POLITICS
07/17/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Pakistan: The World's Next Failed State?

Last week at the Aspen Ideas Festival, former Senator Sam Nunn -- a current adviser and oft-mentioned potential veep pick for Barack Obama -- described the unraveling of Pakistan as more dangerous threat than either Iraq or Afghanistan.

(Scroll to 1:36 for the relevant portion)

Sen. Nunn: And I'd add one third dimension, which is even harder, and that is what do we do about Pakistan? And the answer is, there's no real easy answer on Pakistan. And we're so unpopular there, that we're gonna have to have...

Moderator: Does being in Iraq hurt us in Pakistan?

Nunn: Well, I think a lot of things have hurt us in Pakistan. But they are getting more and more radical in many ways. But they've had an election, maybe there's some hope in that. But right now, I'd say of all three of them [Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan], Pakistan may be the most dangerous and the most difficult.

As Spencer Ackerman notes today, Nunn's dim view is now shared by the respected private intelligence service StratFor, which now is predicting that Pakistan will wind up a "failed state." And Thursday's New York Times reports:

American military and intelligence officials say there has been an increase in recent months in the number of foreign fighters who have traveled to Pakistan's tribal areas to join with militants there.

The flow may reflect a change that is making Pakistan, not Iraq, the preferred destination for some Sunni extremists from the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia who are seeking to take up arms against the West, these officials say.

But even these recent critiques are not all that new when it comes to the conventional wisdom, as Newsweek ran a cover package last fall entitled, "Where the Jihad Is Now." Still, despite the length of time that it's taken for a consensus to form around the idea that this is a big deal for U.S. foreign policy, we haven't been hearing much in the way of concrete proposals.

Aside from Obama's much-critiqued idea about bombing confirmed Al Qaeda targets hiding in remote provinces when Pakistan's government won't do anything about, there's been mostly silence from a lot of top political figures. All of which just goes to show you that a two-pronged troop deployment in the War on Terror can exhaust more than manpower, material and the treasury, but that it also draws from the well of strategic thinking.