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Is Pakistan America's friend or Foe.

Whenever an allied government doesnâ??t measure up to what the U.S. expects of it, it is tempting to accuse it of perfidy or betrayal, but that avoids considering whether we are expecting something that the ally can reasonably provide. Libya hawks have taken to bashing Germany for its pacifism, which is another way of saying that allies are supposed to act like satrapies: they are not permitted to make independent judgments about policy questions, nor are they allowed to act in their own interests. Iraq hawks derided Turkey for its opposition to the invasion, and some of them built up entire narratives that portrayed France as our traditional nemesis. Considering how widely loathed our government is in Pakistan, and considering how antagonistic many of our policies are to Pakistani interests, the U.S. has no reason to expect any Pakistani cooperation. For various reasons, we have received some cooperation anyway. Inevitably, that isnâ??t enough for some people, who seem to expect allied governments to commit a sort of suicide to fulfill our demands. - Daniel Larison

This is a very fair point with respect to Pakistan and their support for the Afghan Taliban, but I don't think it applies to allegations that they sheltered bin Laden or other al-Qaeda members. I think we agree that pushing Pakistan to do something it is almost constitutionally incapable of doing is reckless. Pakistan support for the Afghan Taliban is something that is deemed, for better or worse, a vital Pakistani interest and U.S. bribes and bombs have not really altered that calculus. We can't transform Pakistan into a country that suddenly trusts India and therefore doesn't seek strategic depth in Afghanistan - and efforts to change Pakistani behavior in this regard will naturally run aground, if not destabilize the country worse than it already has.

But what does that have to do with bin Laden and al-Qaeda? Keeping bin Laden secreted away doesn't advance Pakistan's aims vis-a-vis India or Afghanistan, as far as I can tell. And even if the ISI did have some kind of rationale, so what? Ultimately, we have to have some red lines and harboring fugitives responsible for slaughtering Americans on American soil is surely one of them.

Now, it's possible that bin Laden built a walled compound a few hundred yards away from a major Pakistani military institution with no one batting an eye. It's also possible that he managed to evade one of the most intense manhunts in human history without any help from well-placed insiders in the ISI or Pakistani military. (Jeffrey Goldberg makes that case here.) Even if he had that help, it's quite possible that the upper echelons in Pakistan's military (and certainly the civilian government) weren't quite clued in as to what was going on - or weren't very interested in finding out. We can't rule out sheer incompetence, either, given how much of it is routinely on display in our own government.

But it's also quite possible - I would say plausible - that Pakistan is at least partially complicit in sheltering bin Laden. I don't think that's a reason to invade or attack the country - which would be an insane act. But I don't think it's unreasonable to probe this question with more urgency and to demand changes in Pakistan's behavior if their complicity can be proven.