We're used to seeing Iraq and Afghanistan in the news, but recently, reports from the greater Middle East's teetering domino, Pakistan, have appeared on the front pages of newspapers across America.
Today's New York Times features a three-page article by Mark Mazzetti and David Rohde detailing the strength of al Qaeda on the border of Afghanistan. According to the article, "Leading terrorism experts have warned that it is only a matter of time before a major terrorist attack planned in the mountains of Pakistan is carried out on American soil."
The title of the Times' piece, "Amid U.S. Policy Disputes, Qaeda Grows in Pakistan," raises important questions: What should be America's policy towards this nation armed with nuclear weapons and possessing the rocket technology to deliver them? How should we conduct relations with this country populated by almost 150 million Muslims? Given that even staunch Bush/Cheney supporters now admit colossal blunders in the Middle East, the United States cannot afford a misstep in dealing with Pakistan.
The dilemma is that fighting the Taliban on Pakistani soil jeopardizes what currently stands for stability in the Pakistani government. As we know from our 1979 experience in Tehran when extremists seized the U.S. embassy and ousted the shah, governments can collapse in a flashpoint. The sad truth is that the Bush/Cheney administration's endless record of poor decisions in the region should disqualify them from even attempting to address the complex issue of U.S.-Pakistani relations.
Think of the mistakes they have made. Hamas has been democratically elected in the Palestinian territories. Iraq is an endless see-saw of good news and mostly bad news. The Iranian government publicly thumbs its nose at the international community. In Afghanistan, a resurgent opium industry thrives and a fragile government struggles to maintain power.
Bush/Cheney only has six months left. But that would be plenty of time to make the situation in Pakistan worse. The best course of action would be for our feckless Congress to assert itself. Traditionally, the executive branch has dictated U.S. foreign policy. But through the power of the purse, Congress should tie any future funding of administration initiatives to having a greater voice on what decisions are made regarding Pakistan. Congress should also seek a role for the United Nations on this issue, particularly the voices coming from the Security Council. I believe firmly that it will be important to consider a broad range of opinions of this critical issue of American military action on Pakistani soil.