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Dr. Richard Haass is president of the Council on Foreign Relations, a position he has held since July 2003.  He is the author or editor of eleven books on American[…]

Richard Haass discusses American policy toward Pakistan and China.

Question: Where does Pakistan fall in the matrix of U.S. foreign policy?

Richard Haass: I would say Pakistan ought to be near the top of the foreign policy heap. It’s probably the most worrisome and difficult foreign policy challenge or national security challenge facing the administration. You’ve got plus or minus a hundred nuclear weapons, you have the headquarters, so to speak, of the world’s principal terrorist organizations. You’ve got a government that is unable, unwilling or both, when it comes to controlling its own territory. You’ve got a government that to some extent is not a government, it’s not in control of itself, or to add it all up you’ve got a tremendous gap or disparity between US interest on one hand which are enormous and US influence, on the other hand, which is quite limited. And anytime you have a gap between interest and influence, you’re obviously in an uncomfortable and dangerous situation and that’s where the US is with Pakistan.

It also holds the key to some extent with Afghanistan so getting the Pakistanis to deal with this growing, what you might call Talibanization of their society which is bad for Pakistan’s future as well as Afghanistan to something we could urge but we can’t force and we can’t do it for them so we do the odd Predator attack which to some extent helps to some extent alienates the society.

The real question is whether we can build up relevant Pakistani capabilities because most of them military capability is quite honestly are irrelevant to the challenge they face. They’re based upon some, I think, largely non-existing Indian threat rather than the real threats the Pakistani’s faced.

And it’s also not clear to me they have the will. There are large parts to Pakistani establishment that don’t agree. The Taliban represent an existential threat to their country or their society.

So I don’t see the United States doing in Pakistan anything like it’s doing in Afghanistan. I don’t see any broad commitment or ground troops, this is the country of a 175 million people, we’re not going to do that.

But, I can imagine a war of necessity arising in the context of Pakistani state failure. I can imagine the President of the United States conceivably ordering Special Forces or air strikes to deal with terrorist. Or I can imagine a president of the United States ordering Special Forces in or air strikes to deal with nuclear materials. So, it’s not inconceivable to me that sometime during Mr. Obama’s presidency, if 4 or 8 years, we could see something of a discreet you might call it war of necessity feasibly Pakistan.

A Pakistani government rather than growing is facing real economic problems is going to be that much wears off in dealing with its internal political and security challenges.

Question: Is China a military threat to the United States?

Richard Haass: I don’t see it. I believe that the Chinese are preoccupied with employment, with the success of their economy. They know they’re an underdeveloped country. I don’t believe the strategic culture of China is also heavily; I don’t believe it’s an imperialist global challenge. I don’t believe the Chinese for example are going to attack Taiwan because again what the Chinese know they need are literally decades of stability so they can grow their economy. They still have hundreds of millions of people to move from rural areas into urban areas.

They know just how underdeveloped they are, now if you’re asking me 50 years from now, 75 years from now, could a matured China take a different direction? Yeah, I can see that conceivably. I’m not predicting it but I can imagine it and the one thing that worries me about China’s political trajectory is that… is what will motivate its people.

I worry that the principal motive in China in down the road again, we’re talking in decades or longer here, could be nationalism. And that would be unhealthy. and that’s the reason that I believe it’s important that China gradually open up politically that China can’t simply be a culture based on materialism, I don’t believe socialism or communism are going to be it’s motives so I do believe in its greater political participation.

But if I were US Defense Planner, a lot of things will keep me up at night, and we’ve talked about some of that like Pakistan, like Afghanistan, like Iraq, like Iran, like North Korea. China would not be on the top 10 of that list.

Recorded on: May 08, 2009