From a widely shared email by Ambassador Robert Hunter:
Subject: Pakistan Post Mortem (Hunter)
"What did they know and when did they know it?" This is an appropriate question when the House of Representatives is considering the impeachment of a president. But after Nixon resigned, who cared, except junkies and those for whom an 18 1/2 minute gap in a tape remains a fetish?
But posing the question in regard to the Pakistani government -- or just the army or ISI -- has consequences. Osama is dead. The US pulled off a successful strike. (Of course, they way we did it has some unavoidable consequences, at least in the short term because of our "invading" the air space and "violating" the sovereignty of an (at least nominal) ally. Everyone will get over that, once the niceties have been observed. But what about the avoidable consequences?).
But so what, now, even if everyone in Pakistan knew where Osama was? Or if the Pakistanis had sent him an engraved invitation to come and stay? All we achieve by asking, and reasking, the referenced question at the top is to make matters worse.
This is good for US domestic politics, and the huff and puff school that has such a large place in US commentary and -- alas, it seems -- in too much senior-level policy making. Going into the past on this issue can do nothing but cause damage to a relationship which, like it or not, matters to us "going forward" in Afghanistan and also in Pakistan, itself.
The first rule of thumb of a serious administration is to know when to keep your mouth shut. It managed that for the 6 months or so leading up to the raid, and then the lid came off. It started with John Brennan as blowhard, who got his facts wrong (second rule: if you are going to talk, check your facts, then double check, before opening your mouth).
And then we have the National Security Advisor on national television even saying that we want to interview UBL's widows to find out "what did they know and when did they know it?" To what effect? To put "pressure" on the Pakistanis to "do better next time," to "slap them on the wrist?" To look good with Congress? To help explain why it took the US 10 years, $1 trillion dollars, a damaged domestic economy, and hundreds of lost American and NATO-ally lives to get Osama?
"Put brain in gear before engaging mouth."
The fact is that other countries have their own perspectives and interests. And in some cases -- e.g., Pakistan -- we have to deal with them, now as much as before last week, however incompetent or corrupt or invidious they may be. Rubbing their noses in it serves no useful purpose other than making it more difficult to gain the help that we still need. (Leaving aside issues of the role of the Pakistani army, the "government within a government" that is the ISI, and the deep fissures within Pakistani society, the Pakistanis watch our media and know that we are looking for a way out of Afghanistan, and the devil take the hindmost. They worry about the role of India in Afghanistan -- just as they look on in bewilderment when we ask for their help in Afghanistan and with terrorism, while opening the military equipment floodgates with India. Is it any wonder, therefore, that the Pakistanis don't see their interests and their role just to do what we want?).
In a well-ordered administration, all those who have shot of their mouths on this subject would now be looking for new jobs. They are not serving either the president's or the nation's interests by gang tackling the Pakistanis. (Do I object to the role that the Pakistanis likely played or didn't play? Of course. But the object is to decide what is best for the US right now, and beating up on Pakistan is decidedly not it. Let them ruminate on the matters themselves; but not make ourselves the target).
A final thought. Amr Moussa is intereviewed this morning in the Washington Post by Lally Weymouth. The following exchange is instructive, and should apply to the US in regard to Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the entire Middle East. But I do not believe it will happen:
"Q. The U.S. has shared a strategic vision with Egypt. Is that going to continue?
"A. (Moussa): "It depends on the strategic vision. In a time of major change, strategy should be revisited. Old angles should be reviewed......."