What’s more, if Pakistan truly shut down the drone program, it would cripple the administration’s most successful terrorism- fighting tool. Pakistan might also close its airspace to U.S. planes flying between the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan. Americans were understandably angry that bin Laden was found hiding in a Pakistani city, but few knew that the plane that transported his body from an Afghan base to a U.S. Navy ship for a sea burial had to fly over Pakistani territory.
The conclusion: Open conflict with Pakistan was not an option. It was time to roll back the pressure.
The apology is just a first step in repairing ties deeply bruised by the past year’s confrontations. The U.S. should adopt a long-term strategy that would balance U.S. security requirements with Pakistan’s development needs. Managing relations with Pakistan requires a deft policy — neither the blind coddling of the George W. Bush era nor the blunt pressure of the past year, but a careful balance between pressure and positive engagement. This was Clinton’s strategy from 2009 to 2011, when U.S. security demands were paired with a strategic dialogue that Pakistan coveted. That is still the best strategy for dealing with this prickly ally.