Steve Chapman

So maybe American taxpayers should do something less harmful with their money, like place it in a box, wrap it up with a big red bow and set it on fire. The United States has an interest in the direction taken by Pakistan. But we have a better chance of good results if we pull back than if we remain actively engaged, locked in endless conflict with a government whose goals are at odds with our own.

One big reason for our involvement with the Pakistani government is the Afghanistan war. Without its cooperation, the U.S. military would have trouble supplying its troops and going after Taliban allies in Pakistan. But we wouldn't need to supply troops if we acknowledged the futility of persisting in Afghanistan.

If our purpose is to wipe out enemies and create friends, we're going about it exactly the wrong way. The longer we stay, and the more troops we deploy, the more animosity we create, and the less secure we are.

The dangers we foment are not just on the other side of the planet. After a Pakistani-American man tried to detonate a bomb in Times Square last year, he told police he was motivated by anger over American drone attacks.

It's often argued that the U.S. has to provide aid to keep the country's nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of radicals. But Pakistan's rulers already have ample incentive to secure their stockpile -- if only to keep it from being seized by the U.S. or India.

A more plausible danger is that Islamist extremists will gain access to the nukes by gaining power in Islamabad. But our activities in the region only magnify that risk. We're the irritant they need to flourish.

During the war on terror, Washington has spent great sums to bolster a regime that is corrupt, duplicitous and often hostile. Yet U.S. officials, gazing on the fruits of our Pakistan policy, warn that any sharp change will lead to disaster. Disaster is what we've already got.

Steve Chapman

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

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