MAKE A SOUTH ASIA COMMAND
South Asia is the epicenter of terrorism and the most dangerous place in the world today: Pakistan is a fragile state with what may be the world's fastest-growing nuclear arsenal; India is an emerging great power, but one with precarious internal rifts; and Afghanistan is just struggling to survive. Yet the U.S. government is alarmingly unprepared to engage with the region -- even at the most basic organizational level. Instead of treating South Asia as a whole, the U.S. national security establishment has carved it up into an array of parts: In the military, Central and Pacific Commands each have a piece of the region, and, more confusing still, the desks at the State Department and the National Security Council that handle "AfPak" are separate from those that deal with India. This may make the Indians happy -- they don't want to be linked with failing states -- but it makes no sense for the United States.
If Barack Obama is to really get serious about the region, he needs to create an executive bureau for Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan -- one that spans across the U.S. government. Good organization does not guarantee good policy, but a poorly constructed bureaucracy is almost always a recipe for bad policy. A new military command that puts Pakistan and India in the same theater would help enormously in improving U.S. strategic thinking about South Asia. No longer would one commander talk to the Pakistanis and another to the Indians; the Pentagon would have just one voice. And likewise for Foggy Bottom: An empowered assistant secretary of state for South Asia could travel regularly on diplomatic missions between Kabul, Islamabad, and New Delhi.
Obama was right to recognize that the Afghan war could not be effectively prosecuted without dealing with Pakistan. But it's foolish to think that Pakistan can be effectively assisted without dealing with the issue that dominates its own strategic calculus: India.
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