubt that western capitals are worried given the brazen-ness and skill levels displayed by the terrorshits. They all realize their cities are just as vulnerable. So perhaps, just perhaps, self-interest is compelling western capitals to consider Pak terror as more than just an Indian and Afghan problem.

    Word also has it that Zardari tried his ‘rogue elements and islamists could overrun Pak and get hold of its nukes should we be pushed to the point of destabilization’ shtick and that it bombed spectacularly. So Pak essentially tried ‘black’mail with a black secy of state and the incoming first black US president in history! Gotta admire their ‘tactical brilliance’. Rice’s toned down tone in her public appearance in Pak signalled something had gone rather wrong, or so word has it. The press now is talking about how Rice presented ‘irrefutable’ evidence of Pak-based terror to Islamabad.

    All in all, interesting times ahead.

  2. Kagan makes a compelling argument. Just imagine, this is the man we would have had whispering foreign policy advice in the President’s ear if McCain had been elected (Kagan was McCain’s FP advisor). Instead, we have Obama and his articulate condemnations.

    This is just for the benefit of those Indians who are under any doubt about which sides serves India’s interests better:

    Republican = Good Democrat = Not so Good.

  3. I like Kagan’s idea. Haven’t read Roggio’s critique yet.

    Meanwhile, here’s an article claiming that a hoax caller from India might have succeeded in scaring Pakistan into elevating its nuclear posture:


    Could this story be true? If so, then could it have been an AlQaeda/Lashkar person trying to trigger war between the 2 countries, for the purpose of alleviating the military pressure on AlQaeda/Taliban?

  4. Another article from Roggio’s Long War Journal says that the US is moving to have the UN declare some former ISI/Army officers as terrorists:


    This will allow their assets to be seized and their movements limited.

  5. Sanjay

    Thanks for posting the links. When you post them, please enclose them within the proper tags (<a href=”” > link </a>). Posting naked links is strongly discouraged.

  6. I agree. Pakistan has to control its Jihadi elements at any cost, otherwise we have to step in. This was always true but now we might get more international pressure and cooperation for doing this. International pressure might also compel the Pakistanis to themselves act on this since in the end, they will start to feel the heat.

  7. For all those who haven’t read Roggio’s critique, his main thesis is that Islamist tendencies are not isolated to tribal areas. He cites the Red Mosque as proof that the problems run deep within the intelligence and security sections of the Pakistani government and city populace.

    The other is his critique of sending troops to solve Kashmir. Essentially, Kashmir is Pakistan’s Patroclus. By focusing on Kashmir, the government can rally all the elements based around the possibility of Indian Kashmiri “independence”.

  8. Nitin, I tried that, but I noticed that posting the naked links seemed to work too. I always try to test out the links after I’ve posted them.

  9. Great idea in principle, especially from an Indian point of view, but absolutely unworkable. Is there any country, apart from the US and Britain (maybe), which would even be interested in joining such a force. Why would any country risk relations with a country which has nuclear arms (and could end up in the hands on “non-state actors”) when they are not directly at risk of being attacked by the terrorists, atleast as of now. And dont you think the chances of such a force destroying the terrror infrastructure is very remote, alomst impossible? A common pakistani (and there are 15 crores of them) would respond in avery hostile manner as they would perceive this as an invasion of their country. It would only end up increasing the support base of the terrorists by the time such an operation is terminated.


  10. Kudos to this proposal. It makes a lot of sense. What kind of sovereignity can Pakistan claim anyway, considering the plight of areas like FATA? Internationalizing the current situation is the only way to avoid a direct conflict with India, given the surmounted evidence against Pakistan.

    Zardari has finally admitted at least that non-state actors were involved. This is evidence enough to begin elimination of terror camps, with international help.

    But what if this doesn’t happen? The way ahead then?

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