Not long ago, I reported here on one the worst trial balloons ever floated during the Obama administration, namely, the idea of sending US military forces across the border from Afghanistan into Pakistan in pursuit of the Taliban and its allies. When the idea, first reported by the New York Times, surfaced, it was clear that the military was pushing for it, and at the time I compared it to President Nixon’s decision to expand the Vietnam War into Cambodia.
Now, it appears that the administration has decided against that, although the military commanders in the field are still hot to trot into the wilds of Waziristan and environs.
According to the Washington Post’s Karen de Young, "President Obama and his top national security aides rejected proposals, made by some military commanders and intelligence officials who have lost patience with Pakistan, to allow US ground forces to conduct targeted raids against insurgent safe havens, officials said. They concluded that the United States can ill afford to threaten or further alienate a precarious, nuclear-armed country whose cooperation is essential to the administration on several fronts."
That’s exactly right: it would seriously destabilize that unfortunate country, already plagued by Islamist militants of various kinds, including ones like the fanatic who assassinated the secular governor of Punjab this week.
Another good sign, reports de Young—though we’ll see—is that "the administration also plans ‘redouble our efforts to look for political approaches’ to ending the war, including a recognition that Pakistan ‘must play an important role’ if not a dominant one, in reconciliation talks with the Taliban."
For Petraeus, for the military, and for the neoconservatives demanding all-out war, both of these decisions are defeats.
It isn’t clear what else will be included in the "new" US policy toward Pakistan, though de Young reports that when Vice President Biden visits Pakistan next week he’ll bring stepped up pledges by the United States of "military, intelligence and economic support." Personally, I’m in favor of bribing Pakistan with whatever it takes to coax them and their Taliban cats-paws to the bargaining table.