Pakistan: Ally or Liability?
Richard Armitage was the 13th United States Deputy Secretary of State, serving from 2001 to 2005. He served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War and then after the fall of Saigon moved to Washington D.C. to work as a consultant for the United States Department of Defense, which sent him to Tehran and Bangkok.
Throughout the late 70s and early 80s, Armitage worked as an aide and foreign policy advisor to politicians including Senator Bob Dole and President-elect Ronald Reagan. When Reagan was elected, Armitage was appointed to the Department of Defense. In the 1990s, Armitage worked in the private sector before being confirmed as Deputy Secretary of State with the election of George W. Bush in 2001. He left the post in 2005.
Armitage was educated at the United States Naval Academy. He is an avid bodybuilder, and speaks many languages, including Vietnamese.
Question: What issues stand out for you?
Armitage: Well there are two immediate ones and one long term that have really grabbed my attention. One is the situation in Pakistan. We have just fought a great war under the illusion that Iraq had WMD, and we’re still engaged in that struggle. If Pakistan is not successful in enlightened moderation, you could have 162 million Pakistanis with nuclear weapons and delivery systems, and that would dramatically change the equation. To a lesser extent, I’m concerned with the developments in Iran and their search for nuclear weapons. The longer term thing that has gotten me concerned is that we are so focused on Iraq, and to a lesser extent Afghanistan, that I think we’re overlooking our longer term equities which are in Asia by every measure – one of the largest countries in the world; one of the biggest GDPs in the world; the largest militaries; the greatest thirst for energy; the greatest hunger for raw materials. They’re all there in Asia, and this is where the future of our country lies. But because of our myopia in the Middle East, we’re not able, I think, to really position ourselves well yet.
Question: Is Pakistan an ally or a liability?
Armitage: They are an ally, I think, in the fight against Al Qaeda. There’s no question of that. There are mixed views in Pakistan about the Taliban. And there’s a different scene, I think, in many corners of Iraq between Al Qaeda, who are foreigners, and Taliban who are primarily Pashtun if not exclusively Pashtun, a large tribe in Pakistan as well. So the answer is they are an ally sometimes, and they’re a worry sometimes.
Armitage thinks we're missing the point on Pakistan.