The United States has a major stake in Pakistan’s stability, given the country’s central role in the U.S.-led effort to, in U.S. President Barack Obama’s words, “disrupt, dismantle, and defeat” al Qaeda; its war-prone rivalry with India over Kashmir; and its nuclear arsenal. As a result, U.S. policy toward Pakistan has been dominated by concerns for its stability—providing the reasoning for Washington’s backing of the Pakistani military’s frequent interventions in domestic politics—at the expense of its democratic institutions. But as the recent eruption of protests in the Middle East against U.S.-backed tyrants has shown, authoritarian stability is not always a winning bet.
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