Our Money in Pakistan

James Traub in Foreign Policy:

Holbrooke Of the many levers Obama administration officials have installed on the mighty console that is AfPak strategy, the one to which the least attention has been paid is almost certainly the civilian assistance program in Pakistan. If journalists are embedding with USAID operatives in the vast, Taliban-plagued province of Baluchistan, not many of us have heard about it. And yet senior U.S. officials, most prominently Vice President Joe Biden, regularly note that Pakistan, with its 180 million people and nuclear stockpile, matters to the United States far more than Afghanistan. Thanks in no small part to Biden, who pushed legislation to massively increase civilian aid, Congress last fall passed the so-called Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill authorizing the expenditure of $7.5 billion in Pakistan over the next five years. Nowhere else does so much hang on the success or failure of development assistance.

And in few other places has the United States spent so much money so thoughtlessly in the past. In The Idea of Pakistan, historian Stephen P. Cohen concludes that decades of U.S. aid strengthened the hand of Pakistan's Army without making it pro-American and had economic consequences no less ambiguous, bolstering elites and self-appointed middlemen.

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