Aid is the enemy of clear thinking
Back in March 2009, when the Obama administration unveiled its Af-Pak strategy (in the formulation of which Bruce Riedel played an important part), this blog wrote:
The main issue in President Barack Obama’s just-announced strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan boils down to this: just how is the United States going to ensure that the Pakistani military establishment plays ball? [But where’s the meat?]
Mr Riedel’s subsequent book also did not offer answers to the question.
In an op-ed in the New York Times today, he argues that the approach now needs, err, “reshaping”:
It is time to move to a policy of containment, which would mean a more hostile relationship. But it should be a focused hostility, aimed not at hurting Pakistan’s people but at holding its army and intelligence branches accountable. When we learn that an officer from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, is aiding terrorism, whether in Afghanistan or India, we should put him on wanted lists, sanction him at the United Nations and, if he is dangerous enough, track him down. Putting sanctions on organizations in Pakistan has not worked in the past, but sanctioning individuals has — as the nuclear proliferator Abdul Qadeer Khan could attest.
Offering Pakistan more trade while reducing aid makes sense. When we extend traditional aid, media outlets with ties to the ISI cite the aid to weave conspiracy theories that alienate Pakistanis from us. Mr. Obama should instead announce that he is cutting tariffs on Pakistani textiles to or below the level that India and China enjoy; that would strengthen entrepreneurs and women, two groups who are outside the army’s control and who are interested in peace.
Military assistance to Pakistan should be cut deeply. Regular contacts between our officers and theirs can continue, but under no delusion that we are allies.[NYT]
He’s got it right this time. The Pakistani military-jihadi complex must be contained (before it is dismantled). His prescription though, is not going lead to containment. Why? Because money is fungible.
Even if aid is specifically earmarked for the average Pakistani, money is fungible. As long as the military establishment is in effective control of the administrative spigots, it can divert flows from other domestic revenue sources.
More aid will then only strengthen the army and its nexus with militants. It is not a coincidence that even as the U.S. has spent $20 billion in overt assistance to Pakistan since 2002, there has been both an increase in the size of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and more antipathy toward the U.S. among the population—polls demonstrate this. Both protect the military-jihadi complex from external threats. [WSJ]
To contain the Pakistani military-jihadi complex, it is necessary to cut Pakistan loose. Should we wait for a few more years before Washington’s strategists get this point?