The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent


Deja vu, all over again


Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf speaks to the press in Islamabad in 2013. (Farooq Naeem/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

I am happy to be part of the Conspiracy. Thanks for the welcome, Conspirators and readers.

I watch reruns from time to time. "Seinfeld," "The Simpsons," "Hogan's Heroes" – all the great ones. But I've grown rather tired of one set of reruns. Since 9/11, every president has had his military surges, meant to stabilize some country, be it Iraq or Afghanistan.

President Trump is apparently considering a recommendation for another surge in Afghanistan. We've had enough of these, and we know the ending. Perhaps it will stabilize Afghanistan, in the short term. But if all we do is what we've done in the past, nothing will really change. After a while, things will deteriorate and we will be in no better position than we are now. We are in the quagmire of quagmires, and our policymakers have the odd view that doing more of the same will somehow yield a different result.

If there is a surge, yet again, we ought to try something radically different. We need to lean on Pakistan. Hard. After 9/11, Richard Armitage went to Pakistan and gave then-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf an ultimatum: Stop propping up the Taliban and help us defeat them and al-Qaeda. In return, the United States would shower largesse on Pakistan. If Pakistan refused this generous offer, the United States would bomb Pakistan "back to the stone age." Pakistan accepted.

We kept our end of the bargain. In the decade and a half since 9/11, we have gifted Pakistan tens of billions of dollars. What did Pakistan do? It played the double game. It continued to fund and equip the Taliban in Afghanistan. And it likely helped conceal Osama bin Laden. There is evidence that our federal officials have known of this perfidy for more than a decade. Indeed, they sometimes lash out at Pakistan, in the press or before Congress. Sometimes they have tried to entice Pakistan by offering more nonmilitary aid. And yet absolutely nothing changes. We continue to bankroll the Pakistan military. We are in the curious position of funding Pakistan so that it allows us to supply American troops fighting the Taliban, an entity that is funded and directed by the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (the military intelligence unit of the Pakistan army). I suppose that no matter what happens, someone funded by the United States will win.

In February, the Hudson Institute and the Heritage Foundation published a proposal for ending this farce, one backed by a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani. Endorsed by numerous American experts on the Af-Pak region, the report recommends that the U.S. government ought to give Pakistan several months to clean up its act or else. This seems more than reasonable. The Trump administration should stop pussyfooting around with Pakistan. If need be, it must stand ready to follow through on the Armitage ultimatum. The alternative is to continue to fund Pakistan as it actively supports the Taliban as the latter kills our soldiers in Afghanistan. This is the equivalent of paying someone to dig a hole and then someone else to fill it up, with thousands of our soldiers dying in the process. If we aren't going to put a stop to Pakistan's double-dealing, we should declare "victory" and withdraw from Afghanistan. We don't need a business-as-usual surge.