America and the Two Pakistans In the past few years, multiple power centers have begun to emerge slowly in Pakistan, as evidenced again this week with the historically pliant Supreme Court dismissing the Pakistani prime minister, Yousuf Reza Gilani, from office. For much of the countryâ€™s history, however, Pakistanâ€™s military and security apparatus has wielded unchallenged domestic clout. Consequently, throughout the six decade-long U.S.-Pakistan relationship, Pakistanâ€™s army has been the principal interlocutor with America, both because of its domestic heft and because military rulers were at the helm in periods when the United States needed Pakistan most. Today, Pakistanâ€™s army is seen in the United States â€” especially in Congress â€” as an adversary, above all because it resists targeting Afghan militants who take refuge on Pakistani soil. The resentment is so deep that even American conservatives, historically pro-Pakistan, call for a strategy that punishes the country. There are those who would advocate â€œcontainment,â€ a central element of which is boxing in the military by treating presumably more liberal civilians as pre-eminent partners, or even labeling specific members of the military and its spy agency, the ISI, as â€œterrorists.â€ The premise for these views is correct: that the Pakistani military and intelligence apparatus undermines American interests in Afghanistan and keep civilians from changing Pakistanâ€™s assertive role in Afghanistan â€” now exercised via the Afghan insurgents fighting U.S. and NATO forces. Unfortunately, the proposed remedy is as misplaced as was past support for Pakistanâ€™s military dictators, which came at the cost of the countryâ€™s democratic evolution. Those who would force changes by playing a divide-and-rule game grossly exaggerate Americaâ€™s capacity to influence Pakistani politics. American attempts to actively exploit Pakistanâ€™s civil-military disconnect are likely to end up strengthening right-wing rhetoric in Pakistan, create even more space for security-centric policies, and further alienate the Pakistani people from the United States. To begin with, any U.S. conceptualization of Pakistan as two Pakistans â€” that is, a neat division between civilian and military elites â€” is false and will not resonate among Pakistanis. It is wrong to assume that a majority of Pakistanis would support a U.S. policy so obviously driven to undercut the military, although there is widespread hope â€” even within the army â€” that the Pakistani political system will produce more competent politicians. Even though a number of Pakistani mainstream political parties express their desire to curb the armyâ€™s power, few want to be seen as inviting a U.S. role to achieve this. For one thing, American trustworthiness is doubted across the political spectrum. Moreover, association with any U.S. effort would set in motion nationalistic forces aiming to discredit the political parties choosing to welcome a U.S. role and galvanize the masses to support an anti-American, pro-nationalist agenda. An apt illustration of the sentiment among the civilian political elites was provided by the so-called Memogate scandal, in which a Pakistan ambassador to Washington was accused of eliciting U.S. support to avert a military coup in return for the promise of a number of national security concessions. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who has been the most vocal critic of the military and ISI, petitioned the Pakistani Supreme Court to declare the alleged act treasonous, and the governing Pakistan Peoples Party also pledged that it would never endorse such a quid quo pro with Washington. It is simply not true that Pakistani civilians see eye-to-eye with Washington on their countryâ€™s national security outlook. Pakistani civilians are as perturbed as the army at the U.S. policy toward Pakistan. The Pakistani militaryâ€™s response to a two-Pakistans approach would, more than likely, cost the United States the all-important intelligence cooperation needed to tackle global terrorist threats emanating from Pakistan, which are certain to remain well beyond the U.S.-NATO drawdown from Afghanistan. Although Pakistan is governed poorly, the current civilian government has begun to squeeze the militaryâ€™s space internally and the courts are themselves groping for a role compatible with democratic norms even though they cause instability in the short run by decisions like the one to dismiss the countryâ€™s prime minister. An American attempt to treat the Pakistani military as an enemy will only provide the institution an opportunity to turn the tables to its advantage. What, then, would be an effective policy? Washington should view engagement with Islamabad as a long-term project. Pakistanâ€™s nuclear weapons will be around long after Afghanistan is forgotten. As much as possible, America should work directly with the civilian leadership on all issues, including security, and lower the profile of military-to-military meetings. Washington should also make clear that the United States will not tolerate any extra-constitutional measures by the military that short-circuit the democratic process. Moreover, Washington needs to quietly encourage the spectacular progress in India-Pakistan normalization. India is what drives Pakistan; America should take advantage of its relationship with New Delhi to allow Pakistan greater space for accelerating its internal political reforms. We must patiently try to turn Pakistan from an ally that is no friend into a state that seeks normal relations with America and its neighbors. Short cuts are unlikely to work. Stephen P. Cohen is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Moeed Yusuf is South Asia adviser at the U.S. Institute of Peace.