Americans are mad at Pakistan. Last night, Jon Stewart showed a clip of Fareed Zakaria asking if Pakistan is complicit in hiding Osama Bin Laden – or just incompetent.
Do you blame Pakistan for bin Laden living there? Do you think our relationship with their government should be strained by this? Should we reduce support? Sanction trade?
No. That’s wrong. Here’s why:
Pakistan is not one thing and their government is not monolithic. There are many power structures in Pakistan. You shouldn’t blame “the government” for sectarian separatists, terrorists, or others who secretly hide within their borders. Thinking that way is like blaming a person when their body grows a cancer.
Did we blame the American Government when Timmothy Mcveigh was a terrorist in Oklahoma City? No. America was a victim. And Pakistan is the victim now. Pakistan has been in a complex civil war with multiple armies of radical extremists for many years. Some of them are politicians trying to consolidate power with secret affiliations, others attack India trying to incite a broader war, others hide like rats. Pakistan is suffering from these cancers.
We should be offering tax incentives to increase trade with Pakistan, increase aid, and increase support for democratic stability, secular and academic institutions, and human rights. Economic sanctions and saber-rattling are counterproductive because they attack the commercial economy. It would be better to empower the population through the commercial economy – enable them to overtake and stamp out radical separatists and would-be religious fascists. Help them get on a path to become a productive and educated economy that has the power and will to suppress it’s own cancers. Use economic levers to achieve better outcomes.