Taking Stock

Michael Hirsch is getting pretty shrill here:

Here’s one measure. Seven years ago today, on Sept. 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman Zawahiri — two men who have dedicated their lives to killing as many Americans as they can — were living in Afghanistan. Their hosts, the Taliban, possessed only primitive weapons and rode around in Toyota pickup trucks.

Today, bin Laden and Zawahiri are almost certainly living in Pakistan. Their hosts, the Pakistanis, have an arsenal of nuclear bombs and missiles with which to fire them. And the Pakistanis, including many in the military and ISI, or intel service, are becoming more anti-American as the Bush administration embraces their mortal enemy, India, with a technology-rich new strategic partnership. Under this deal, Washington will forgive India’s decision to go nuclear and not even require that it abandon nuclear testing. And we will inadvertently send a message to every other major would-be nuclear power in the world (like Iran): You too can rejoin the international community if you wait long enough! So keep at it.

To be fairer to the Bush administration than Hirsch becomes later in the article, this is legitimately difficult stuff, and it’s not really all that shocking that they haven’t managed to brilliant solve the intertwined political, economic, and security dilemmas of Pakistan and its neighbors. That said, it’s really galling that they haven’t really been trying. Instead they decided to focus their attention on something else that they thought would be easier — Iraq — and then screw that up.