Say! I've got an idea! Let's
put on a show! send U.S. troops to Pakistan! There's all kinds of things that could go wrong, and we have no clue what our troops would do once they got there, but let's do it anyway!
AS the government of Pakistan totters, we must face a fact: the United States simply could not stand by as a nuclear-armed Pakistan descended into the abyss. Nor would it be strategically prudent to withdraw our forces from an improving situation in Iraq to cope with a deteriorating one in Pakistan. We need to think — now — about our feasible military options in Pakistan, should it really come to that.
The most likely possible dangers are these: a complete collapse of Pakistani government rule that allows an extreme Islamist movement to fill the vacuum; a total loss of federal control over outlying provinces, which splinter along ethnic and tribal lines; or a struggle within the Pakistani military in which the minority sympathetic to the Taliban and Al Qaeda try to establish Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism.
All possible military initiatives to avoid those possibilities are daunting. With 160 million people, Pakistan is more than five times the size of Iraq. It would take a long time to move large numbers of American forces halfway across the world. And unless we had precise information about the location of all of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and materials, we could not rely on bombing or using Special Forces to destroy them.
The task of stabilizing a collapsed Pakistan is beyond the means of the United States and its allies. Rule-of-thumb estimates suggest that a force of more than a million troops would be required for a country of this size. Thus, if we have any hope of success, we would have to act before a complete government collapse, and we would need the cooperation of moderate Pakistani forces.
Matt Yglesias has fun with this:
Fred Kagan and Michael O'Hanlon say we'd better get ready to deploy "a sizable combat force" to Pakistan for a mission that "would involve supporting the core of the Pakistani armed forces as they sought to hold the country together in the face of an ineffective government, seceding border regions and Al Qaeda and Taliban assassination attempts against the leadership." Now since this is obviously a terrible idea, Kagan and O'Hanlon endeavor to make it less terrible by assuming a can opener and arguing that this force should come "not only from the United States, but ideally also other Western powers and moderate Muslim nations."
This plan and a pony will get you a pony.
Even more stunning in some respects, as Max Bergmann points out for Democracy Arsenal, is that they're quick to assure us that despite the necessity of this coming occupation of Pakistan, it wouldn't "be strategically prudent to withdraw our forces from an improving situation in Iraq to cope with a deteriorating one in Pakistan." Thus indicating, as Bergmann says, that "Kagan and O'Hanlon clearly have a hidden stash of U.S. soldiers."
What's more, in what seems to be a growing trend among advocates of a hawkish defense posture, Kagan and O'Hanlon actually appear to concede in advance that their plan won't really work[.]