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Pakistan can't be ignored by United States

Am I being unreasonable for wanting the presidential candidates to have solutions for the difficult problems the nation is facing? It was striking that during the Bhutto assassination news cycle, not one of the candidates put forth a solution to deal with the dangerous situation in Pakistan.

Some of the comments the candidates made were flat-out dumb. For example, Democrat Bill Richardson said this: 'President Bush faced a choice with Pakistan - he needed to choose whether to support the dictator or the Pakistani people. He chose the dictator.'

Please. The Pakistani people comprise about 300 different factions, many of which would lop off Richardson's head if they got the chance. So give me a break, Governor. Did you not learn anything from the Shah of Iran debacle? Did the Ayatollah Khomeini thing turn out well for the United States?

On the Republican side there was Congressman Ron Paul, who said this about Pakistan: 'We don't need to be involved over there.'

Sure, Congressman, good thinking. Let's just let the Islamic fundamentalists take over that government and play around with the nuclear arsenal. Swell.

Pakistan epitomizes the difficult world in which we all live. That chaotic nation is ultra-violent, divided by religion and ideology, and a complete mystery to the vast majority of Americans.

Military dictator Pervez Musharraf can't control the jihadists, so he makes deals with them. Those deals have allowed the Taliban a Pakistani sanctuary from which they can kill Americans in neighboring Afghanistan. Musharraf's double dealing also means Osama bin Laden and his murderous crew can continue living unmolested in Northwest Pakistan.

Barack Obama says we have to do something about that. But what, Senator? Are you going to send a few American divisions into the mountains? That would mean massive casualties on both sides and a possible Pakistani civil war. Do you realize that, Senator?

The Republicans say we have to figure the whole thing out. Well, that's terrific. We've been fighting the Islamic terrorists for more than six years now - trying to 'figure out' Pakistan is not exactly a plan, is it?

There are two entities at fault here: the seemingly clueless politicians and a corrupt media that is more interested in ideology than demanding cogent answers to specific questions. Here's a clue: Calling Musharraf a corrupt dictator and President Bush a dunce is not a policy.

So, permit me to put forth a strategy: Musharraf remains in power because he controls most of the guns. He retains that control because the United States sends him billions to buy military support and weaponry. If we stop sending the cash, Musharraf will go down - fast.

Thus, the U.S. government must demand that strongman Musharraf aggressively attack the Taliban and al-Qaida with help on the ground from NATO and America. Yes, this will tee off the radical Islamists, and that is risky. But that's the price Musharraf will have to pay.

It's either throw in with the good guys, us, or you're on your own.

That's a plan. If the candidates have a better one, I'd like to hear it.

Veteran TV news anchor and author Bill O'Reilly is a host on Fox News. His "Radio Factor" can be heard weekdays from 1 to 3 p.m. on NewsTalk 1300 WIMO-AM.