This is rather poorly conceived advice on Pakistan. I really wish those Democrats so enthusiastic about chasing bin Laden and the prospect of bombing or capturing him in Pakistan were skylarking when they ignore the potential consequences of doing so without regard to that country’s sovereignty and stability. While it is true that the Pakistani state does not exercise total control over much of its northern territory, this does not mean that Pakistan’s national sovereignty should be disregarded in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Absolutely not. Intrusion into the sovereign territory of another state, especially a weak and fragmented one such as Pakistan, should never be undertaken so lightly. Pakistan is a state whose government is already on the road to perdition, lacking credability in most realms, and to inject foreign forces, allied or otherwise, into such a situation would rouse only the forces which could push the country over the edge, producing more misfortune, disorder, and threats to proliferation and regional stability than the current situation shows. Any American action in Pakistan against Osama bin Laden or other targets should be done in consultation with the Pakistani government. With or without consultation, the legitimacy of the government is at stake within those areas it does exercise control over and in those within which it does not. Doing so would at the very least allow the government to prepare for the consequences, however bad they may be. Not doing so would cause major problems for the United States, and Pakistan.
This enthusiasm for cowboy bombing, aimed at making Obama’s position appear more tough, merely makes the author’s position and Obama’s appear less prudent. The position that Yglesias is taking would force a potential President Obama to explain to the world that his areal attack or invasion of Waziristan, a region almost universally recognized as Pakistani territory and legally under Pakistani sovereignty, was not an invasion of Pakistan because Waziristan is not really Pakistan because the state cannot exercise complete sovereignty over it. Is Waziristan then a separate entity from Pakistan? A separate country? Obviously, the Pakistanis do not feel this way. Not that I necessarily oppose pursuing bin Laden into Pakistan if there were hard and credible evidence, after the necessary discourse had taken place between the US and Pakistan. But the eagerness to find Osama bin Laden, who is only one (admittedly critical) piece of a much larger picture, is lending itself to irrationality. Respect for national sovereignty in Pakistan’s case is a good reason to be hesitant to rush into an allied country, guns blazing and bombs dropping. The Yglesias endorsed position is dripping with a kind of arrogance that assumes Pakistanis will accept an American attack on their soil, that would very likely kill more than a few of their citizens and erode their credibility, simply because they have limited control in the beset region. If that becomes Obama’s Osama in Pakistan policy, he had better work it out with the Pakistanis early on so that it goes as smoothly as an operation in Pakistan can go.