Pakistan's Interests

A correspondent directed my attention to the second page of Ann Scott Tyson's Washington Post article on counterterrorism in Pakistan and wondered how long it's going to be before we see a Weekly Standard article about proclaiming General Ashfaq Kiyani to be the Petraeus of Pakistan. There's certainly food for thought here:

Nevertheless, U.S. military officials said that Kiyani, Musharraf's possible replacement as head of the military, is supportive of the counterinsurgency plan in the tribal areas, which he visited within days of assuming his current post last month. Kiyani has also indicated an openness to having the Pakistani military focus on missions other than conventional operations aimed at the threat of India, which senior U.S. officers consider diminished. "He has a different view," said one senior military official. "I'd expect he will step up and be head of the army, and there will be some changes."

This reminds me that Americans -- from journalists to congressmen to senior miltiary officials -- ought to consider adopting a less personality-driven view of how the world works. The fact that a Pakistani general angling for the top spot in Pakistan's all-powerful military tells American military officials that he wants to concentrate less on the top priority of the Pakistani military and more on the top priority of the American military tells us only that General Kiyani understands how to tell people what they want to hear.

Meanwhile, it raises a good issue. When we think about Pakistan's security forces, we think about fighting al-Qaeda. When Pakistanis think about Pakistan's security forces, they think about fighting India. If we want Pakistan to spend less time worrying about India and more time worrying about al-Qaeda, we should be thinking about whether or not there's something we could do on the India front that would make it worth Pakistan's while to worry less about India and more about al-Qaeda.

In general, this is what's really gone awry with the heavily moralized post-9/11 climate in the United States. We spend tons of time worrying about whether or not this or that leader -- Musharraf, Putin, Mubarak, Arafat, Sharon, Khameini, Kim, whatever -- is or is not a "good man," a "moderate," a "man of peace," a "tyrant," a "terrorist," a "pygmy," whatever -- that there's little thought given to the idea that countries have interests, and the United States has interests, and the name of the game is to set priorities and let other countries have their way on their top priorities if they'll let us have our way on our top priorities.