Fighting with allies

Last Thursday, Pakistan made good on a threat to confront increasingly common incursions into their territory by U.S. forces. Upon spotting a pair of American Kiowa reconnaissance helicopters a mile inside their border, Pakistani military forces opened fire, leading to a tense five-minute gunfight between nearby ground troops with the U.S. military and Afghan border police. If the notion of a historical ally firing upon American troops is unsettling, place blame at the feet of American policy. This is the necessary consequence of the posture adopted by President George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and it must stop before the war within Pakistan becomes a war against Pakistan. This issue has its roots in the Bush Doctrine, the philosophical engine driving a broad approach to the War on Terror that often violates national sovereignty. This policy is the root of American presence in Pakistan, with senior government officials confirming that President Bush recently approved secret orders permitting special operations forces to carry out missions inside Pakistan without first seeking the approval of the Pakistani government. No doubt hoping to collar Osama bin Laden and tamp down al Qaeda before leaving office, President Bush is not the only one trying to gain political credibility through hawkishness. Presidential candidate Barack Obama has voiced his support for a similar policy, arguing âÄúif the United States has al Qaeda, bin Laden, top-level lieutenants in our sights and Pakistan is unable or unwilling to act, then we should take them out.âÄù This is an untenable strategy that cannot continue without serious consequences. According to reports, there were no casualties in last ThursdayâÄôs skirmish, and while the incident has been brushed off in public, weâÄôve not yet heard the end of it. Broader confrontation awaits if we should choose to regard Pakistan as a battlefront of, rather than an ally in, the War on Terror.