"This Sounds Like a Really Fun Mission"
Fred Kagan and Michael O’Hanlon say we’d better get ready to deploy “a sizable combat force” to Pakistan for a mission that “would involve supporting the core of the Pakistani armed forces as they sought to hold the country together in the face of an ineffective government, seceding border regions and Al Qaeda and Taliban assassination attempts against the leadership.” Now since this is obviously a terrible idea, Kagan and O’Hanlon endeavor to make it less terrible by assuming a can opener and arguing that this force should come “not only from the United States, but ideally also other Western powers and moderate Muslim nations.”
This plan and a pony will get you a pony.
Even more stunning in some respects, as Max Bergmann points out for Democracy Arsenal, is that they’re quick to assure us that despite the necessity of this coming occupation of Pakistan, it wouldn’t “be strategically prudent to withdraw our forces from an improving situation in Iraq to cope with a deteriorating one in Pakistan.” Thus indicating, as Bergmann says, that “Kagan and O’Hanlon clearly have a hidden stash of U.S. soldiers.”
What’s more, in what seems to be a growing trend among advocates of a hawkish defense posture, Kagan and O’Hanlon actually appear to concede in advance that their plan won’t really work:
The task of stabilizing a collapsed Pakistan is beyond the means of the United States and its allies. Rule-of-thumb estimates suggest that a force of more than a million troops would be required for a country of this size. Thus, if we have any hope of success, we would have to act before a complete government collapse, and we would need the cooperation of moderate Pakistani forces.
Can you imagine a responsible member of the Pakistani military inviting a large foreign military presence into the country as a prophylactic measure against a government collapse that hasn’t actually happened? Can you imagine what the popular response to that would be? People already seem tired of living under a military dictatorship over there — transforming it into a military dictatorship that involved tons of foreign troops seems very unlikely to shift that calculus.