Now, that nation is mentioned in the same breath as Brazil and India as an emerging power on the world stage and a force for regional security. Fundamentally, few threats to American interests and American lives now emanate from Indonesia. That is the hope and the promise of development in Pakistan, a promise the United States has a role to play in fulfilling. [emphasis added]To which I can only respond: uh, what? Surely Birdsall and her colleagues are familiar with Jemaah Islamiyah, right?
Development and democracy haven't solved the problem of extremist violence in Indonesia, and it seems unlikely they'll do so in Pakistan. But viewing these two countries solely through the lens of terrorism misses the point. Birdsall et al are correct to write that "Pakistan's stability and prosperity are intertwined with the United States' own," and to note that this linkage is tighter than that with other countries. This isn't about terrorism, though -- it's about Pakistan's status as a nuclear weapons state, a seriously flawed democracy, and a nexus of fundamentally revisionist (that is, anti-status quo) Islamic extremism.
Pakistan can pose a threat to the U.S. both by being too strong and too weak, something that doesn't hold for Indonesia. It's not clear that state weakness is the cause of the "threats to American interests and American lives [that] now emanate from" Pakistan; policymakers should be cognizant of that reality before they spend money trying to replicate the Indonesian model (which, lest we forget, was achieved with minimal U.S. assistance).
This is yet another example of the sort of absurdities we're driven to by the insensate state-strength-as-security paradigm: the goofy quasi-assertion that with just a bit of well-targeted aid, we can make Pakistan as unthreatening to American interests as Indonesia.