It may not be the most dangerous place in the world, but, with its mix of political instability and nuclear capability, it’s plausibly the most dangerous place for the world. Yet according to Husain Haqqani, Americans have a chronically hard time understanding why.
“I do believe that Pakistan is a dangerous place,” Haqqani said, speaking withThe Washington Post‘s David Ignatius and retired U.S. general Stanley McChrystal at the Aspen Ideas Festival today, “but … not for the reasons the Americans think it is. The Americans don’t get Pakistan.”
Haqqani, who served as Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington from 2008-2011, thinks that U.S. diplomats and military leaders have, after decades of on-again, off-again engagement with Pakistani officials, internalized a distorted sense of possibility in the United States’ involvement in Pakistan as a whole.
Haqqani believes that Islamabad’s generals in particular have played a big role over time in flattering Americans’ sense of efficacy in Pakistan — and seems to believe that U.S. generals have been particularly susceptible to being misled, tending to see Pakistan’s military leaders as their apolitical counterparts, rather than “politicians in uniform.” It’s not that American officials’ thinking about Pakistan is insufficiently complex, according to Haqqani (McChrystal, after all, had just emphasized the importance of not looking for simple fixes in Pakistan); it’s that American officials’ thinking about Pakistan serially overestimates the United States’ ability to promote stability and development in the country at all.
U.S. foreign policy naturally looks for levers to pull. But what if, despite all the complexity among all the issues where the U.S. has been looking for levers, there is, after all, a central, defining issue with no lever connected to it? “It’s not America’s problem to solve Pakistan’s problem,” Haqqani said. “It’s Pakistan’s problem to solve Pakistan’s problem.”
So what’s the problem?
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Posted By F. Sheikh