Saturday 23 Mar 2019 | 08:33 | SYDNEY
Saturday 23 Mar 2019 | 08:33 | SYDNEY

Confusion over Pakistan


Sam Roggeveen


6 March 2009 16:16

Last week a regular Interpreter reader approached me at a Lowy Institute function to say that it was about time I had another blog spat with Hugh White. I would very much like to oblige now, but I'm afraid Hugh's latest, taking me to task for my Pakistan views, is nine parts misunderstanding and perhaps one part disagreement. So the order of the day is clarification rather than debate.

(I pause to note that debating Hugh is always a challenge, since he's so infernally polite. Mind you, that does lend rather a sting to words that, in the hands of another writer, would not even qualify as mild censure. For instance, you'll notice in his post that he refers to those with whom he disagrees as 'well-meaning people'. Ouch! If he ever describes me as having 'sincerely held views', I'll know I've really upset him!)

First, I did not mean to suggest that Australia ought to be part of some kind of military intervention in Pakistan. I concede this is not entirely clear from my last paragraph, though I did refer earlier in the post to 'financial and political help'.

Second, I completely agree that we cannot solve Pakistan's problems for Pakistanis. Indeed, that is the tenor of my post and why I quoted Bacevich approvingly. Bacevich's argument is that the US and its allies have been absurdly ambitious in their policies toward Iraq and Afghanistan, and that a far better approach is to try to contain the jihadist threat rather than defeat it militarily.

I'm sympathetic to that approach, so I ended my post by asking whether, as a means of containment, we might be better off using what little diplomatic and financial leverage we have to prop up a failing Pakistani state, rather than reinforcing our military contribution to Afghanistan. I still think that's a reasonable question, and I suspect Hugh and I would come to a similar answer.