Grading the Editors: NYT Editorial On Pakistan Barely Passes

Grade: D

suggestions for improvement: awareness of recent events and familiarity with U.S. politics is good; in comparison, your discussion of the structure of the Pakistani government/politics could benefit from the same level of detail given to the U.S. (see Jalal, Alavi, Siddiqa for specifics on social basis of politics, role of the military, and implications of U.S.-Pakistani relations; and Talbot and Jaffrelot for basic background); writing that is a bit less polemical and has more careful word choice would improve the piece; deeper analysis was required--you have too many conclusions that rest on unsubstantiated and at times challengeable assertions--but a good start!!!!

Making Their Own Mistakes [this sounds pejorative--another phrase?]

When Pervez Musharraf was running Pakistan he repeatedly cut deals with tribal leaders intended to calm the country’s lawless regions [generally speaking, it's misleading to describe any single person as running the government of Pakistan, rather than some combination of military, bureaucratic, and civilian leadership; also be careful with language "tribal" and "lawless" evoke Orientalist depictions]. The results were always disastrous [always? would be good to include background here and what you mean by "disastrous"]. The Taliban and Al Qaeda used the time to regroup and launch attacks both inside Pakistan and against Afghanistan [be careful of conflating in your discussion the interests of the Pakistani state, the Afghan government, the U.S., and the people of the respective areas].

Now Pakistan’s newly elected civilian government is trying again [this is again posing a dichotomy between 'military' and 'civilian' that is problematic in the context of Pakistan's history as well as the continued role of Musharraf as a strong part of the government's leadership]. We doubt it will have any more luck [why? back up]. The new leaders will need to do a better job than Mr. Musharraf monitoring developments along the border [more description here]. And they need to develop a military fallback plan for when this deal falls apart [be careful...this sounds a bit condescending and is fairly obvious].

It is not surprising that the new government is trying to set its own course. When then-General Musharraf and the United States did battle the extremists, both showed a lack of concern for civilian casualties. Mr. Musharraf never tried to explain why it was in Pakistan’s interest to fight at all. It was always Washington’s war. [this seems like a's not only a public relations issue, but a real question of to what extent different conflicts can be collectively considered and the role of the U.S. in Pakistan/Afghanistan]

The latest agreement, as reported by The Times, would require the tribes to expel foreign militants, cease their own attacks and kidnappings, and allow freedom of movement to the Frontier Corps, the local security force [can you explain a little more about the Frontier Corps? 'local security force' has some ominous overtones]. The deal also calls for an exchange of prisoners in return for the gradual withdrawal of the Pakistani military from part of the tribal region of South Waziristan.

The top militant leader accused of masterminding former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination has ordered his fighters to halt activities in the regions [why is his alleged role in the Bhutto assassination--whose proof is based on what, anyway?--this seems needlessly provocative...also you left out the more interesting question of the extent to which he really controls things...remember, also, that Pakistan, like most developing countries, is in a process of state building and positivist conceptions of the state don't always work in describing its activities].

The Bush administration doesn’t like the deal, but its own policy failure is undeniable [good]. The C.I.A. calls the lawless border “a clear and present danger” to Afghanistan, Pakistan and the West ["the West" does not exist in this context--reword]. A recent Congressional investigation says the administration never developed a comprehensive plan — one integrating diplomacy, intelligence, law enforcement and economic aid — to address that clear and present danger ["clear and present danger" of what? also, this is legal language for limiting first amendment careful].

Since 9/11 [don't use the date as a substitute for the event...reword for objectivity], the United State has poured $10 billion into Pakistan — mostly for ex-General Musharraf’s army [ it possible to support the government of Pakistan financially without supporting the military? also a more critical look at the civilian leadership and a mention of the bureaucracy would help]. But it has not crushed Al Qaeda or managed to shut down militant safe havens ["poured", "crushed", "militant" "safe havens"--reword]. American intelligence officials say Al Qaeda is gaining strength in its Pakistani refuge [don't rely uncritically on U.S. intelligence estimates here...get more sources].

The new democratic government so far has exceeded expectations [whose expectations and what were they?]: rival politicians are cooperating and they have promised to lift media restrictions and make other needed reforms [why is this surprising? isn't the test is whether it lasts a few years?]. It deserves Washington’s support and some time to find its way. [good, though it's unclear what "Washington's support" means here]

American officials need to work quietly with the new government to lay the ground for a new military strategy, should the peace agreement unravel [why? how would this help? what about what you mention about it being perceived as America's war? how does it help people in Pakistan for the U.S. government to be involved, given the track record, part of what you've pointed to?--also, you need to provide more evidence for your assertion that the peace deal will fall apart]. And it needs to do a lot more to help strengthen Pakistan’s democracy and improve the lives of ordinary Pakistanis. [this is more specific than "strengthen...democracy" and "improve the lives of ordinary..."...also be aware that there are divisions within Pakistani society, so aid would likely be diverted according to politics / social constraints--what implications does this have?].

The Bush administration may — finally — throw its weight behind Senator Joseph Biden’s call for a $2.5 billion package of additional nonmilitary aid [what is this aid for? be more specific as to how it will help]. The administration and Congress should approve that aid immediately. That will give the new government more political room to go after the militants if yet another peace deal falls apart [why is the perspective so one-sided? are there any recommendations you have that don't relate to U.S. 'strategic' interests?]. And it is the only hope of persuading Pakistanis that this is more than just Washington’s fight [see conflicts with statements above...moreover, why do you believe that if you can see this logic, Pakistanis can't and therefore won't assume that it would continue to be 'Washington's fight']

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