Vital Signs

Pakistan: America's Pandora's Box?

On September 10, 2008,the New York Times reported that, back in July, President Bush had authorized ground incursions and missile attacks to destroy Taliban and Al Qaeda sanctuaries in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas.  As the Times noted, “It is unclear precisely what legal authorities the United States has invoked to conduct even limited ground raids in a friendly country.”

After the first ground assault on September 3, which lasted several hours and involved two-dozen Navy Seals, the unanimous reaction of Pakistan’s democratically elected parliament was to call on its government to repel future U.S. incursions with military force.  Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, agreed, declaring that his country’s territorial integrity “will be defended at all costs.”

Seeking to justify future incursions into Pakistan, President Bush announced on September 9 that Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan were “all theaters in the same overall struggle.”  But when the U.S. military attempted another ground attack on September 15, employing armed helicopters, it was forced to retreat after coming under sustained fire from Pakistan’s army.  The next day, Pakistan’s military issued a press release announcing its policy on U.S. incursions: “The orders are clear . . . open fire.”

If war with a nonnuclear-armed Iran...

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