CFR Education
Tools and resources for teaching and learning about U.S. foreign policy.

Teaching Notes

No Exit from Pakistan

Author: Daniel S. Markey, Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia
October 2013

CFR Senior Fellow Daniel Markey tells the story of the tragic and often tormented relationship between the United States and Pakistan. Pakistan's internal troubles have already threatened U.S. security and international peace, and Pakistan's rapidly growing population, nuclear arsenal, and relationships with China and India will continue to force it onto the United States' geostrategic map in new and important ways over the coming decades. No Exit from Pakistan explores the main trends in Pakistani society that will help determine its future; traces the wellsprings of Pakistani anti-American sentiment through the history of U.S.-Pakistan relations from 1947 to 2001; assesses how Washington made and implemented policies regarding Pakistan since the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001; and analyzes how regional dynamics, especially the rise of China, will likely shape U.S.-Pakistan relations. By offering three options for future U.S. strategy--defensive insulation, military-first cooperation, and comprehensive cooperation--Markey explains how Washington can prepare for the worst, aim for the best, and avoid past mistakes.

These notes are especially useful for courses on U.S. Foreign Policy, South Asia Studies, and International Relations.

Teaching Notes Components

Discussion Questions

Courses on U.S. Foreign Policy (focus reading on chapters 1, 3-5, 7):

  1. For the United States, what are the three primary areas of concern—immediate, vital, and emerging—in Pakistan? What does it mean to say that there can be "no exit" from Pakistan?
  2. In the post-9/11 period, what were Washington's main goals in Pakistan? How did the war in Afghanistan influence U.S. policy in Pakistan?
  3. What are the three broad options Washington has for dealing with Pakistan in the future, and what are their strengths and weaknesses?
  4. What does the Pakistani experience teach about U.S. efforts to promote democracy abroad?
  5. How did Washington seek to work with Pakistan's new civilian government after Musharraf's departure? What worked and what failed in that approach?
  6. How has the Obama administration's approach to Pakistan differed from the Bush administration's approach? In what ways has it remained constant? How did the U.S.-Pakistan relationship change over the period from 2008 to 2014?
  7. What lessons can be drawn from the experience—both the rollout and implementation—of U.S. development assistance efforts in Pakistan?

Courses on South Asia Studies (focus reading on chapters 1-5):

  1. What are the "four faces" that Pakistan shows to different audiences, and how do they combine to paint a realistic portrait of Pakistani state and society?
  2. How has the history of Indo-Pakistani hostility influenced Pakistan's political, economic, and social development?
  3. What lessons did Pakistanis tend to learn from the Cold War experience?
  4. How do the "three strands" of current Pakistani anti-Americanism compare to each other? What are their historical roots and why do they matter today?
  5. What factors led to Musharraf's downfall? What does his experience suggest about Pakistan's democratic development?
  6. What are the potential opportunities for economic growth in Pakistan? What are the biggest obstacles?
  7. Has governance in Pakistan improved since the return to civilian rule in 2008, or worsened?

Courses on International Relations (focus reading on chapters 1, 3, 6, 7):

  1. What are the main challenges that Pakistan poses to international security today?
  2. What were the various reasons for U.S. involvement in Pakistan during the Cold War?
  3. What are Pakistan's interests in Afghanistan? How has it pursued them?
  4. How has Pakistan used militant proxies to advance its regional interests?
  5. Did the United States "abandon" Pakistan and Afghanistan at the end of the Cold War?
  6. What is Pakistan's motivation for developing and expanding its arsenal of nuclear weapons?
  7. What are the reasons for friendship and cooperation between China and Pakistan?
  8. How does Pakistan pose a threat to U.S. strategic aims in India?

Essay Questions

Courses on U.S. Foreign Policy:

  1. Has Pakistan been an ally or an adversary in the U.S. war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda?
  2. Is the U.S. drone program in Pakistan a success? How would you characterize the debates taking place about drones in Pakistan and the United States?
  3. How should the United States use military and/or civilian assistance to advance its goals in Pakistan?
  4. How should the United States prioritize concerns about Pakistan's security—particularly its nuclear arsenal and militant networks—versus the objective of improving prospects for Pakistan's future development?

Courses on South Asia Studies:

  1. What do domestic trends (e.g., political, economic, security) tell us about Pakistan's likely future?
  2. How has the Indo-Pakistani rivalry changed over time? How might it evolve in the future? Is there any prospect for normalization?
  3. How should we understand the role of Islam in Pakistan's society and politics?
  4. What are the primary threats to democracy in Pakistan?

Courses on International Relations:

  1. Have Pakistani nuclear weapons contributed to regional stability?
  2. What does the history of U.S.-Pakistan relations reveal about the ability of a powerful state to influence a weaker one? And about a weaker state to influence the stronger?
  3. What interests does the United States have in South Asia? Are these interests enduring?
  4. What does the history of South Asia from the Cold War to the present teach us about the interaction between regional conflicts and global rivalries?

Further Projects

Scenario Gaming

Have students assess the likelihood of Pakistani state collapse in the medium and long term. What factors might make a collapse more or less likely? How would collapse (or the threat of collapse) affect the region? How should the United States, China, India, Afghanistan and other actors respond? Ask the students to imagine they are senior U.S. or foreign policymakers tasked with devising a strategy for heading off collapse.

Op-Ed: Policy toward Pakistan

Based on the book and subsequent discussions, students should develop and defend their own policy conclusions on how to deal with Pakistan by writing an op-ed (600 to 800 words) advocating a course of action and including an accompanying rationale and method for achieving U.S. policy objectives.

Additional Resources

Courses on U.S. Foreign Policy:

  1. Coll, Steve. Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. New York: Penguin, 2004 (reprint).
  2. Jones, Seth. In the Graveyard of Empires: America's War in Afghanistan. New York: W. W. Norton, 2009.
  3. Kux, Dennis. Disenchanted Allies: The United States and Pakistan, 1947-2000. Washington: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2001.
  4. Markey, Daniel. Reorienting U.S. Pakistan Strategy: From Af-Pak to Asia. CFR Special Report, 2014.
  5. Nayak, Polly and Michael Krepon. The Unfinished Crisis: U.S. Crisis Management after the 2008 Mumbai Attacks. Washington: Henry L. Stimson Center, 2012.
  6. Schaffer, Howard and Teresita. Riding the Roller Coaster: How Pakistan Negotiates with the United States. Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2011.
  7. Tellis, Ashley. Pakistan and the War on Terror. Washington: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2008.
  8. Woodward, Bob. Obama's Wars. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010.
  9. Zenko, Micah. Reforming U.S. Drone Strike Policies. CFR Special Report, 2013.

Courses on South Asia Studies:

  1. Brown, Vahid and Don Rassler. Fountainhead of Jihad: The Haqqani Nexus, 1973-2012. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.
  2. Cohen, Stephen P. The Idea of Pakistan. Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2006.
  3. Constable, Pamela. Playing with Fire: Pakistan at War with Itself. New York: Random House, 2011.
  4. Fair, C. Christine. Madrassah Challenge: Militancy and Religious Education in Pakistan. Washington: USIP, 2008.
  5. Inskeep, Steve. Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi. New York: Penguin, 2012 (reprint).
  6. Lieven, Anatol. Pakistan: A Hard Country. New York: Public Affairs, 2011.
  7. Shah, Aqil. The Army and Democracy. Harvard University Press, 2014.
  8. Tankel, Stephen. Storming the World Stage: The Story of Lashkar-e-Taiba. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Courses on International Relations

  1. Acemoglu, Daron and James Robinson. Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty. New York: Crown, 2012.
  2. Cohen, Stephen P. Shooting for a Century: The India-Pakistan Conundrum. Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2013.
  3. Kaplan, Robert. Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power. New York: Random House, 2010.
  4. McMahon, Robert J. The Cold War on the Periphery. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.
  5. Narang, Vipin. Nuclear Strategy in the Modern Era: Regional Powers and International Conflict. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2014.
  6. Singer, P. W. Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century. New York: Penguin, 2009.