As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Design Failure Of Bush-Era Foreign Policy - Making The Military Option The Only Option

Over the weekend we sent John Negroponte over to Pakistan to do the old lean on Pervez Musharraf. This was the beginnings of the "surge of diplomacy" that people are calling for in Iraq. The problem, as it would be in Iraq, is that it's too late and the Bush Administration is too discredited for any of it to matter.

A special US mission to the embattled Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf ended in failure yesterday, and the Bush administration is inceasingly alarmed about the possible collapse of the government. There are also fears that its nuclear weapons could end up in the hands of Islamist extremists.

John Negroponte, the US deputy secretary of state, flew out of Islamabad after Musharraf, a close ally of the US, rejected his call to end emergency rule, to free political prisoners, resign from his post as army commander and hold free and fair elections in January.

Negroponte failed because he has almost nothing to offer. The Pakistani foreign minister said that he "had brought no new proposals and received no assurances in return." What could he possibly say? Could he denounce the destruction of democracy from a position of moral authority? Clearly not. Could he threaten to eliminate the $10 billion in military aid? No, the Cheneyite faction wouldn't let him. Could he forge a power-sharing agreement with some of the opposition parties? It's way too late for that.

There's a structural design flaw in Bush-style foreign policy, and indeed MOST foreign policy from the establishment perspective. This can be best summed up by this awful editorial by surge architect Fred Kagan and Michael O'Hanlon, of all people, which boils down Pakistan, as they do every trouble spot globally, to a course of military action.

As the government of Pakistan totters, we must face a fact: the United States simply could not stand by as a nuclear-armed Pakistan descended into the abyss. Nor would it be strategically prudent to withdraw our forces from an improving situation in Iraq to cope with a deteriorating one in Pakistan. We need to think — now — about our feasible military options in Pakistan, should it really come to that.

First of all, we've already stood by as Pakistan descended into an abyss. They're under martial law, have turned the legal system into a kangaroo court, arrested all dissenters and indifferently watched as Islamists have taken more and more territory in the northwest region. Neoconservative loons like this aren't interested in seeing a problem until it lands on them with a thud. It's beyond the time in which America can bring forward a solution in Pakistan. Other than a military one. Which is the default position.

So then these two armchair Napoleons get our their little green Army men and spread them onto the Risk board and writhe around on the floor in ecstasy at their new glorious war plan.

The task of stabilizing a collapsed Pakistan is beyond the means of the United States and its allies. Rule-of-thumb estimates suggest that a force of more than a million troops would be required for a country of this size. Thus, if we have any hope of success, we would have to act before a complete government collapse, and we would need the cooperation of moderate Pakistani forces.

One possible plan would be a Special Forces operation with the limited goal of preventing Pakistan’s nuclear materials and warheads from getting into the wrong hands. Given the degree to which Pakistani nationalists cherish these assets, it is unlikely the United States would get permission to destroy them. Somehow, American forces would have to team with Pakistanis to secure critical sites and possibly to move the material to a safer place.

For the United States, the safest bet would be shipping the material to someplace like New Mexico; but even pro-American Pakistanis would be unlikely to cooperate. More likely, we would have to settle for establishing a remote redoubt within Pakistan, with the nuclear technology guarded by elite Pakistani forces backed up (and watched over) by crack international troops. It is realistic to think that such a mission might be undertaken within days of a decision to act. The price for rapid action and secrecy, however, would probably be a very small international coalition.

It goes on and on like this. Presumably these two think those little army men are actual soldiers.

The problem is that the military option is always foregrounded. Diplomatic solutions don't exist; diplomats are sent into countries years too late with empty briefcases.

Emptywheel had the same idea today.

I'm just a DFH and not a "serious person" or anything. But I am certain they have this wrong--dead wrong. It highlights the problem of neoconservatism--an acute myopia that therefore cannot see a problem until we're already in the thick of it and until they can make an argument--however specious--that the only solution is military.

Couple that with their ignorant assertion that, "There was a time when volatility in places like Pakistan was mostly a humanitarian worry," and you see the problem. They would not--and did not--consider action at a time when non-military solutions were the obvious solution to the problem, when AQ Khan and his nukes didn't have us by the nuts. As I said last year when I was earning Matt Bai's wrath, the time to address these problems is before they've exploded, while we're still nominally allies.

If I were of this default-to-militarism mindset, the best thing I could do would be to ignore global problems until I can claim that there's no choice but a military option. Pervez Musharraf was obviously a despot when he forced Nawaz Sharif out of the country at gunpoint in 1999. We could have conditioned aid to a return to democratic institutions, we could have finished the job at Tora Bora ourselves instead of putting Pakistan in the position to have to do our dirty work. Now we're faced with a nuclear-armed country in a fair amount of peril, and our image is worse than bin Laden's in that country. Any future interventions will be poison for whoever we intervene in favor of. A bottom up strategy in Pakistan is absolutely insane and will be sure to make things far worse. But the way these neocons get to that is by sabotaging any other reasonable effort to resolve global difficulties.

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