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The American Interest: High Noon in Pakistan

Author: Walter Russell Mead
May 8, 2011

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Walter Ruessell Mead analyzes the impact of Osama bin-Laden's death on U.S., Pakistan relations. He argues that the U.S. should look carefully at alternatives to its alliance with Pakistan in response to what may be a necessary and inevitable transition in the region.

The taking of Osama was a defeat for Al Qaeda.† It was a disaster for Pakistan.

The Assassination in Abbottabad was a strategic catastrophe for the military rulers of this slowly and painfully failing state.† On the one hand, it leaves the reputation of Pakistan as an effective partner against fanatical terror groups in ruins.† The debate in Washington and around the world now is whether the Pakistani state is in league with Al Qaeda or whether it is so weak, divided and incompetent that rogue factions within the state have escaped all control.† The rich intelligence haul the US gathered in Osama's lair will help the US learn more about Osama's protectors in Pakistan; in the meantime it is transparently clear that whether incompetence or malfeasance is more to blame, the government of Pakistan cannot safely be trusted ó by anyone, on anything.

The argument for a continued US-Pakistani alliance took a body blow.† If Pakistan can't or won't help us with the capture of Osama bin Laden, what possible justification does the alliance have?† Arguably, the two people who have done the greatest damage to American interests in the last twenty years have been A. Q. Khan, ringmaster of the nuclear proliferation circus that helped countries like North Korea, Libya, Syria and Iran advance their nuclear ambitions, and Osama bin Laden.† What country produced one and sheltered both?

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