The Tough Guys

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Obviously, I have no idea who in the US would benefit politically from a worsening situation in Pakistan. Unlike others, I won't even pretend to know. A different question is who deserves to benefit. That'd be whoever has the most sensible ideas about Pakistan. Who's that? Well, it seems to me that we desperately need to break away from the "trouble abroad, let's turn to hawkier hawks!" mode of organizing our politics. After all, there was a strategic choice undertaken by the United States of America during the year 2002 to refocus our attention away from Central Asia and the Pakistan/Afghanistan area and toward the Persian Gulf. That was, of course, the "tough," "strong," "serious" thing to do.

Then throughout 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007 it's been the case that the "tough," "strong," "serious" thing to do is to maintain a massive strategic focus on Iraq in particular and the Persian Gulf in general. Vast quantities of troops, money, and attention lavished on the Gulf was Central Asia languishes. Only cowardly cowards like Brian Katulis though it was more import to focuson Pakistan. But of course when things go wrong in Pakistan, everyone's stomach lurches in a way that doesn't happen with problems in Iraq. In Pakistan, after all, you've got real nukes and more radicals -- trouble there is big-time trouble. But, presumably, there'll be a lull in the situation at that point. Maybe during that lull people can try to remember that these things are all linked together and that choosing toughseriousness is what led US policy in the region to fall into such a state of drift in the first place.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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