Because terms matter

The "cold war with Pakistan" meme seems to be getting some play in the conservative blogosphere lately. Which is pretty obnoxious, really.

The first thing, really is just meaning: "Cold War" doesn't mean that. We have a pretty major policy difference with Pakistan, yes. We're in a diplomatic faceoff with them, maybe. But a Cold War suggests not only absolute ideological opposition, but evangelical absolute opposition, as well as a major military focus to the opposition. On every level, that's simply not the case with Pakistan.

But more problematic is the fact that yelling about a "new cold war" by Republicans inevitably suggests a very particular set of policy prescriptions. These begin with a Kennan-esque sense that our opponent only understands a hard military response:
Impervious to logic of reason, and it is highly sensitive to logic of force. For this reason it can easily withdraw--and usually does when strong resistance is encountered at any point. Thus, if the adversary has sufficient force and makes clear his readiness to use it, he rarely has to do so. If situations are properly handled there need be no prestige-engaging showdowns.
The trouble is that the conservative policy response lately tends to leave off that last bit -- the Obama focus on diplomacy has been roundly derided, particularly by the ascendant Tea Party types within the GOP. It also leaves no room for flexibility in a US diplomatic response, to, say, Pakistan's continued refusal of access to bin Laden's wives. Every disagreement becomes, to this view, a prestige-engaging showdown once the US decides it wants something.

Instead, we have a policy dispute. Indeed, we're still able to work with Pakistan on a range of issues -- look at the continued drone strikes within the country, for instance. Nor is there any ideological outlook to combat. This is simply the reality of a newly unipolar world: Pakistan can play off various sides -- the US, China, non-state actors like terrorist groups -- to advance what it sees as its own objectives.

Words, and framing, matter very much -- and this is irresponsible.