In the Arena

And therefore…what?

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Mark Steyn, the British conservative who seems to play at thinking rather than going through the actual work of thought, is all upset about the deteriorating situation in Pakistan. Well, yeah. Pakistan, neglected for eight years by a mortally hoodwinked Bush Administration, is a mess. The entire North West Frontier Province now seems ready to fall to the Taliban. The Obama Administration is obsessed with the situation and working on a daily basis to get the Pakistanis–actually, the Pakistani Army–to meet the threat. But Steyn isn’t satisfied. Obama has capitulated…somehow. The precise details are unclear, as is Steyn’s remedy. Invade Pakistan? Expand the bombing? (Sorry, but anything beyond the pinpoint targeting of Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders is likely to strengthen the terrorists amidst a population that tends to blame America first.)

The fact is, there isn’t much more to be done than what is being done now, with the hope that the Pakistanis will soon come to understand that the most immediate threat to their “country”–Steyn’s absolutely right that the creation of Pakistan was the greatest of Britain’s colonial blunders–now comes from within. The other thing that can be done is to work the India side of the account: If the Indians can be convinced to stand down–to move their troops away from the Pakistani border as a goodwill gesture–perhaps the Paks can be convinced to turn their attention, and move their forces, to the northwest. Not likely, you say? Probably right. The Indians aren’t sure sure which side the Pakistani Army, and its Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, is on. Neither is anyone else. But, I would imagine, that quiet US assurances might have some impact on the Indians. For one thing, we should make it clear–quietly–that we will take action to secure the nukes, and work with the Indians to pacify the region, if it begins to look like the Taliban have a chance to take the Islamabad-Rawalpindi area.

When you meet the Pakistani ruling class, these sorts of dire scenarios seem impossible. They are eminently civilized, educated, intelligent. But they seem quite paralyzed now–a situation that has stunned recent U.S. emissaries to Islamabad–and has caused the Obama Administration, and the Pentagon, to start rethinking contingencies.