So let’s say that in the course of a year — a year that featured significant political turmoil and severe economic hardship — you push insurgents back from their advancing stronghold fairly near your capitol. It yields a really high human toll, including hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons. Then, a couple months later, you take your military to pressure those insurgents even further, going deep into their tribal stronghold in south Waziristan. That also requires a significant human toll, and you’re still trying to rally international support to help pay it off. But people in the west say, “Great! Now how about going into North Waziristan? When are you going to do that?” When you say, “Well, you know, we’ve sort of been doing a lot lately, if you haven’t noticed, so probably not in the next six to twelve months,” people in the U.S. freak out. Then they talk about dropping some more missiles into the area from remotely-piloted planes.

Look, I share everyone’s frustration with the Pakistani government. But look at it from their perspective. That’s not to say the argument stops. This is what diplomacy is for. But you’re not going to get anywhere diplomatically until you understand the other guy’s problems the way he sees them. It would be a really fruitful thing for the Obama administration to start involving itself in an India-Pakistan peace process, thereby catering to the stability of South Asia between two nuclear powers and alleviating some of Pakistan’s very legitimate security concerns. If part of the obstacle the Pakistanis have toward going into North Waziristan is exposure on their eastern border to their historic enemy, why not address that concern directly?

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman

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