None Dare Call it a Rogue State
Reader Isaac, points to an excellent analytical overview of Pakistan’s national nervous breakdown at Dawn.com, by Nadeem F. Paracha. It is a lengthy but stupendous post with some 200 + comments:
There is nothing new anymore about the suggestion that over a span of about 30 odd years, the Pakistani military and its establishmentarian allies in the intelligence agencies, the politicised clergy, conservative political parties and the media have, in the name of Islam and patriotism, given birth to a number of unrestrained demons which have now become full-fledged monsters threatening the very core of the state and society in Pakistan.
A widespread consensus across various academic and intellectual circles (both within and outside Pakistan), now states that violent entities such as the Taliban and assorted Islamist organisations involved in scores of anti-state, sectarian and related violence in the country are the pitfalls of policies and propaganda undertaken by the Pakistani state and its various intelligence agencies to supposedly safeguard Pakistan’s ‘strategic interests’ in the region and more superficially, Pakistan’s own ideological interest.
….The 1980s and the so-called anti-Soviet Afghan jihad is colored with deep nostalgic strokes by the Islamists and the military in Pakistan. Forgetting that the Afghans would have remained being nothing more than a defeated group of rag-tag militants without the millions of dollars worth of aid and weapons that the Americans provided, and Zia could not have survived even the first MRD movement in 1981 had it not been due to the unflinching support that he received from America and Saudi Arabia, Pakistani intelligence agencies and its Afghan and Arab militant allies were convinced that it was them alone who toppled the Soviet Union.
The above belief began looking more and more like a grave delusion by the time the Afghan mujahideen factions went to war against one another in the early 1990s and Pakistan was engulfed with serious sectarian and ethnic strife. But the post-1971 narrative that had now started to seep into the press and in many people’s minds, desperately attempted to drown out conflicting points of views about the Afghan war by once again blaming the usual suspects: democracy, secularism and India.
Many years and follies later, and in the midst of unprecedented violence being perpetrated in the name of Islam, Pakistanis today stand more confused and flabbergasted than ever before.
The seeds of the ideological schizophrenia that the 1956 proclamation of Pakistan being an ‘Islamic Republic’ sowed, have now grown into a chaotic and bloody tree that only bares delusions and denials as fruit.
Read the rest here.
There has been an ocean of ink spilled about the Obama administration’s Hamlet-like deliberation over a war strategy for Afghanistan and on the implications of agreeing to 30,000 rather than the 40,000 new troops for the “Afghan Surge”, as Gen. McChrystal had originally requested. The 10,000 difference in boots is not the salient strategic point, though it is the one that excites political partisans on the Right, Left and anti-war Far Left. It also distracts us from debating our fundamental strategic challenge.
The horns of our dilemma is that our long time “ally” whom we have hitched ourselves to in a grand war effort against revolutionary Islamist terrorism is not our ally at all, but a co-belligerent with our enemy. By every policy measure that matters that causes the United States – justifiably in my view – to take a tough stance against North Korea and Iran, applies in spades to Islamabad. Yet none dare call Pakistan a rogue state.
It is the elephant in our strategy room – if the elephant was a rabid and schizophrenic trained mastodon, still willing to perform simple tricks for a neverending stream of treats, even as it eyes its trainer and audience with a murderous kind of hatred. That Pakistan’s deeply corrupt elite can be “rented” to defer their ambitions, or to work at cross-purposes with Pakistan’s perceived “interests”, is not a game-changing event. Instead, it sustains and ramps up the dysfunctional dynamic we find ourselves swimming against.
We play a bizarre game, our leaders being more concerned about Pakistan’s “stability” than Pakistan’s own generals and politicians who egg on, fund and train the very militant Islamist groups spreading death and chaos inside Pakistan and beyond its borders. Why can we not find Osama bin Laden or Mullah Omar ? Because they are high value clients of the ISI which is no more likely to give them up than the KGB was to hand over Kim Philby.
Until America’s bipartisan foreign policy elite grapple with the fact – and it is an easily verifiable, empirical, fact – that Pakistan’s government is in chronic pursuit of policies that destabilize Central Asia, menace all of Pakistan’s neighbors, generate legions of terrorists and risk nuclear war with India, no solutions will present themselves.
A strategy will only have a chance of success when it is grounded in reality.
December 9th, 2009 at 8:15 pm
These two phrases should be engraved in solid gold so you can wear them around your neck as Mr. T-esque bling bling to show that you are a master disser:
"Obama administration’s Hamlet-like deliberation"
"if the elephant was a rabid and schizophrenic trained mastodon"
December 9th, 2009 at 8:21 pm
I have to break protocol and repost my emailed response; this piece merits it.
Holy shit, Mark! That is, I think, the most smack-down, ‘yeah, I said it – wanna smell it, too?!’ post I’ve ever read of yours. Awesome, and absolutely spot-on. " It is the elephant in our strategy room – if the elephant was a rabid and schizophrenic trained mastodon, still willing to perform simple tricks for a neverending stream of treats, even as it eyes its trainer and audience with a murderous kind of hatred. "THAT is prose worthy of a Pulitzer, man. Perhaps a new category: Germanely-Gonzo.I’ll talk to you soon. Thanks for the nod.
December 9th, 2009 at 8:24 pm
McChrystal is the operational commander for Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is not expected to develop a strategic military plan (CENTCOM/Paetreus) nor a Grand Strategy (Politicans/President).
With every passing day, I feel that the Afghan/Pakistan conflict is one where the West is desperate trying to sit on the lid of Pandora’s Box, hoping that the contents don’t escape. The Pakistani nuclear arsenal is the treasure in the Box, as it allows for soveignty for Pakistan against all comers. It is also another key piece of evidence to support the theory that nuclear armed nations are not invaded.
The US has managed to insert its military forces into a buffer state for the two majors forms of Islam. The Iranians and Pakistanis both want Afghanistan to be the buffer state between the two. We are providing the security but its not going to last forever.
The Iranians are on the strategic offensive right now. They’ve been very active in Iraq, Lebanon and now Yemen over the last few years. I suspect they have a good deal of influence in the Western Afghanistan border provences as well.
It’s one hell of mess if you are McChrystal. You have a nuclear armed pseudo-Wahabbist state in Pakistan on your eastern flank, and a Revolutionary Shi’a state on your Western Flank, and you’re expected to neutralize both their efforts in Afghanistan while rebuilding a corrupt central government whose legitimacy is measured in feet.
To me, the strategy should be withdrawing from Afghanistan and letting the two opposing forms of Islam butt up against each other in as many places as possible while we watch the massacres on CNN. Yes, that’s heartless and perhaps even ruthless, but ballroom dancing doesn’t exist in the Middle East/Central Asia area of operations.
December 9th, 2009 at 8:53 pm
But Pakistan is "our valuable ally"!
December 9th, 2009 at 8:55 pm
The book The Kaoboys of R&AW is very good on the almost unbelievable degree of support and looking-the-other-way that the USA grants to Pakistan. The USA routinely ignored Pakistan’s involvement with terrorism. It may — just barely — have made sense during the Cold War. But now? Why? Solely because we are lodged in Afghanistan and don’t want to have our means of egress collapse behind us, I suppose. Certainly not a long-term rationale for selecting Pakistan over India.
December 9th, 2009 at 9:06 pm
Man! Holy Wow, Mark! Thanks for lancing that boil; I feel better already 🙂
December 9th, 2009 at 10:45 pm
Excellant post Mark!
December 9th, 2009 at 10:48 pm
Paracha’s subtleties seem to have eluded you. There is no unified ambition within Pakistan to support militants. The Army has regularly purged itself of Taliban-friendly elements, and there is less and less support for them with each horrific attack they launch against our cities.Pakistan is what Pakistan is today partially due to its own failings, but also due to a cold-war American penchant to support "Mujahideen" (It is ironic that ‘Mujahid’ is someone who partakes in Jihad, and that the term ‘Jihadists’ used negatively today has precisely the same meaning as the previously celebrated ‘Mujahideen’.)Ironically then, Pakistan is in danger of being labelled a Rogue State in large part because it supported the CIA during the Cold War.Lastly, Musharraf proved himself more than happy to round up and hand over as many Taliban as possible. The idea that the ISI is harboring OBL is laughable and juvenile.
December 9th, 2009 at 10:59 pm
"Pakistan is in danger of being labelled a Rogue State in large part because it supported the CIA during the Cold War"
It has had twenty years to get over it.
Twenty years ago George H.W. Bush was president and no one had heard of the Internet. Pakistan cannot blame other people for its failings.
"…no unified ambition within Pakistan to support militants…"
Nicely hedged. There is no "unified ambition" to do anything by any country. There are always factions with different views. But in Pakistan there factions within the government that have supported and do support the militants. The fact these demons grew into monstes is the point of the article.
Ali says (1) there is no problem, and (2) if there is a problem it is someone else’s fault, and (3) the person say there is a problem should not be paid attention to because he is juvenile and cannot understand subleties. That is not an argument it is a series of mutually inconsistent statements by someone denying reality.
Finally, I love that business about subtleties. Lots of people these days, usually possessing lovely paper credentials in some non-quantitative field, can stare glaring facts in the face, and deny them by saying that you need take a "subtle" and "nuanced" and "sophisticated" view of the "complexity" of the situation.
Pointing of obvious facts and drawing obvious conclusions is not laughable — it is rationality itself.
December 9th, 2009 at 11:27 pm
Hi Mark! Great observations. I hope you’ll find time to read my Dec. 7 post "Alden Pyle in Pakistan, Part 1," which provides considerable background that the American public is largely unaware of about Pakistani society and the US government’s use of the country as a client state. I sent you the post the day I published but it bounced back with a "full mailbox" message from your email host.
December 9th, 2009 at 11:58 pm
Alright, try this: In 2003, there were less than 200 terrorism-related deaths in Pakistan. In 2008, there were more than 6,700. This has led directly to a swing of opinion against militants in Pakistan, as measured by independent polls. Pakistan has lost about 3000 servicemen, and billions of dollars in destroyed infrastructure and economic activity to the attacks and the resultant instability..The upshot is that support for militants is restricted to madressahs and the extreme-right. Their lack of popularity is evidenced in the failure of Islamist parties to perform well in elections. I did not, as you suggest, say there is no problem. Madressahs funded by Wahabi petro-dollars have undoubtedly altered the rural landscape, and Pakistani government officials have supported the militants in the past (most famously in Swat).However, the problem is certainly not large enough to label us "co-beligerants" of the Taliban. More importantly, there is a large and vibrant anti-Taliban section of society, dare I say the mainstream, that is fighting it daily in the battles in the Tribal areas, and sacrificing its blood in the attacks in the cities..The fact that there are suicide attacks on Pakistani cities itself is testament to this battle: the Taliban reportedly teach their suicide bombers that the Pakistani people are non-muslim allies of the West. .The CIA was heavily involved in Afghanistan for ten years. It is all very well to say we should ‘get over it’. The AK-47s and Stinger missiles being recovered after pitched battles and heavy Pakistani (and American) losses say otherwise. Again, I’m not saying Pakistan isn’t too blame. We have to accept the lion’s share for not predicting the fallout of our Cold War alliances and neglecting the development of our rural areas. However, there is more than enough blame to go around..Here’s a glaring fact for you: in its biggest foreign intervention, the US is loath to treat two countries as, wait for it, two countries. Instead, we’re packaged as "AfPak". I wonder how many Americans commenting about Pakistan have ever set foot in the country…
December 10th, 2009 at 12:21 am
OK, we are getting warmer.
The Pakistani people have been among the worst victims of the Pak government’s rotten behavior — we agree on that.
But the problem is that some factions in the Pak Government ARE co-belligerants of the Taliban. And the only people who can possibly sort that out and purge out the bad guys are the Pakistanis themselves.
Take a look at The Quranic Concept of War, by Gen. S.K. Malik, a book that was influential in the Pak army. You see a very dark side, created by the fact that Pakistan cannot win a war with India.
Pakistan needs to start acting like a responsible country. Most of its neighbors, in fact most of the world, would be relieved to see that happen, and its own people would be the chief beneficiaries.
Anyway, the point is not so much to assign blame but to face facts. Once you have the facts nailed down, you can start to think about solutions or at least improvements.
No one around here has any malice toward the people of Pakistan, or its regular soldiers who are fighting the militants.
The problem is the corrupt, feckless, shambolic, fragmented government of Pakistan, which is a curse to its people, the region and the world.
(Stinger missiles? I doubt that, but you must have meant something else.)
December 10th, 2009 at 12:56 am
My primary point is that the co-beligerants we are talking about are on the fringe in Pakistan as a whole. As such, this does not warrant branding Pakistan a rouge-state.
December 10th, 2009 at 1:02 am
This editorial makes the important point that Pakistan has nothing to gain by shielding Al-Qaeda:http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/19-us-allegations-hh-03
December 10th, 2009 at 1:17 am
The Pakistani government has by and large been a military regime of declining returns each time it returned to power (Vali Nasr argues on this front in comparing Pakistan’s regression in the past 30 years with Turkey’s incredible progress). As Mark notes, they have led a rogue state in that time period that is a menace to us (even as we used it for our own purposes from time to time), India, Afghanistan, and their own people. No amount of US aid money or change in policy is going to change that in the short to mid-term, only fundamental improvements in Pakistan’s economy and general outlook that offer the people a semblance of a better future and allow regional and municipal elements to assert their growing independence from the central gov’t so as to better represent their unique constituencies. Perhaps Islam can be the glue that holds the country together in a social and religious sense, even as geographic, ethnic, and intra-sect differences are further explored and defined.
This regime feels betrayed by the US going back to East Pakistan days. To a good extent, they are correct. The US pursued policies which have negatively impacted the daily lives and limited the futures of Pakistani civilians for decades. We’ve bankrolled the worst of the worst military regimes no matter what (the nuclear sanctions period came about mostly during the ineffectual civilian rule period of the late 80’s/90’s) and yet held civilian governments being actively undermined by the same military elements to nearly impossible standards, while doing next to nothing to support them (i.e. lifting tariffs on Pakistani textiles to give Pakistan’s economy a much needed boost). Obama continues this dim-witted policy by holding Zadari’s feet to the fire while giving him very little to work with and hardly anything to show the Pakistani people tangible rewards for his kow-towing to American demands.
The military continues to undermine Zadari, even as they attempt to send their self-crafted monsters to their room for bad behavior and to be redirected towards use in Afghanistan and India/Kashmir. The Kerry-Lugar legislation, which actually tackles real problems in Pakistani society and attempts to reverse a decade where Bush and bipartisan sentiment in Congress gave Musharraf nearly everything he wanted with few strings attached has been gamed from the get-go by the military and its intelligence allies as a nationalist matter to be inflamed for their benefit and the civilian’s loss. When Zadari finally falls because of their schemes against him, they or a figurehead will assume power and we’ll be back to square one.
We would be better off strengthening our relationship with India, expanding our economic contact with Pakistani businesses (which will trade with us and assume our investment irregardless of our policy choices) and promoting Pakistani elements from within that seek to tackle the galactic services chasm between the government and its people.
December 10th, 2009 at 4:17 am
I think the correct way to look at it is this:
1. The whole "we were abandoned and betrayed" narrative is not worth the toilet paper it is written on. Thats just convenient propaganda, but all states indulge in some propaganda so lets skip that whole crock of shit and get to brasstacks.
2. CIA/USA did indeed fund and train Islamist terrorists in the eighties. Hell, the university of Nebraska even wrote the jihad manuals. America’s hardcore cold war reasons for doing so are so obvious that many American analysts have trouble understanding why anyone would have trouble understanding them. But even at that point, the jihadi branch of the pak army had its own agenda and it is disingenious in the extreme for Pakistan to pretend they were somehow taken for a ride. If anything, the morons at CIA were taken for a ride by Zia and company.
3. The whole "abandonement" phase is a joke. Pakistan took the jihadi network set up in the afghan war and ran with it until it grew tenfold bigger.
The army high command completely succumbed to a relatively small number of Jihadi officers (due, in my opinion, to the extraordinary incompetence of our senior officers and their total tunnel vision) and gave them free rein throughout the nineties.
During this time, half a million men were trained by various jihadi organizations and a nationwide culture of jihad was allowed to take root in rural punjab as well as in the less fashionable sections of major cities. It was mostly off the radar of the English speaking classes (and hence off the radar of foreign journalists who fly in and meet some English speaking friends for whisky and soda and fly out), but it was a very major social shift. In the tribal areas as well as in Pakhtun Karachi and in most of South Punjab, it was easier to get justice from these people than from the existing state.
To avoid international pressure and to avoid upsetting the sensibilities of the English speaking classes, the endgame of this jihadi enterprise was never publicized outside their own groups. The extensive links of the army with the taliban and of the taliban with these jihadi networks were also kept off the front pages.
4. All jihadists were never under Pak army control and some Arab extremists based in Afghanistan attacked the US, probably without Pak army knowledge. The US invasion that followed was assisted by the Pak army under the assumption that the Americans will one day leave and the good taliban will then come back. For that purpose, the good taliban were not hampered in their escape and sanctuary in Pakistan. Under American pressure, some jihadi groups were shut down while others were told to lie low. Unfortunately, the army then discovered that the jihadis were using the army more than the army was using the jihadis and many of them refused to lie low, leading to problems with the US and with India. I am not sure if the Mumbai attacks were done with Pak army knowledge or not, but am working on the assumption that they were NOT known to the army beforehand.
Members of this network have set off bombs in London, Barcelona, India, bali and more.
This network is now striking against the army, so my assumption is that the army has really started to move against the jihadists (except for some like LET, which continue to accept some supervision…again, whether they pulled off mumbai without Pak army permission is an interesting question)
And so on.
As you can see, in my version, leaving the jihadists alone is not really an option because they will not leave us alone. Their project was real, it was international and it would have led to war IN ANY CASE even if 9-11 had not happened (though the initial war may have been against India in that case). Tactical decisions are always open for debate, but the overall strategic issue is clear to me: the Pakistani state has to either openly side with the jihadists, in which case the anti-taliban Afghans, India, Russia, Iran and NATO will look for ways to bring us down (some jihadists have told me that in that case we will have Chinese support, though I doubt it), OR we have to take on the jihadist network by working WITH the Americans, the Afghans, the Indians and so on, and in the course of this, still safeguard national interests of a more secular nature (water, boundary disputes, trade disputes and so on).
There is no negotiated settlement because THEY will not negotiate peace except as a temporary reprieve in which to build up strength. Sorry, no time for references, though they exist for most of the above assertions. Anyway, you are free to find your own version.
5. The idea that Pakistan is some kind of total jihadi state is also wrong. In fact, the jihadi/salafi/takfiri enterprise is supported by only a very small minority of Pakistanis (more so in some areas and in some groups). The fact is, the army as well as the rest of the permanent (corrupt) establishment ultimately has no choice but to side with the non-jihadi world. That is where their bread is buttered and they know it. But the army faces problems over and above the thousands of terrorists they trained or allowed to be trained. That is the issue of trying desperately to preserve some good taliban and good jihadis for what it considers its prime mission, taking on India. I dont think the army high command is actually looking for a jihadi takeover. But they cannot bring themselves to fully abandon a project that seemed to promise so much in their stupid zero-sum competition with India (a stupid competition in which india is capable of its own stupidities but nothing on this scale). This leads to confusion and a constant suspicion that the army is not serious. This whole issue of "non-seriousness" is at the heart of our problems. Its terrible if its true, but what is worth noting is that it is also terrible even if not true. Just the perception that the army may be in cahoots with the taliban or some of the taliban is enough to prevent local people from cooperating with the army and hedge their bets….these anti-jihadi operations are not going to work unless the army comes out and makes it clear that: 1. There are many jihadi tanzeems.
2. They all cooperate with each other.
3. Their aims are not compatible with normal function of the Pakistani state.
4. They have ALL committed murder, torture, school burning and hundreds of other crimes. 5. The army used to have some relationship with many of them but those days are long gone. 6. The army is going to take action against ALL these armed groups because no modern state can allow "non-state actors" to go around shooting people and imposing their own laws on people. 7. Whether the taliban insurgency in Afghanistan is a good thing or a bad thing, its an AFGHAN problem and we cannot allow OUR soil to be used to fight that war because that only invited NATO and the Afghan govt to attack OUR territory. Unless the army makes this clear, this war is unwinnable. At some point, they will recognize this too. Unfortunately, they seem to do the right thing at the last possible moment and with the worst possible grace. Still, they ARE being attacked now, so one has to assume that many jihadis are now enemies and know it.
The worst thing would be for Westerners to finally recognize the army as a problem at the very moment when they may be close to thowing in their lot with the West.
December 10th, 2009 at 5:37 am
@ Omar –
In this context, what do you think of the Kerry-Lugar bill? I’ve been skeptical (and can’t seem to stop harping on it) because aid is fungible, a relatively stable or wealthier Pakistan doesn’t necessarily have to stop funding radical groups (a wealthier Saudia Arabia doesn’t) if she feels it’s in her interest, and I don’t know how the monies can be watched, despite the supposed checks that are built into the bill. What do you think? Will it help or hurt? I read so many different things, and I feel as if the foreign policy establishment in the West has one trick up its sleeve and that trick is spreading money around, and then, some years later exclaiming, "hey, the money didn’t go where we thought it would! We need more money to make sure it doesn’t happen again!"
December 10th, 2009 at 5:48 am
An excellent post, that has triggered a host of thougtful responses from those above. Opening a dialoge and attracting divergent respectful views, is both revealing and helpful in sorting the fly shit from the pepper.
December 10th, 2009 at 5:55 am
[…] Not Ranked : +0 / -0 0 score Re: India to decide on its role in Afghanistan: US Deckingraj, found a must read article for anyone commenting on afghanistan, it also hints at the wise game that I mentioned… None Dare Call it a Rogue State Reader Isaac, points to an excellent analytical overview of Pakistan?s national nervous breakdown at Dawn.com, by Nadeem F. Paracha. It is a lengthy but stupendous post with some 200 + comments: Little monsters There is nothing new anymore about the suggestion that over a span of about 30 odd years, the Pakistani military and its establishmentarian allies in the intelligence agencies, the politicised clergy, conservative political parties and the media have, in the name of Islam and patriotism, given birth to a number of unrestrained demons which have now become full-fledged monsters threatening the very core of the state and society in Pakistan. A widespread consensus across various academic and intellectual circles (both within and outside Pakistan), now states that violent entities such as the Taliban and assorted Islamist organisations involved in scores of anti-state, sectarian and related violence in the country are the pitfalls of policies and propaganda undertaken by the Pakistani state and its various intelligence agencies to supposedly safeguard Pakistan?s ?strategic interests? in the region and more superficially, Pakistan?s own ideological interest. ?.The 1980s and the so-called anti-Soviet Afghan jihad is colored with deep nostalgic strokes by the Islamists and the military in Pakistan. Forgetting that the Afghans would have remained being nothing more than a defeated group of rag-tag militants without the millions of dollars worth of aid and weapons that the Americans provided, and Zia could not have survived even the first MRD movement in 1981 had it not been due to the unflinching support that he received from America and Saudi Arabia, Pakistani intelligence agencies and its Afghan and Arab militant allies were convinced that it was them alone who toppled the Soviet Union. The above belief began looking more and more like a grave delusion by the time the Afghan mujahideen factions went to war against one another in the early 1990s and Pakistan was engulfed with serious sectarian and ethnic strife. But the post-1971 narrative that had now started to seep into the press and in many people?s minds, desperately attempted to drown out conflicting points of views about the Afghan war by once again blaming the usual suspects: democracy, secularism and India. Many years and follies later, and in the midst of unprecedented violence being perpetrated in the name of Islam, Pakistanis today stand more confused and flabbergasted than ever before. The seeds of the ideological schizophrenia that the 1956 proclamation of Pakistan being an ?Islamic Republic? sowed, have now grown into a chaotic and bloody tree that only bares delusions and denials as fruit. Read the rest here. There has been an ocean of ink spilled about the Obama administration?s Hamlet-like deliberation over a war strategy for Afghanistan and on the implications of agreeing to 30,000 rather than the 40,000 new troops for the ?Afghan Surge?, as Gen. McChrystal had originally requested. The 10,000 difference in boots is not the salient strategic point, though it is the one that excites political partisans on the Right, Left and anti-war Far Left. It also distracts us from debating our fundamental strategic challenge. The horns of our dilemma is that our long time ?ally? whom we have hitched ourselves to in a grand war effort against revolutionary Islamist terrorism is not our ally at all, but a co-belligerent with our enemy. By every policy measure that matters that causes the United States – justifiably in my view – to take a tough stance against North Korea and Iran, applies in spades to Islamabad. Yet none dare call Pakistan a rogue state. It is the elephant in our strategy room – if the elephant was a rabid and schizophrenic trained mastodon, still willing to perform simple tricks for a neverending stream of treats, even as it eyes its trainer and audience with a murderous kind of hatred. That Pakistan?s deeply corrupt elite can be ?rented? to defer their ambitions, or to work at cross-purposes with Pakistan?s perceived ?interests?, is not a game-changing event. Instead, it sustains and ramps up the dysfunctional dynamic we find ourselves swimming against. We play a bizarre game, our leaders being more concerned about Pakistan?s ?stability? than Pakistan?s own generals and politicians who egg on, fund and train the very militant Islamist groups spreading death and chaos inside Pakistan and beyond its borders. Why can we not find Osama bin Laden or Mullah Omar ? Because they are high value clients of the ISI which is no more likely to give them up than the KGB was to hand over Kim Philby. Until America?s bipartisan foreign policy elite grapple with the fact – and it is an easily verifiable, empirical, fact – that Pakistan?s government is in chronic pursuit of policies that destabilize Central Asia, menace all of Pakistan?s neighbors, generate legions of terrorists and risk nuclear war with India, no solutions will present themselves. A strategy will only have a chance of success when it is grounded in reality. zenpundit.com Blog Archive None Dare Call it a Rogue State […]
December 10th, 2009 at 6:12 am
Mark,I agree that Pakistan’s democratic institutions have failed and that the Military is a dangerous quantity without political prudence.But are you proposing external Force as a solution? Are you proposing that an external entity declare Pakistan (confused and incompetent as it is) a rogue state and solve its problems by … disarming it to save it from itself?Since it’s a difficult problem, are you proposing to neutralize the monster that cannot be saved?For a "state" already so broken, do you want to accelerate the process of decompilation? For a "state" so out of control, how will you control the overflow of violence into other countries? Indeed, why call it a "state" if there are so many non-state actors?This is a bottom-up problem now that the Pakistani government doesn’t seem to be able to influence it’s people’s ideologies. So how do you think a top-down solution will result?If "no other strategy presents itself", what strategy exactly are you advocating?
December 10th, 2009 at 6:19 am
Wow! Fantastic comments here -let me briefly address a few of the more critical ones:
I second Lex that the problem is not with Pakistanis per se but an element of their government. These extremists at ISI and in the religious parties may be, as you argue, a "fringe" in terms of numbers but that’s irrelevant. They have sufficient power to be beyond the control of the secular majority and to defy, most of the time, the rest of Pakistan’s military elite. That purges have to be repeatedly made testifies to the institutional endurance of the radical Islamists in the field grade officer corps of Pakistan’s Army and ISI. Even when retired, like Gen. Hamid Gul, it is more a change of offices and donning mufti than a loss of influence in Pakistani policy. And to demonstrate how lunatic these extremists look to the rest of the world, imagine if during the height of the Cold War, if CIA trained terrorists ran around Leningrad shooting up Soviet hotels with machine guns? That’s how Mumbai looked on CNN.
I agree with you that Pakistan has nothing to gain from sheltering al Qaida and similar extremist networks but my response would be that the elements of Pakistan’s state apparatus who back non-state extremist operations are less motivated by nationalist priorities than by pan-Islamist zeal. Your complaints about Wahhabi meddling are likewise just – KSA madrassa donors are doing to rural Indonesia today what they did to rural Pakistan in the 1980’s and 1990’s- but again, less relevant than the need for US policy to accept that Pakistani militias are out of control and the Pakistani state suicidally continues to feed them even as it fights them.
Would I like to see Pakistan morph into a more liberal, tolerant, secular, modernizing society? You bet. But that’s far beyond the power of America to effect – only Pakistanis can decide that. What America needs to decide is if our relationship with the Pakistani state has reached the point of our subsidizing the very insurgency and terrorists we are fighting. I think it has.
You are right that the US has been a fair-weather friend to Pakistan. A lack of trust on the Pakistani side is justified. That said, the zany ideological imperialism of the ISI, of which the Taliban is an example, is a wholly Pakistani made production that has little to do with the US and originated decades ago with Mawdudi and was then mutated by Saudi ideas and money.
December 10th, 2009 at 6:49 am
I would not suggest U.S. military intervention in Pakistan, except for small cross-border raids into Pushtun tribal territory against al Qaida foreigners or Talib commanders striking at ISAF, as Islamabad does not really control this territory anyway. I do not think the U.S. has the leverage or the sufficient cultural awareness for Americans to intelligently influence internal Pakistani politics, only Pakistan’s external policies.The place to begin is not operational but a clear analytical reassessment at the NSC level of American policies toward Pakistan and where our military aid really ended up being used the past 8 years.
December 10th, 2009 at 7:07 am
[…]A vital post on the insanity of our alliance with the Pakistanis. Extra kudos for using the phrase "rabid and schizophrenic trained mastodon."[…]
December 10th, 2009 at 2:25 pm
I apologize if my comment was construed as letting Pakistan off the hook b/c of our own policy mistakes. What I mean to allude to is that we are not going to be building a lasting or positive relationship with the Pakistani people at this point and our policies (including our current ones) continue to poison that well of support. We might as well admit we have much more in common and greater potential interests with India and shift from a meddling relationship in Pakistan where we pick "winners" with our aid and support that end up screwing the country further to a much stronger economic one. There is little we can or will be able to do to improve the security situation at this point or in the near future inside Pakistan anyway because of the nationalist outcry against our forces there amid most Pakistani political, social and cultural groups and our rampant killing of Pakistani civilians via Obama’s Predator campaign. We may think we can keep that genie in the bottle for a long time, but eventually Pakistani journalists will make a concerted and successful effort to widely publicize them.
December 10th, 2009 at 3:33 pm
Sorry, but I think that this overstates the situation in Pakistan, and borders on the Islamophobia that colors much of the right’s analysis of international affairs. Pakistan is very far from North Korea. Rather, I am more and more struck by the similarities between Pakistan and Israel.
1. Both are states defined by religion and border on larger, more populous states dominated by religious opponents.
2. Both states were the products of the machinations of British imperialism, and grew out of difficult, bloody partitions that have left a legacy of competing "histories" about who wronged whom, producing highly emotional conflicts that are difficult to reconcile.
3. Both states have competing claims with their neighbors about the sovereignty of disputed territories.
4. Both have developed a obsessive belief that their existence is endangered by their more populous neighbors, and as such, have developed grossly exaggerated security postures.
5. Both are nuclear armed and as such, do not in reality have any basis for their existential fears.
6. Both developed enormous military establishments funded by the US, largely out of Cold War calculations, and as a result, have continued to claim the status of being "allies" of the US, something that is now largely meaningless in the post-Cold War era.
7. Both have political systems that have become increasingly dysfunctional (the average duration of an Israeli government is 22 months), resulting in (a) the effective control of the government by the military; and (b) an unwillingness/inability to confront religious extremists who, while representing only small minorities of the populations, are able to exercise disproportionate amounts of power by playing pivotal roles in the inherently unstable political systems of both countries.
However, there is also –
8. Both countries have populations the majorities of which, notwithstanding the religious definitions of the countries, are fundamentally secular and would really prefer to be living in a country where they could raise their children, get good educations, enjoy middle-class lifestyles, and have the benefits of the rule of law, rather than living under the cloud of constant fear of religious conflict. In other words, both countries are good candidates for Core membership if they can get out of the trap of religious warfare that currently ensnares them.
The principal difference, I think, relates to domestic US politics, in that Israel is popular in the US and Pakistan is not. However, as a result, the US government is able to exercise some "tough love" vis a vis Pakistan in a way that it cannot with respect to Israel. As I see it, that’s what we are doing through our Afghanistan policy; we should keep it up and it seems to be having some success. However, I think we have to be careful about going overboard by appearing to embrace India, lest we do too much to feed the paranoid anti-India attitudes that color too much of Pakistan’s decision-making; if we drive Pakistan too far over the edge, we run the risk of losing our leverage. That’s why I think US overtures to have India play a more active role in the region have to be matched by overtures to China, to keep things balanced.
December 10th, 2009 at 3:55 pm
Zen: Whoa, is it just me or is it gettin’ real hot in here? Just like said region in South Asia. & it’s just gettin’ warmer…
December 10th, 2009 at 4:59 pm
December 10th, 2009 at 5:36 pm
zen -By defining American military action in Afghanistan in terms of "a grand war effort against revolutionary Islamist terrorism" and condemning Pakistan as "a co-belligerent with our enemy" I think you misdirect our attention by focusing too much on the "Islamic" character of the conflict. Re-reading your post, I do think your question is a fair one, and I note that I said that the post "borders" on Islamophobia, something that is more clearly manifest in several of the comments than in your post itself. However, again, I think that by defining America’s war objectives specifically in terms of "Islamic terrorism," combined with what I think is an exaggeration of the belligerent status of Pakistan, your post tends to lead to what I called "Islamophobia." As I emphasized in my comment, I don’t really see Pakistan as being much more of a "rogue state" than Israel is. The difference really lies in US domestic politics, in that because Pakistan is a Muslim state it is thought of as one of the "bad guys" by much of the American public, an attitude promoted by the right-wing media, while Israel is widely thought of as a "good guy." I don’t think either characterization is helpful to the formulation of US policy.
December 10th, 2009 at 6:29 pm
December 10th, 2009 at 7:17 pm
Co-belligerent is accurate though. If the fact that elements within the Iranian security establishment trained and supplied militias that wounded and killed Americans in Iraq is enough to make us enemies, then the same misbehavior by the Pakistanis should be viewed in the same light.
Pulling the excuse that "oh its a small element in the gov’t/security sector" is bogus because governments have the capability to shut down such behavior if they were willing to spend the political capital to do so. Neither the military nor the civilians have seen fit to do that, so we remain in the double-game position we’ve been in for a decade or more. It may be tenable in the short term but it will not be for much longer, especially if a Pakistani trained or (God help us- a Pakistani-American) terrorist does something on US soil.
December 10th, 2009 at 7:38 pm
Good clarification. And I can’t disagree with you about much of Pakistan’s track record. Ultimately, however, I think that Pakistan is nothing like North Korea in that it is a state that can be brought around to behave in a more responsible way, and it shows some signs of doing so.
February 1st, 2010 at 3:39 am
[…] Zenpundit […]
June 15th, 2010 at 4:13 am
[…] course, I am not surprised. a while back, I asked why Pakistan was considered an ally rather than an enemy of the United States: The horns of our dilemma is that our long time “ally” whom we […]
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