The Governance Problem in Pakistan

I was saying earlier that if we want to see Pakistan’s ISI not undermining what we’re doing in Afghanistan that we would need to do something that changes their regional calculus regarding India. Patrick Barry says this misses some governance issues:

But just critical as a factor in explaining why ISI factions continue to bedevil the U.S. is Pakistan’s civilian government’s inability to exercise authority over the military. Even if there were better relations between Pakistan and India, you would still have to face the reality that neither the government nor the Military is able to prevent ISI elements from collaborating with insurgents who have come to threaten not just Afghanistan, but also Pakistan itself.

This is fair enough. But I think that in many ways it loops back to the regional situation. The outsize role the military plays in Pakistani society is closely linked to Pakistan’s long-running conflict with India. A Pakistan that didn’t see the struggle with India as of paramount importance wouldn’t just turn its a large and powerful military establishment in a direction that’s more favorable to our policy objectives, it actually wouldn’t need such a large and powerful policy military establishment.

Incidentally, when I observe that turning Pakistan’s regional calculus around would be integral to achieving maximalist American goals in Afghanistan, I mean that not-so-much in the spirit of saying I think Richard Holbrooke needs to work ‘round the clock to accomplish that but rather in the spirit of raising doubts about the feasibility of maximalist goals. This is, after all, the land of “If India builds the Bomb, we will eat grass or leaves, even go hungry — but we will get one of our own.” Pakistan is very committed to its position on the Kashmir issue, and thus to the conflict with India, and has been for decades.