NOW that Americans were taught a lesson and they know we mean business, a question: what next?
security mavens think they know the answer: to engineer a face-saving
exit from Afghanistan the US needs Pakistan, and while the US is still
loath to accept that reality, domestic political and fiscal imperatives
in the US will force that realisation sooner than later.
Tom Cruise in that silly movie Knight and Day using hand gestures to
explain to a blonde Cameron Diaz her chances of survival. With us, the
chances of a face-saving exit from Afghanistan for the US are
shoulder-high; without us, they are knee-high.
security apparatus’s calculation could well be right. But it could also
be wrong. The US isn’t exactly known for doing what others think it will
do or want it to do.
The problem for Pakistan is that the
national-security folks have bet the house that they are right.
Conditioning its support for the US project in Afghanistan on an
acceptance of Pakistan’s view of what needs to be done in Afghanistan is
a high-stakes bet:
what if the US chooses otherwise?
an alternative scenario in which the US decides to do things its own
way in Afghanistan and determines that Pakistan is the problem, not just
in Afghanistan but generally when it comes to dealing with the
terrorism threat regionally and globally.
You don’t even have to
try very hard to imagine this alternative scenario: tune in to the
commentary on Pakistan emanating from the US and you’d think we’ve
already been declared the enemy.
Bill Keller’s piece in The New
York Times this week is extraordinary precisely because his relatively
sympathetic view of Pakistan is so unusual; patience and tolerance for
Pakistan in world capitals is otherwise perilously low.
than the increasing international isolation of Pakistan, though, is the
nonchalance and dismissiveness with which it is being treated out here.
here appear so sure the US doesn’t have any choice but to work with
Pakistan that they have been blinded to signs that various power centres
in the US are increasingly opposed to working with Pakistan.
some American generals get that they need to work with Pakistan but
many influential senators and congressmen do not. And maybe many in the
State Department and the White House understand the indispensability of
Pakistan but there are
powerful voices which believe otherwise.
often that not, what emerges as policy from the US is a compromise
between its various power centres. When, according to the
national-security folks here, the US hasn’t done the right thing in 10
years, why are we so sure the same US
policymaking apparatus will now converge on the outcome that we desire?
it’s not just the US which is tiring of us. The whispers from Europe
too are increasingly worrying. Before we could rely on the Europeans
privately acknowledging that the US had made many mistakes in
Afghanistan and that Pakistan was protecting
national interests.But patience with Pakistan in Europe is increasingly
thin. It’s not just a recalcitrant army that is the problem: the
perception that Pakistan is being run on the civilian side by a ‘ruinous
kleptocracy’, to use Bill Keller’s phrase, that doesn’t have the
capacity or interest to govern a state teetering on the edge has
exasperated anyone who does want to help Pakistan.
Even Canada —
Canada! — is tiring of us. This from a Dec 1 op-ed titled ‘Why is CIDA
sending aid to a de facto enemy?’ in the National Post, a conservative
“This week, in response to a deadly border incident
that involved Nato troops, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani
declared that there will be no more ‘business as usual’ with the United
States. Canada should make precisely the same declaration in regard to
its own bilateral relationship with Pakistan….
“Every dollar that
we spend on civil projects in Pakistan is another dollar that the
country’s security establishment has available to it for providing
material support to the Taliban and the Haqqani network in the
Afghan-Pakistan borderlands. In replacing Pakistan on its
country-of-focus list, [the Canadian International Development Agency]
can pick from plenty of other poor countries that aren’t supporting the
terrorists who are planting the roadside bombs that kill our troops.”
may fulminate against the outside world’s unfair attitude towards and
betrayal of us but the outside world is just as tired of Pakistan. Right
or wrong as the outside world’s thinking may be can Pakistan afford to
A state on the verge of bankruptcy, blamed by the
world’s military superpower for nudging it towards defeat in its longest
war, viewed by the world at large as a hub of terrorism, and critically
dependent on exports to and remittances from the very countries that
are tiring of it — what about that configuration suggests Pakistan is on
a path to anywhere good internationally?
And yet policymakers
here are clutching at straws. Hope is seen in the Arab Spring, the
situation with Iran and fresh US-Russia tensions.
The thinking is that the Arab Spring has deprived the US of a major ally in Egypt while relations with Turkey are complicated.
with the West and Iran on a collision course, a second massive crisis
in the region will be avoided. And with Putin coming back to power and
US-Russia relations slipping backwards, Pakistan’s position on
Afghanistan may be listened to more sympathetically.
these other international exigencies, Pakistan will not face serious
international punishment, the thinking here goes.
Of such fallacies are great defeats made.
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