Dear China: Help Us Fix Pakistan

The world's two superpowers must work together to fix the world's most broken country.

The war of words is officially on. The killing of Osama bin Laden has shone a harsh light on the fraught U.S.-Pakistan relationship.

In Washington, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are angrily questioning how it's possible that Pakistan didn't know about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden as he hid for years under their noses in Abbottabad, a military garrison town. In Islamabad, Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani lashed out at the United States, calling it "disingenuous" to believe that Pakistan could have been "in cahoots" with al Qaeda. Whatever the case, the U.S. strategic calculus in South Asia is now in flux. What is Washington's best opportunity to use this watershed moment to restore stability to Pakistan? Partner with China.

Unfortunately, the debate on Capitol Hill has quickly fallen into two polarized and short-sighted camps. In the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings last week, both Democrats and Republicans used bin Laden's death to justify an accelerated withdrawal from Afghanistan. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the ranking member on the committee, argued, "It's exceedingly difficult to conclude that our vast expenditures in Afghanistan represent a rational [strategy]." Other lawmakers have called for renewed pressure on Islamabad to take direct action against anti-U.S. militant bases in Pakistan, such as the Quetta Shura and the Haqqani network.

Neither path is likely to work. Abandoning Afghanistan for a third time since 1989 is not going to et us there -- indeed, each time the United States neglects the country, it gets worse. And strong-arm tactics won't work either: A gambit to withhold military or civilian assistance is also not going to force Islamabad to change its strategic calculus, which is rooted in decades of deep mistrust of the United States. Furthermore, because of continued U.S. dependence on Pakistani supply routes into Afghanistan and Pakistani intelligence services' ability to unleash terrorist devastation such as the 2008 Mumbai attacks, calling Pakistan's bluff could be disastrous.

It's time to return to the fundamentals when it comes to U.S. interests in Pakistan. Ultimately, Washington desires a prosperous, sustainable, and secure South Asian region that does not remain a base for al Qaeda and its affiliates, or a likely flashpoint for a nuclear exchange.

Understood this way, U.S. interests are broadly shared by China, Pakistan's primary ally and a major investor in the country's economic success. That's a point President Barack Obama should drive home to Chinese officials this week, as Washington hosts the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. Indeed, the late Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke made a similar case to the Chinese in Beijing.

To date, China's relationship with Pakistan -- with which it has shared military technology and invested in major infrastructure projects -- has only enabled that South Asian nation's unstable status quo. When it comes to military hardware, China has shared ballistic missiles such as the short-range DF-11, is jointly producing the JF-17 advanced fighter with Pakistan, and has provided its ally with anti-ship cruise missiles, among other weapons. China also built the massive multimodal port in the southern city of Gwadar, along with a highway and rail link connecting it to China. Indeed, the relationship is so strong that, at the request of Beijing, the Pakistani military stormed Islamabad's Red Mosque in 2007 to liberate 10 Chinese nationals, a move that crystallized the Pakistani Taliban as an anti-government movement.

Nevertheless, there are two important points of convergence between Beijing's long-term interests and Washington's. First, China is concerned with preventing Islamist terrorism from disrupting its Central Asian energy routes and its restive western region, Xinjiang, which borders Pakistan. China is actively securing natural gas and oil reserves as far as Turkmenistan on the Caspian, rebuilding the old Soviet-era pipelines to feed its western frontier and crossing territory that hosts a majority Muslim population.

Secondly, China has a stake in promoting sustainable, pan-Asian prosperity in the medium-to-long term to fuel its torrid economic growth. China -- and neighboring India -- are undertaking a monumental frenzy of urbanization. A study prepared by McKinsey estimates that approximately 375 million Chinese and 250 million Indians will move from villages to cities over the next 20 years. This growth will require a substantial productivity increase across all economic sectors -- but along the China-India periphery, the question of whether this massive urbanization will be sustainable hinges on higher levels of food production.

This is where Chinese, U.S., and Pakistani interests powerfully intersect. China needs a marked increase in Pakistani agricultural productivity, while America needs Pakistan to build a prosperous economy and a moderate political order that sees its neighbors to the northwest and east as economic opportunities -- rather than threats. Land reform is key to creating a win-win situation for all three countries.

Farm productivity in Pakistan is stuck between 17 and 50 percent of its potential, according to research from the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics. Improved agriculture requires better-educated farmers who own their own land and are incentivized to make use of sustainable methods that also boost their production. Even Cuba figured this one out.

Political moderation requires the rise of a phenomenon that does not yet exist in Pakistan -- a competent and legitimate political party with a reform mandate. Pakistan's patronage pyramids -- run by powerful family dynasties -- are today inseparable from the civilian political parties they control. They are equally responsible for the status quo: economic failure and the government's sheltering of Islamist militant groups, despite billions of dollars in U.S. foreign assistance. At the root of that corruption is Pakistan's system of semi-feudal land ownership, which, ironically, the Chinese Communist Party is more than happy to prop up.

There is little time to waste: Commodity prices are nearing record highs, the fighting drags on in Afghanistan, and the people of Pakistan are hurting. In 2009, the year before the devastating monsoon floods that displaced some 20 million people, the United Nations judged that half of the Pakistani population was food insecure. Two-thirds of Pakistanis are living in rural areas and relying directly or indirectly on agriculture, with at least 24 percent of Pakistanis living on less than $2 a day.

A green revolution in the Pakistani agricultural belt could forge an independent farming class in the countryside that could remake Pakistan both politically and economically. With a simultaneous effort to formalize property rights in urban areas, a moderate and stable middle-class would have the best chance to peacefully reassert the civilian government's full authority. In short, prosperity and self-reliance will lay the foundation for a government that is willing to embrace the Asian economic growth narrative and free itself of the need to bind the nation together using a narrative of perpetual external threats.

But without deep reforms in Pakistan, China will not get what it needs out of its dysfunctional ally -- and neither Beijing nor Washington will be able to convince Islamabad to end its dangerous dalliance with South and Central Asian terrorist groups. Together, however, these two superpowers can succeed where, individually, each would fail.



The Age of the Manhunt

Never before have individuals been so threatening to the security of nation-states. And never before have nations had so many tools to dispatch these enemies. But is the effort worth the risk?

The Navy SEALs' surgical dispatch of Osama bin Laden on May 2 local time in Abbottabad, Pakistan, ended the 13-year hunt for the terrorist mastermind. But despite the current fascination with the satellite surveillance, stealth helicopters, and signal intercepts that may have enabled the raid, strategic manhunts themselves are almost as old as organized warfare itself. Alexander the Great pursued Darius III all the way from Mosul to eastern Iran in 331 B.C. to cement his conquest of Persia, and the Romans targeted Hannibal for two decades as he fled eastward in exile after the Second Punic War. The United States has deployed forces abroad with similar objectives nearly a dozen times since the 6th Cavalry was sent into Mexico to pursue Geronimo in 1885.

Yet the killing of bin Laden (who, coincidentally, was code named Geronimo in the Navy SEAL operation) has raised the question of whether killing an individual actually matters. Some have argued that decapitation strategies are ineffective or actually counterproductive, especially when it comes to the drone-strike attacks that have taken out al Qaeda members in Pakistan and Yemen. Some commentators have gone so far as to suggest that bin Laden's death offers an opportunity to end the "war on terror" itself. Having just finished a book on the history of strategic manhunts in which I found that killing or capturing an individual seldom correlates to strategic success, I think the manhunt skeptics may have a point. And yet, it is unlikely that such campaigns will disappear from America's arsenal. Even if bin Laden had never been found, the manhunt is simply engrained too deeply in the American psyche and in the technology of modern war. The manhunt is here to stay -- and if anything, we're entering an era in which it will become a more prominent policy tool.

As Colin Powell lamented in his 1995 memoir, reflecting on the manhunt for Panamanian drug lord Manuel Noriega, "A President has to rally the country behind his policies. And when that policy is war, it is tough to arouse public opinion against political abstractions. A flesh-and-blood villain serves better." Beyond the American tendency to personalize conflicts, there are several reasons that manhunts are likely to increasingly tempt future U.S. policymakers. For one, the immensely destructive nature of modern warfare -- as well as the immediacy offered by modern communications technology -- has increased the long-standing American aversion to causing collateral damage. The ravages of war are now infinitely more visible to the public, with the 24-hour global media particularly eager to act as watchdogs for violations of noncombatant immunity and often manipulated by weaker forces in order to gain a strategic advantage by generating international sympathy.

This creates a potentially serious tactical dilemma for democracies like the United States, whose military operations are conducted under the intense scrutiny of lawyers, judges, opposition politicians, and human rights activists. Consequently, U.S. forces do not enjoy the latitude that European democracies once possessed in suppressing colonial insurgencies in the 1950s and 1960s or that an illiberal state such as Russia had in brutally crushing Chechen rebels in the 1990s. This encourages policymakers to focus on as narrow a target as possible when considering how to enter a conflict.

At the same time, since the end of the Cold War, individuals -- and not just states -- have increasingly been perceived as posing a threat to U.S. strategic interests. Traditionally, the dominant paradigms of international relations theory dismissed the importance of individual leaders in world politics. Structural realists, for example, did not perceive of World War II as being driven by leaders such as Hitler and Stalin, but as representing disequilibria in the European balance of power. By the 1990s, however, it appeared that U.S. interests were being threatened not so much by countries or socially mobilized populations as by a handful of autocratic and aggressive leaders (i.e. Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Raoul Cédras in Haiti, and Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia). In such cases, it was argued, U.S. policy should focus on an individual rather than trying to compel an entire population or reconfigure a regional balance of power.

These days, individuals have only become more dangerous. For more than two decades, experts have acknowledged that any relatively well-financed terrorist group could feasibly obtain the expertise necessary to build a crude nuclear device, thereby matching the destructive power of all but a handful of nation-states. In 2005, scientists in a lab in Atlanta resurrected the extinct 1918 Spanish flu and published its genome, meaning that people with resources well below those of nation-states would theoretically be able to re-create one of the most lethal disease agents in history. Far more dangerous biological weapons are on the horizon, and the technologies to develop them are steadily becoming cheaper and more prevalent.

The diffusion of lethal technology, however, and particularly the increased lethality of dual-use technology, will allow increasingly smaller organizations, possibly even individuals, to threaten U.S. interests. Terrorists do not have to obtain weapons of mass destruction in order to attack the United States, but rather can utilize a wide array of dual-use or commercial technologies to conduct attacks. The explosive device used in the 1993 World Trade Center attack, for example, was made out of ordinary, commercially available materials, including lawn fertilizer and diesel fuel. It cost less than $400 to construct. And this is just the tip of the iceberg: In 2009, the Government Accountability Office concluded that "sensitive dual-use and military technology can be easily and legally purchased from manufacturers and distributors within the United States" and illegally exported without detection to rogue states and terrorist suppliers.

The information revolution has spread these technologies of destructive power even farther. Thanks to the Internet and widely available encryption technology, anyone with a few thousand dollars can now create a secure, worldwide communications system accessible from any Internet cafe or public library around the world. The information revolution also allows terrorists or other nonstate actors to collect and disseminate intelligence on targets and on their enemies, including U.S. forces. Iraqi insurgents used Google Maps to plot ambushes and emplacements of improvised explosive devices. In November 2008, 10 terrorists from Lashkar-e-Taiba, armed only with easily obtainable small arms, used cell phones, BlackBerrys, and GPS locators to coordinate a three-day rampage that killed 173 and wounded 308 in Mumbai, India.

Taken together, Washington's aversion to collateral damage and the importance of single individuals to U.S. interests create a strong motivation to kill or capture individuals who threaten national security. Arguably, the "surgical strike" is a more humane option than the destruction of modern war, and it's certainly quicker -- if it works. As the Washington Post editorialized recently regarding Libya, "Thousands of civilians have been killed, and more are dying every day.... [T]argeting Mr. Gaddafi may be the quickest way -- and maybe the only way -- to stop his carnage."

The final element is the issue of ability. Whereas in 1991's Operation Desert Storm less than 8 percent of bombs dropped were precision-guided munitions, this figure rose to 68 percent during the major combat phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Since then, nearly all bombs or missiles fired in Iraq or Afghanistan have been precision-guided. With weapons of this type, any locatable object can be precisely targeted and probably destroyed, with less risk of collateral damage to civilian noncombatants. Moreover, with new assets in space and the increasing sophistication of airborne sensors, the number of objects that can be targeted has increased as well. Thus, while individuals pose a greater threat to America than ever before, the United States likewise has a greater ability than ever before to target individuals and eliminate them.

And yet there is a danger in relying too heavily on such operations. Forcing an individual to go to ground renders him strategically ineffective and creates space for other actors to step to the fore. The successful targeting of an individual is probably less important from a strategic standpoint than successfully targeting the network that supports him or will carry on the struggle in his absence. While occasionally simple justice will demand that the United States target individuals, America's preoccupation with technological gadgetry and lightning raids risks leading it to overlook the broader human terrain that actually determines whether a campaign succeeds or fails.

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