Manuel was surprisingly upbeat about the possibility for change in US-Pakistani relations. In her opinion, the killing of Osama bin Laden (previous posts on bin Laden) has created an honest opportunity for dialogue. The US and Pakistan are now both engaged in a transparent system of carrot-stick diplomacy where US aid is now tied to real Pakistani action (as opposed empty threats and vague promises previously). From a foreign policy perspective I think she's probably right, but throughout the talk I wondered about a bit more than just diplomacy- what about the actual populace? Granted, the State Department has a difficult enough job just dealing with the Pakistani government. The US is trying to work with a country dependent (and defaulting) on IMF loans in which 70% of the country's spending goes to the military. Two-thirds of Pakistan's population is under the age of thirty and 40 million children are not in school. Although the US has given a substantial amount of aid to Pakistan, most of it military, very little has changed on the ground. Meanwhile it's unclear exactly whom the US government should be interacting with- the popularly elected government (previous post on Bhutto and civilian government) or the ISI, which actually runs most of the country and has some cozy ties with terrorist organizations the US doesn't like.
The current tenor of Pakistani politics and society is a direct result of the massive outpouring of US and Saudi aid in the 80's to support jihadist groups and bolster Afghanistan against the Russians. In my opinion, it's now in everyone's strategic best interest to help support a stable and well-educated Pakistani populace. But we as a country would need to put aside our immediate sticks and carrots for a longer-term vision and more humanitarian relationship with Pakistan. As Manuel pointed out, it's hard for the State Department to do much when its budget is a fraction of the size of the resources our military has access to. It may truly be easier for us to fight a war in a country than actually aid it. I think it's time we addressed this problem: put our resources into supporting education, health, and well-being on the ground instead of drone attacks and surgical strikes. A dollar supporting development goes a lot further than a dollar spent blowing things up, although the immediate results are less obvious. And a little bit of US aid abroad as opposed to a great deal of military spending would be an excellent idea for our deficit as well.