Being Right: Justified Action



Brian Reid


For those of you who are unaware, tensions have once again risen between the U.S. and our favorite frenemy, Pakistan. While fighting insurgents close to the Afghan-Pakistan border, NATO gunships opened fire and destroyed what they thought to be two Taliban strong points. Unfortunately, the strong points turned out to be Pakistani border posts, and the attack ended up costing 24 Pakistani lives. The results of this fiasco may turn out to be more complicated than one would initially presume.

I am sympathetic to the Pakistani people with regards to dealing with their loss. If, for example, there had been an incident where a supposedly friendly nation had fired upon our own border posts and ended up taking American lives, I would be rightly upset (and I hope you would be, too). But, as is often the case, things are not that simple. There is a reason I referred to Pakistan as a “frenemy.” I think it is fairly common knowledge that Pakistan has been playing both sides of this war. On the one hand, many important supply routes that the U.S.-led coalition forces use to fight the war in Afghanistan run through Pakistan. The U.S. also operates an air base in Pakistan responsible for the deployment of drones (both of these are now in jeopardy, but more on that later).

On the other, much heavier hand, we have Pakistan’s unreliable and sometimes downright antagonistic behavior in the War on Terror. Take the previous source of tension in U.S.-Pakistani relations, the cross-border U.S. commando raid into Pakistan that was responsible for finally killing one of the most miserable enemies of the free world, Osama bin Laden. I am sure many Americans were as shocked as I was to find out that bin Laden had been hiding in a mansion less than a mile away from the Pakistan Military Academy. Pakistan, of course, was furious over this transgression of border-rights by an alien nation. It should not come as a surprise to anyone, however, why the U.S. decided to take matters into its own hands without notifying Pakistani authorities; the very simple fact is that had the U.S. notified Pakistan of its intent to assault bin Laden in his “secret” mansion, the commandos would have shown up to an empty house. Despite pledges by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s main intelligence agency, Pakistan remains a haven for terrorists and fleeing Taliban soldiers who often cross the border to safety without repercussion. In fact, on the other side of Pakistan near the Indian border, it is no secret that the ISI is an active agent of terror, training militants and providing covering fire for said terrorists to infiltrate the Indian border.

What we have, then, is more than a simple case of mistaken identity. It is absurd to suggest that NATO forces knowingly fired upon Pakistani border points, as the only possible outcome of such an action would be the current undesirable fiasco. What is immensely more likely is that Taliban fighters, used to openly traveling between Pakistan and Afghanistan, picked a spot of engagement likely to draw the U.S./coalition forces into close proximity with the Pakistani border points, increasing the chances of inflaming tensions between the two already uneasy nations. As one can see, an increase in tension is exactly what has transpired. Pakistan has closed the previously mentioned supply routes and demanded that the U.S. vacate the air bases used for drone deployment.

The U.S. is now (not that it hasn’t been prior to this) in the undesirable position of having to try to maintain positive relationships with a country that burns our flags and more likely than not harbors the very terrorists and thugs that we seek to destroy. The road ahead will be a difficult one, and a peaceful outcome seems infinitely desirable to more violence. I should say that I do think U.S.-Pakistani relations can be salvaged, but I remain concerned that relations built with an innately hostile and untrustworthy nation may have too great a cost.

Contact Brian Reid at [email protected].