Is Pakistan a Failed State?

Image from OPEN Magazine
Shab sent me a great article this week from OPEN Magazine about the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the Pakistani state.  Ostensibly the article was addressing whether or not the Pakistani government knew Osama bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan.  Like me, the article's author, Zaidi, believes there's no way the Pakistani government didn't know bin Laden was in Abbottabad.  And if they truly didn't, well, the ISI (Pakistani intelligence) missed one of the most wanted men in the world living in plain sight in their own territory.

The larger question raised by this situation is worth considering:  is Pakistan a failed state?  Zaidi recounts a litany of recent terrorist attacks that haven't been brought to justice, including a variety of bombings of mosques and hotels, as well as the assassinations of Benazir Bhutto and Salman Taseer (link to my previous post on Bhutto, link to my previous post on Salman Taseer).  Numerous attacks on the Pakistani army and the ISI have also gone unanswered by the Pakistani judicial system.  Max Weber defines a failed state as no longer having a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force within its borders.  The commando strike carried out on bin Laden by the American military, coupled with repeated drone attacks within Pakistani territory, fits this definition (please note that I'm not condoning American military action).  But there's more to a failed state than just loss of military control.  A failed state is no longer able to provide the basic responsibilities of a sovereign government, including the authority to make collective decisions and provide reasonable public services.  The Pakistani floods inundated more than 1/5 of the country's territory and affected over 20 million people, straining a government already unable to provide regular electricity, safe drinking water, or education to the vast majority of its people.  Add to this the existing split between the popularly elected government and the Pakistani intelligence (which controls the military and Pakistan's nuclear weapons)- who really runs the Pakistani government?  If I had to choose, I'd say the ISI.

What does this mean?  An uneducated, overwhelmingly young population lacking basic opportunities is the fertile ground for terrorism.  And a state unable to prevent or respond to terrorist attacks is an ideal place for terrorist organizations to become entrenched.  What is the appropriate response to this problem?  Although killing Osama bin Laden has done more for Obama's popularity ratings than anything else the president has done since taking office, the killing has clearly revealed the failure of both the popularly elected government and the ISI in Pakistan.  Where do we go from here?  Since I'm not an expert at propping up failed states, my suggestion is much more straight forward.  Since 2003, the US has been spending $12 billion a month on the war in Iraq (SF Gate Article).  What if instead of blowing things up in Iraq for the past several years, we'd actually invested a portion of that amount in Pakistan in education and basic health services?  The only long term solution to the problem of an uneducated populace is to get boys and girls (both) into schools.  Make sure they're healthy enough to learn, then educate them.  Allow them the chance to make a livelihood for themselves and interact in their communities and government in a productive way.  Obviously we're now leaving Iraq and the deficit will not support $12 billion a month to educate Pakistanis.  But what about taking a fraction of what we're still spending on drone attacks in the northern provinces in Pakistan and instead using it to foster an educated civil society?  That would be a truly strategic choice.