By Fareed Zakaria, CNN
You wouldn't have thought anti-Americanism in Pakistan could get any worse, but last week NATO attacked a Pakistani army post, killing 24 Pakistani soldiers. Even before this episode, for which NATO expressed deep regret, it would be difficult to find a country on the planet that was more anti-American than Pakistan. In a Pew survey this year, only 12% of Pakistanis expressed a favorable view of the United States. Populist rage and official duplicity have built up even though Washington has lavished Islamabad with aid totaling $20 billion over the last decade.
I think it's time to recognize that the America’s Pakistan policy is just not working. I write this as someone who has consistently supported engaging with the Pakistani government as the best of bad options. But the evidence that this engagement is working is thin - and gets thinner with every passing month.
Supporting Islamabad has been premised on two arguments. The first is that if we don’t, the Pakistani government could collapse and the country’s nuclear weapons could fall into the wrong hands, perhaps even ending up with al Qaeda. This misunderstands the problem. Pakistan is not Somalia. It has been ruled by a professional military for most of its independent existence, even when there has been a nominally civilian government in charge - as there is today. There have been no Gaddafiesque colonels’ coups in Pakistan; instead, the entire military, with its command chain intact, has moved to replace the civilian government. The military remains widely admired as a national institution that works.
The second argument is the one given by businesses when they pay off the Mafia: ‘We need to keep these guys as allies, or else they will become enemies.’ The problem with this protection racket is that it isn’t working. Admiral Mike Mullen finally said publicly what insiders have said privately for years: Pakistan’s army, despite getting over a quarter of its budget from Washington, funds and arms the most deadly terrorist group in South Asia.
Pakistan's military needs to stop playing games to keep Afghanistan weak and India off balance. It needs to start trying to create peace, stability and prosperity for its people. In other words, Pakistan needs a civilian conception of its national interest. And it can only get that from a flourishing civilian government.
There lies a fundamental tension in U.S. policy toward Pakistan. We want a more democratic country, but we also want a government that can deliver anti-terrorism cooperation on the ground. In practice, we always choose the latter, which means we cozy up to the military and overlook its destruction of democracy.
But the only way to get real cooperation is by helping Pakistan move from being a military state to a more normal country. If Washington continues to bolster Pakistan's de-facto military dictatorship, we will get a dysfunctional nation where the public - fed propaganda by the military establishment - continues to vent its anger at Washington.
The Arab Spring holds key lessons. When Washington props up a dictatorship because it needs foreign policy support, it is building up wellsprings of poison and anti-Americanism within society that, one day, will erupt.