Shadow Government

We can't advance our interests in Asia without any resources

Those who believe that the United States is no longer capable of strategic planning should pay a visit to the Pacific Command (PACOM), headed by the impressive Admiral Willard. Besides the almost unimaginable number of tasks associated with running a command of 325,000 personal that covers half of the globe, Admiral Willard has also charged himself and his staff with long-range strategic planning for this most vital of regions. Unfortunately, Washington is of little help. Not only can the bureaucracy (under any administration) no longer respond to anything but a day's events, but political leaders on both sides of the aisle have been asking PACOM to do more and more with less and less for over a decade.

What's more, PACOM has little strategic guidance. As a country, we vaguely know that we want to deter Chinese aggression while encouraging "responsible behavior"; integrate India as a full strategic partner; empower Southeast Asian countries as independent, prosperous, and hopefully democratic partners; encourage Japan to play a "normal" role; and denuclearize North Korea while working for eventual unification of the peninsula under Seoul's governance. But military staffs need to plan -- and no one knows for what exactly we are planning. Will we or won't we come to Taiwan's defense? Will we get into a conflict over disputes in the South China Sea? Will we intervene in a Sino-Japanese conflict? What if China is the main aggressor in a Korea conflagration? All unclear.

The situation is most akin to the years of "Orange" planning at the Naval War College that unfolded over the three decades before the Pacific War. We knew we might one day have to fight Imperial Japan, but we had no idea over what. We possessed the Philippines but we certainly would not go to war over those islands alone. Taiwan today is the closest analogue. It may be the trigger over a fight for, as Aaron Friedberg has put it, "mastery" or "supremacy over half the world."

While Taiwan may seem today to be an idiosyncratic American concern about democratic friends, if attacked the island may look like the place where China has chosen to change the global balance of power. Unfortunately, the years of "Orange" planning ended up in a horrific Pacific War. American ambiguity over red lines played its part in triggering that conflict. Japan attacked China with no response. Tokyo did not know if an invasion of Southeast Asia would be met with similar passivity. Finally, Japan decided that one decisive blow against the U.S. fleet in Hawaii would keep Washington out of the sphere of influence it was building in Asia. It was wrong.

Ambiguity has its place -- it allows for flexibility. In the case of Sino-American relations, ambiguity allows the United States to respond both to an aggressive China and one that does not repeat the mistakes of Imperial Japan. But clarity serves its purposes too. Secretaries Clinton and Gates, for example, proclaimed "core interests," as the Chinese would say, in freedom of navigation through the South China Sea; PACOM is now trying to interpret and operationalize Washington's guidance.

But an uneven commitment to the Taiwan Relations Act, a law that has helped to keep the cross-Strait peace for decades, only invites more Chinese probing and testing in the place where Beijing is most likely to challenge American staying power.

PACOM is doing its part to, as the military likes to say, "shape" the region in concert with U.S. interests -- through its planning, its robust program of engagement with allies and partners, and its very active and enduring presence. Besides the lack of clarity from Washington -- a function of the absence of effective strategic planning mechanisms -- political leaders are overtaxing the command charged with defense of the world's most vital region. We are slowly and without due deliberation heading toward the famous "Lippmann Gap" -- our declared interests in Asia keep growing, we ask PACOM to do what it can to advance them, but we starve them of resources to do the job. We are coming to a point where either we retrench from our commitments in Asia (a policy with untold consequences) or we decide as a nation to properly fund them.

Hana'lei Shimana/U.S. Navy via Getty Images

Shadow Government

Pakistan: ally or adversary?

Is Pakistan an ally or an adversary of the West? The answer, as with so much in Pakistan, is ambiguous. It remains clear that Pakistan and the United States need each other. But it is also evident that the terms of their relations need to change in light of Pakistani support for terrorism. Many of those who know Pakistan best, including leading Western and Pakistani experts convened by the German Marshall Fund, the Institute for Security and Defense Policy, and the French Ministry of Defense for a transatlantic workshop on Pakistan last weekend, have concluded that key elements of Pakistan's military/intelligence combine were complicit in sheltering bin Laden.

How should the West respond to a long history of Pakistani double-dealing? At least we know what doesn't work. In the early 1990s, after a close partnership with Islamabad to defeat the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the United States slapped sanctions on Pakistan and effectively walked away. What followed was the rampant nuclear proliferation of the A.Q. Khan network and Pakistan's creation of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Pakistan also began to fall apart as a state during this period of isolation from the West, with the result that General Pervez Musharraf's 1999 coup was welcomed by many Pakistanis and Western leaders alike. In light of this record, cutting Pakistan off today might be emotionally satisfying, but it would not serve Western interests.

Another option would be pursuing a threat-reduction strategy that reassured Pakistan on its eastern and western frontiers. This would include rapidly drawing down NATO forces in Afghanistan, giving Pakistan the lead role in shaping an Afghan political settlement, and using American leverage to force India to come to terms with its quarrelsome neighbor.

The problem here is that predatory Pakistani behavior in Afghanistan pre-dates Western military involvement there after 9/11. Geography and history may mean that the Pakistani military's obsession with "strategic depth" in Afghanistan can never be satisfied. Indeed, it is more likely that a strong, sovereign Afghanistan with long-term Western partners and capable institutions of security and governance would do more to alleviate Pakistani insecurities than a weak Afghanistan unable to control its territory or govern its people. Hence the argument that one of the best things the West can do for Pakistan is to help the Afghan people build a state that can be a good neighbor to Pakistan -- rather than a chronic source of insecurity that tempts Pakistani adventurism.

What about using Western influence on Pakistan's behalf to solve its India problem? First, the West does not have the leverage to compel India to do much of anything vis-à-vis Pakistan; nor does it have an interest in holding relations with India hostage to Pakistani neuralgias. Second, Pakistanis should be careful arguing that Western powers need to choose between strategic partnership with India or Pakistan; Islamabad is unlikely to prevail over New Delhi in this equation. Third, India's prime minister is by all accounts sincere in his desire for normal relations with Pakistan, but the Pakistani military's involvement in the Mumbai attacks of 2008 and other terrorist atrocities have weakened the Indian camp for peace.

Fourth, it seems odd to blame Pakistan's pathologies on a country next door that is democratic, increasingly prosperous, and a global success story. Wouldn't most countries welcome the benefits of closer ties with such a neighbor? Fifth, India is not fated to be some kind of eternal, civilizational enemy to Pakistan -- they have a roughly equal Muslim population and a common history. It is not religion or culture but Pakistan's failures of governance, deployment by the Pakistani state of asymmetric tools like terrorism, and its revanchism over Kashmir that go a long way toward explaining continuing tensions on the subcontinent.

Sixth, the closest India and Pakistan have come to a settlement of their long-running conflict over Kashmir occurred from 2004 to 2007, when Washington pursued a policy of "dehyphenation" that improved relations with both Pakistan and India independently, without holding ties with one hostage to the other. This suggests that returning to a policy of linkage would, as in the past, produce the opposite effect.

In the long-term, the goal of the West must be to build up Pakistani civilian institutions to counter-balance control of foreign policy by the army and the intelligence services. In the near term, continued training and close engagement with the Pakistani military can be combined with continuing pressure in the form of drone strikes against terrorists taking sanctuary in Pakistan. Avoiding a precipitous Western withdrawal from Afghanistan is also vital.

Politically, a key goal must be to decouple the leadership of the Afghan Taliban from its Pakistani minders. Reports that Afghan Taliban commanders have chafed under Pakistani tutelage suggest that such an opening is ripe -- and could tilt the balance towards an Afghan political settlement that does not grant Pakistan overlordship of its neighbor but instead strengthens Afghan sovereignty.

Sooner or later, India's successful ascent combined with progress in Afghanistan should suggest to Pakistan's military masters that a foreign policy predicated on exporting terror to its near neighbors is self-defeating. Perhaps only then will Pakistan play its part in reconciling with India and Afghanistan in a way that promotes the economic integration of South and Central Asia, creating a regional hub of dynamism and growth that is more conducive to its people's aspirations.

S. SABAWOON/AFP/Getty Images