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Rubin: America risks getting fooled — yet again

  • President Barack Obama meets with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday at the White House. (PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVIAS / Associated Press)

When Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif came to Washington last week, I couldn’t help thinking of the adage: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

Sure enough, despite a long history of U.S. presidents being duped by Pakistani leaders, President Barack Obama plans to restore more than $1.5 billion in blocked assistance for Islamabad.

The aid was blocked because Pakistan never came clean about who helped Osama bin Laden hide for years in Abbottabad. And U.S.-Pakistani relations are stressed because Pakistan hosts Afghan Taliban who kill U.S. soldiers, as well as jihadis who kill Western and Indian civilians.

Never mind. When it comes to Pakistan, hope seems to spring eternal. If the United States eases tension with Islamabad, administration thinking goes, the Pakistanis may finally press the Taliban to endorse an Afghan peace accord before the U.S. withdrawal in 2014.

But why expect different results now from a country whose leaders have deceived Washington for decades about their links to terrorism — and who regard anti-Western jihadis as a useful tool in fighting India?

“The United States may have to be more up-front about the relationship between Pakistan and terrorism,” says Husain Haqqani, a former Pakistani ambassador to Washington and author of “Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding.” “This would bring to an end the ability of Pakistani leaders to deny what is happening. The days of going along with pretense should end.”

Haqqani’s book lays out the sad tale of America’s self-deceptive relationship with Pakistan. (He has long argued that Pakistan’s double game on terrorism undermines its ability to develop its full potential, which may be why he was forced out of his post.) “Since 1947, dependence, deception, and defiance have characterized Pakistan’s relations with Washington,” he says. “Pakistan has sought U.S. aid in return for promises we did not keep.”

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