Steve Chapman

It's a mess, ain't it Sheriff?


If it ain't it'll do till a mess gets here.

Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men


For years, we have poured billions of dollars into Pakistan, and the payoff is that two out of every three Pakistanis regard the United States as an enemy. After the discovery that Osama bin Laden had been living there for years, the feeling in America is: Right back atcha.

Some marriages can't be saved, and this looks like one of them. Ever since the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government has treated Pakistan as an indispensable asset while leaning on its rulers to do our bidding. They have taken the money and, often as not, sabotaged our interests. The Obama administration, however, resists all calls to end or curtail our aid.

Today, the war in Afghanistan drags on, al-Qaida has a large presence in Pakistan, and elements of the government are obviously working with our worst enemies. When we went after bin Laden, we didn't notify the Pakistanis in advance, figuring they would help him get away. The other day, Pakistani troops fired on NATO helicopters that strayed over the Afghan border.

Writing in The New Yorker, Lawrence Wright, author of "The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11," notes that Pakistan "is one of the most anti-American countries in the world, and a covert sponsor of terrorism. Politically and economically, it verges on being a failed state." Whatever you can say about our policy, you can't say it's working.

The fault lies as much with us as with them. For nearly 10 years, the U.S. has been waging war next door. Lately it has also been waging war inside Pakistan with unmanned drones that are used to kill jihadists but sometimes slaughter innocents. How many Pakistani troops in Mexico, or errant Pakistani bombs exploding in California, would it take before Americans got fed up?

Our martial activities in South Asia do not breed happy feelings in Pakistan. On the contrary, they provoke suspicion, resentment and rage in the populace, to the benefit of militants.

Not only that, but our money usually gets used for bad purposes. Wright says the army and the intelligence service "created and nurtured the very groups -- such as the Taliban -- that have turned against the Pakistani state. And the money used to fund these radical organizations came largely from American taxpayers."

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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