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We need to enlist Pakistan, not punish it

By Kori Schake, Special to CNN
  • Kori Schake: Administration is withholding $800 million in military aid to Pakistan
  • It's to punish lack of cooperation, she says, but will probably result in less cooperation
  • Schake: U.S.-Pakistani relations spiraling downward for a while, in crisis after crisis
  • U.S. needs to offer more, not less, aid if we want to break back of terror, she writes

Editor's note: Kori Schake is a fellow at the Hoover Institution and holds the distinguished chair in international security studies at the United States Military Academy. She was senior policy adviser to the McCain-Palin 2008 campaign and wrote "Managing American Hegemony: Essays on Power in a Time of Dominance" (Hoover Institution Press, 2009).

(CNN) -- The Obama administration is withholding $800 million in military aid to Pakistan in understandable frustration with the Pakistani military's partial-at-best cooperation with the effort against militant radicals. But this approach is likely to result in even less cooperation.

Relations between the two nations have been spiraling downward for a while, in crisis after crisis: Pakistanis held an American who had shot and killed two people on murder charges, although the U.S. insisted he had diplomatic immunity and should be released. We didn't inform the Pakistanis in advance of the Osama bin Laden raid; they expelled U.S. intelligence and military trainers; we accused the Pakistani military of killing an investigative journalist; we reduced assistance by a third to penalize a lack of cooperation. But our problem is that deteriorating relations hurt American interests more than Pakistan's.

To Pakistan's military leaders, the defining event in relations with the U.S. came in 1998, when the U.S. cut off aid after Pakistan's nuclear test.

Pakistan was responding to India's nuclear test with its own, but found itself sanctioned by the U.S. to a greater degree than India. America's different treatment of the two nations was logical: Unlike India, Pakistan is a major proliferation threat, dispensing its knowledge, according to the Arms Control Association, to Iran, Libya and North Korea. Moreover, it is a politically less stable country, at that time a military dictatorship.

To Pakistan, this event symbolized America's partiality for India and its willingness to subordinate all issues of common interest to nuclear proliferation. Cutting off aid led to a decade of Pakistani military leaders coming to power with little connection to the U.S. and a deep resentment of aid with strings attached.

Diplomat: Mistake to cut aid to Pakistan
U.S. curbs aid to Pakistan

The Pakistanis view American policy in the context of this bitterness, combined with their perception that the U.S. abandoned Afghanistan after the Soviets were driven out. Pakistan's military claims the conditions American puts on aid are unacceptable.

President Barack Obama's emphasis of exit over strategy in the Afghanistan drawdown will exacerbate Pakistanis' belief that we are losing interest and they will be on their own in hostile circumstances. They are undoubtedly concerned about Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's recent statement that killing 10 leaders would defeat al Qaeda, and his recommendation for "an increasingly aggressive campaign to hunt down al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia."

We don't have to share Pakistan's perspective to understand how it could decide to cooperate even less in fighting al Qaeda and its spinoffs, undercut our efforts to build regional alliances that will strengthen Afghanistan and prevent efforts to stop proliferation of nuclear weapons.

That Pakistan seems unwilling to function with U.S. interests in mind argues for more, not less, assistance. If we want to break the back of the threat posed by violent Islam, we must bring Pakistan along.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Kori Schake.

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