Shifting the 'Complex War' in Pakistan

The general perception that our investment in Pakistan has not produced results, that the military/intelligence community there is intransigent and ambivalent to our objectives and that their leadership has consistently been unable to deliver on promises made in exchange for large sums of US taxpayer money is grounded in reality, but it is the reality of decades of wishful thinking and inattention on the part of previous US administrations who were unwilling to press their case or distracted by events elsewhere.

And the notion that the Pakistani Army is unwieldy, suited to the overanticipated conventional war with India but incapable of fighting a 'complex' counterinsurgency conflict is also a 'given' of our current perception and the news from Pakistan is disquieting, as the Pakistani military response to our insistence on taking aggressive action against the Taliban, at first glance, seems a counter-productive humanitarian disaster:

Pakistan's government signed a peace agreement with the Swat Taleban in February, allowing Sharia law there, a move sharply criticised by Washington.

The militants then moved towards the capital, Islamabad, causing further alarm.

Up to 15,000 troops have now been deployed in the Swat valley and neighbouring areas to take on up to 5,000 militants. The military has said it intends to "eliminate" the Taleban fighters.

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani on Saturday called the conflict "a guerrilla war".

"This is our own war. This is war for the survival of the country," Reuters news agency quoted him as saying.

The fighting has already displaced some 200,000 people, while a further 300,000 are estimated to be on the move or poised to flee, the UN says.

On Saturday the government said that refugee camps would be set up in Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province, and to the north-east in Naushara.

Flight from Swat as Curfew Lifted BBC 10 May 09

And it's hardly surprising that the Pakistani army seems to be a sledge-hammer where a scalpel is wanted, though they are doing exactly what we promoted and have responded to the insurgent threat with considerable energy, including rotating six brigades from the Indian border to support this operation.  But there are also signs that the military can learn the lessons of counterinsurgency, at least in regard to operations by the paramilitary Frontier Corps late last year which may be worth considering, at least in part:

At first, the Pakistani military's response to the Islamists had been disastrous. Caught off guard by their onslaught, the Army had responded with brute force, trying, in the words of one officer, to "out-terrorize the terrorist." Such heavy-handed tactics had alienated locals, even while the intelligence services played a double game, trying to crack down on local Taliban while supporting them in Afghanistan so as to counter Indian influence there.

On arrival, General Khan realized he needed a new approach, one that emphasized holding and building areas after freeing them of Taliban gunmen. He began eating and bunking with his men to improve morale, and seeking the counsel of his officers--not a common practice in the hierarchical Pakistani military--on how best to engage the enemy and attract local support. In August 2008 he launched Operation Shirdil ("lion heart"), similar to the U.S. "surge" strategy in Iraq. Khan encouraged his troops to work with local tribes, shrewdly dividing pro-Taliban from pro-government elements, and, to gain legitimacy, backed tribal militias and sought the acquiescence of local jirgas (tribal councils).

Haider Ali Hussein Mullick - Where Pakistan is Winning Newsweek 2 May 2009

While this may have been an isolated success within the context of traditional military thinking in Pakistan it does suggest that there is at least some field experience of modern 'complex' warfighting to leverage for this and future operations.  

And the geopolitical context which informs the powerful military may be shifting subtly as well, as it needs to, from the state-of-play which pertained only recently:

A powerful faction within the Pakistani national security establishment (some elements of the Army, and parts of the intelligence service) persists in sponsoring extremists such as the Afghan Taliban, and tolerating terrorists like AQ and LeT. This long-standing pattern arises from three key motivations: religious radicalism within the younger generation of the officer corps, a desire to maintain extremist actors as a non-conventional counterweight to Indian regional influence, and a fear of abandonment by the international community (as happened in 1989 after the Soviet-Afghan war and, arguably, again in 2002 as our attention was diverted to Iraq).

We must either reduce this motivation (by reforming the military or convincing it that state collapse and extremist takeover, not war with India, is the real threat) or reduce the power of the national-security state to continue its sponsorship and tolerance of extremism, or both.

Dr David Kilcullen - Crunch Time in Afghanistan-Pakistan Small Wars Journal 9 Feb 09

Interesting to note, then, the recent remarks of President Zadari on the scale of threats to Pakistan:

WASHINGTON: Pakistan's president Asif Ali Zardari has said India is not a threat to Pakistan and it is facing danger from the terrorists inside the country.

"Well, I am already on record. I have never considered India a threat," Zardari said in an interview on the PBS news channel's popular show "Newshour With Jim Lehrer" on Saturday.

This is the first time a top Pakistani leader has publicly said that India is not a threat to his country; a fact which Obama Administration has been trying to convince Zardari and the Pakistan Army for quite some time now.

India not a threat: Zardari Times of India 10 May 09

This coupled with the apparent commitment to more than just a public relations exercise in Swat in response to US prodding:

When asked to clarify on the statement made by his Prime Minister that the objective was to "eliminate the militants and terrorists," Zardari said: "That means clearing out the area of the miscreants and bringing life to normalcy. ... If they can, they kill our soldiers and we do the same."

When interviewer, Margaret Warner asked him to clarify what "eliminate" means, Zardari said "eliminate means exactly what it means."

When she asked: "Killing them all". Zardari replied: "That's what it means."

It could be the toughest message coming from Pakistan President against the terrorists so far.

About 3,000 terrorists in Swat Valley would be killed: Zardari Times of India 10 May 09

While regretably heavy-handed if this is yet another empty promise from a Pakistani leader it is indeed a bold one.  The outcome in Swat, however, depends on the sober application of a winning strategy along the lines of that which yielded a positive result in Bajaur:

I visited the region in March and spoke off the record to officers involved in Operation Shirdil then and again last week. They say the new strategy has brought Bajaur and the neighboring district of Mohmand back "under the writ of the government," setting up a "counterwave" of government victories that has prevented "the Taliban marching to the capital." In March, several key Taliban warlords surrendered, disbanding their militias and handing over heavy weapons. And some 200,000 internally displaced people have returned home. "Our mantra for too long was, kill one insurgent and produce a hundred, but keep killing hundreds and they will run out," says one officer. "We finally learned the value of killing none and producing a thousand friendly tribesmen that do the killing for you."

Now the Pakistani military is trying to export the Bajaur experiment to other areas. The Army is moving Bajaur veterans into Swat, for example, to some effect: "We're seeing troops that have tasted success. They know what victory should look like," says a senior military officer.

Haider Ali Hussein Mullick - Where Pakistan is Winning Newsweek 2 May 2009

And what of the Taliban?  We have heard that they are unlikely to be in the mood for the negotiations which seemed imminent not long ago in Afghanistan, given the perception of 'momentum' going their way recently.  According to Dr Kilcullen's Twenty-Eight Articles we may be looking for something different than conventional 'victory' would suggest:

25. Fight the enemy's strategy, not his forces.
At this stage, if things are proceeding well, the insurgents will go over to the offensive. Yes, the offensive--because you have created an situation so dangerous to the insurgents, by threatening to displace them from the environment, that they have to attack you and the population to get back into the game. Thus it is normal, even in the most successful operations, to have spikes of offensive insurgent activity late in the campaign.

Dr. David Kilcullen, Lieutenant Colonel, Australian Army - Twenty-Eight Articles: Fundamentals of Company-Level Counterinsurgency Iosphere Summer 2006

In light of the counter-intuitive rules of 'complex war' and counterinsurgency the latest pronouncement from the Taliban seems almost welcome:

ISLAMABAD: Angered by Pakistan government's decision to launch an all out war against them, the Taliban has vowed to "eliminate" country's leadership including President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and their close family members.

"We thought that being a member of a religious family, Gilani will support our demand of implementing Sharia in the Malakand division but instead he has announced an all-out war against us, which has angered our commanders as well as fighters," an unnamed Taliban commander told The News daily.

The militant commander, who spoke to the newspaper by phone, said after Gilani declared during an address to the nation on Thursday that the Taliban would be wiped out from the Swat Valley and adjoining areas, the militants had started planning to "eliminate the top leaders of the ruling alliance, including President, Prime Minister and their close family members and aides".

The commander said Gilani's hometown of Multan and tomb of former premier Benazir Bhutto might also be targeted by the militants.

Taliban vow to 'eliminate' Pakistan's top leadership Times of India 9 May 09

Whatever the outcome this seems to be what we wanted, a determined effort on the part of Pakistan, acknowledging that for better or worse the Pakistani military is the only readily available asset which we should make the most of while the opportunity exists.  And while some of the more dire predictions in the domestic media this past week were as unlikely as they were unhelpful, we had better hope for the best and prepare for the worst.  Sometimes the first hints of victory are as hard to discern as the seeds of defeat.

Tags: Asif Ali Zardari, complex war, David Kilcullen, general tariq khan, pakistan, SWAT, Taliban, US Foreign Policy (all tags)



Re: Shifting the 'Complex War' in Pakistan

Nice to see you, Shaun.  Where do you get off posting a thought provoking diary chock-full of actual information?  You realize what blog you're on here, right?

Seriously, modern Pakistan is one for the books in terms of foreign policy dilemmas.  The real power lies with the military, so we've got to deal with them.  Oh, but they've a democratically elected central government, however impotent, that we can't undermine.  If the situation weren't so dire (and outright scary), it would be interesting to watch unfold (in a role-playing game sort of way).

by fogiv 2009-05-10 08:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Shifting the 'Complex War' in Pakistan

Nice to see you again.  It's a tricky wicket, and there seems to be only a coupla' things we can be sure of, anyone who claims to know what's going on in Pakistan probably doesn't and Pakistani public opinion is as convinced that their government is doing our bidding as we are that it isn't.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-10 09:24PM | 0 recs

And it's looking more like a massively multi-player 'real-time simulation' genre, don't you think?

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-10 11:16PM | 0 recs
Re: Shifting the 'Complex War' in Pakistan

It certainly looks like the Pakistani Army is giving this their best shot:

Pakistan's military is stepping up an offensive against the Taleban, after a weekend in which it said it killed 200 militants in and near the Swat valley.

It has begun an artillery bombardment of militant positions.

The UN refugee agency has meanwhile warned of an increase in the number of civilians being displaced as tens of thousands flee the fighting.

The medical director of one district told the BBC the provincial government was coping well with the displaced.

Meanwhile at least six people were killed and several wounded in a suicide car bomb attack on a checkpoint near the city of Peshawar.

Pakistan steps up Swat offensive BBC 11 May 09

It is interesting to note that after some initial scolding and reservations the Obama administration has seemed to take a 'boots-and-all' approach to supporting Zardari and the Pakistani government seems to be following their lead in prosecuting this offensive vigorously.  Say what you will about the limitations of the Pakistani leadership and military it would appear that their fortunes, and Obama's and ours in the region, are at least aligned in a mutual endeavour which offers the same risks of failure to all concerned.  Under the circumstances that is probably the best we can hope to achieve and if Obama has erred on the side of throwing his lot in with the civilian authority of the precarious Zardari government at least he has placed his best bet and called the bluff of those who sought to prevaricate and warned of the dangers of our commitment to this venture, in both nations.  

If this initiative succeeds it can only strengthen the Zardari government, both electorally and in the exercise of it's constitutional civilian authority with the military establishment.  It would not be before time.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-11 12:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Shifting the 'Complex War' in Pakistan

It is very hard to visualize the Zardari government surviving this, and scoring electoral gains.... even if their military campaign flushes out most of the militants.  Doing the bidding of the US is not exactly a recipe for electoral success.

by Ravi Verma 2009-05-11 08:48AM | 0 recs
Re: Shifting the 'Complex War' in Pakistan

Perhaps not, but being seen as stiffening the backbone of the military just might.  Not to mention mobilising some civilian political support for this conflict, for example:

Pakistan is in a state of war and the sacrifices of the jawans and officers of the Pakistan army should be accorded as much attention as the unfortunate co-lateral damage.

Nothing can surpass a political solution to a complex problem but in the absence of one if military option is inevitable, then it should be allowed to run its course. Let us dig up some old fashioned patriotism and stand behind our military as it battles the enemy in difficult terrain. It needs the backing of the people of Pakistan to succeed.

Talat Farooq - Are you with us or against us, Mr Obama? The News (Pakistan) 11 May 09

And that from an editorial piece criticising Obama for meddling in Pakistani affairs.  Political opinion in Pakistan runs a pretty wide spectrum but the appearance of coherent political leadership of the nation by it's civilian government during a crisis is something of a novelty.  I'm guessing the jury is still out on this one.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-11 01:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Shifting the 'Complex War' in Pakistan

The "Jawans" are mostly from Punjab, while the "unfortunate co-lateral damage" occurs in one of those other provinces other than Punjab and Sindh.

And so, the sacrifices of the Jawans can increase support in Punjab.  This may be useful for the PPP, because Nawaz Sharif's party won the last elections in Punjab.  But it does nothing in the other provinces.

by Ravi Verma 2009-05-11 01:30PM | 0 recs
Re: Shifting the 'Complex War' in Pakistan

Point taken but the overall perception of this conflict as one of Pakistani national interest is a refreshing departure, at least from our perspective, of public opinion in Pakistan and it's alleged sympathy for Islamicism.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-11 02:40PM | 0 recs
I would like to share your optimism

But I cannot.

Some disquieting factors:

(a) The Pakistani armed forces' record on fighting insurgencies is horrendous.  Think East Pakistan!  This is because the underlying ethnic balance of the Pakistani armed forces is skewed towards a heavy handed approach towards any insurgency rising in a region outside of Punjab.

(b) I agree that the US has wanted the Pakistanis to take them, and Pakistan is doing exactly that.  That, however, does not automatically translate into success.  The US had wanted Pakistan to take on the East Pakistan insurgents as well.  There are about 1.5M armed men/women in that cannot possibly eliminate them all.

(c) Despite the reports of Gen Khan bunking with his men, the plurality of all reports is that the Pakistani Army is using heavy artillery and aerial bombardments to flush out the militants.  Generally, insurgencies are fought with softer methods... lots of foot patrol, lots of batons, and lots of casualties; combined with a "bullet-for-a-bullet" approach.  The heavy artillery and air campaigns are indicative of a civil war, and not an insurgency.  Not a very promising sign.

(d) There are 2 elements to fighting the Taliban.  You have to fight the Taliban fighters, but you also have to fight the Taliban ideology.  One without the other is meaningless.  The current approach seems to be that they will eliminate all Taliban fighters... with no acknowledgment that the ideology exists only because of a vacuum created by the Pakistani state.

by Ravi Verma 2009-05-11 08:46AM | 0 recs
Re: I would like to share your optimism

I'm not sure if it is 'optimism' so much as an acknowledgement that at a critical moment the Obama administration has made a decisive and timely choice, to back the Zardari government which a few short days ago was described as 'fragile,' stiffen the resolve of the military to act energetically, not doubt with some heavy lifting and arm-twisting in the background, and bring the whole issue to the foreground of US foreign policy and world affairs.

As for your concerns, firstly, this is not 1971 and Zardari is not Yahya Khan.  There is an ethnic imbalance in the Pakistani military, to be sure, but this doesn't seem to be shaping up as an ethnic conflict between Pashtuns and Punjabis.  It is an ideological conflict between Islamicism and secular goverment and the Pashtuns seem fairly divided on that point themselves.

Secondly the success or failure of this operation is largely contingent on the will of the Pakistani general staff to prosecute it vigorously, irrespective of their spotty track record.  Zardari and Gilani have both made some strong statements lately which put daylight between their government and the vacillation of previous administrations and unequivocally task the military with the mission of reasserting 'the writ of the government' on Swat, specifically, and the North West Frontier generally.  For better or worse the military's reputation is on the line and their only alternative to success, the notion that the US would condone another military dictatorship, seems unlikely.

As for the inappropriate force structure and suitability of the Pakistani army to this mission, no argument there, but it doesn't follow that the operation will fail just that it will require a different strategy, a more determined effort and a greater application of resources than if a well-trained counterinsurgency force was available, which it apparently isn't.  We have to play the cards we are dealt here and the success of failure of this operation relies more on the handling of the humanitarian challenges and the application of civil authority in it's aftermath than the military methods which are used to regain control of the region.

As for the ideological struggle, it will be ongoing, to be sure, but a success in confronting this 'existential' threat will go a long way to restoring credibility and support for the secular civilian government.  And there are signs that the civilian government has intentions of reasserting some authority on that front too, the intention to nationalise the madrassas being the most recent example.

I am not suggesting any of this is a foregone conclusion but the timely application of all of the influence at it's disposal by the Obama administration, and their pragmatic choices in this challenging crisis, are very promising.  Let's keep our fingers crossed and hope that their gamble on Zardari, the secular majority of the Pakistani citizenry and the better instincts of the Pakistani national security establishment pays off.  And soon.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-11 03:24PM | 0 recs
Re: I would like to share your optimism

I do not disagree with your take on the current situation.

Just that, if interpreted with a slightly different set of metaphors, you end up with different conclusions.

For instance, the notion that "we have to play the cards we are dealt here" precludes the possibility of any creative thinking outside the box.  If you don't like the cards, walk away from the game and setup a different game.  

My working assumptions are the following:
(a) Any government that uses heavy artillery against it's own people does not have the moral standing to survive.
(b) The use of heavy artillery will buy that government some time in the near term, but guarantees it's failure down the line

by Ravi Verma 2009-05-11 08:18PM | 0 recs
Re: I would like to share your optimism

I'm all for some lateral thinking on this, and a permanent settlement of Kashmir seems the most likely candidate but seems to be predicated on a time frame well outside that of a reasonable response to the apparent 'existential' threat of an Islamist insurgency in Pakistan.  Any other ideas?  You seemed to applaud the Transit Agreement Memorandum of Understanding recently, which has the Pakistanis in a tizzy.  This is a nation which assumes that the Indians seek to destroy the Taliban in Afghanistan and is alive with rumours that they are covertly arming them at the same time.

Any other suggestions would be highly welcome.  I'm assuming that the Obama administration judged that folding their hand at this juncture is an unacceptable option and yet they didn't have a lot to work with given the sovereignty issues, the fragility of the civilian government and the tangled web of allegiences in the Pakistani national security establishment.  Frankly I would have thought this outcome unlikely a month ago.

And as far as Pakistan's moral stature it may be worth noting that the North West Frontier Provinces were left in a dubious legal status by the British and the action against the Taliban, not the Pashtun generally, could be considered a response to a genuine threat against the state, at least as far as the autonomy of the province is concerned.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-11 08:43PM | 0 recs
Re: I would like to share your optimism

Problem with a permanent settlement of Kashmir is that it will not do anything for Pakistan.  In their sane moments, everyone knows what the permanent settlement in Kashmir will look like, and it does not lead to the inclusion of Kashmir in a Pakistani state...which is what the Pakistanis want.

The underlying problem in Pakistan is that it is dominated by an ethnic elite group that is paranoid and ambitious at the same time.. I am referring to Indian expats and Punjabis.  They want their version of Pakistan (i.e., one that they can rule) to include all of Kashmir, and a major chunk of the Pashtun homeland.  Previously, this logic also applied to East Pakistan, and any other area that happened to meet their fancy.

You cannot give in to such desires, obviously. At the same time, you cannot dismiss it as an obsession... because such dismissal offends and infuriates them, and they can blow themselves up.

And so, the only option you have is to make the borders irrelevant, and then buy enough time.  I applauded the transit agreement for those reasons.  A permanent settlement of Kashmir will also be along those lines.

Coming back to the current situation in NWFP, and the FATA region.  There is an ethnic component to it, and it extends to Baluchistan as well.  Let us leave aside the Baloch problem for is merely simmering, and may not explode for quite some time.

The NWFP and FATA regions do have genuine grievances, and they have arisen from an ethnic difference with the elite.  A primer on this is a report by Selig Harrison referenced in this article

The solution is to Pashtunize the war.  The Pashtun have turned to the Taliban because the Pakistani state was not paying attention to their legitimate grievances.

By having the Punjabi jawans go after the Pashtuns, with a vow of eliminating them all (as per Zardari), you are guaranteeing a Pashtun revolt in the near future.

Now, what are the options: doing nothing risks the stability of the Pakistani state.  Is that a bad option ?

An unstable Pakistani state does not necessarily equate to chaos.  I would prefer to see a truncated Pakistani state where the Punjabi/Indian-expat writ is limited to the provinces of Punjab and Sindh, and the NWFP/Pakistani FATA and Afghan FATA are allowed to go their own ways.  Or perhaps a looser federation, where the Baloch/and Pashtuns are allowed to control their local resources.  The learning curve is not unlike what India went through ~ the initial assumption was that a diverse country like India can surive only if the central government was strong.  But we learnt the hard way that the central government can be strong only when the state and local governments are also strong.  The Pakistanis have not yet learnt this lesson.

I might add that the current, heavy handed approach, with no regard to the IDPs and their plight, is not without it's own set of (potentially disastrous) risk elements either.

In the current response, too much emphasis is being paid to "reestablishing the writ of the Pakistani state" without worrying about whether that would be a good thing.

I would have been all for the military assault...if it had been done with softer hands, and if it had been accompanied by a real political offering.  Merely criticizing the Taliban for preventing girls from going to school is not enough...I would like to see what the other side (i.e., the Pakistani state) have to offer.

by Ravi Verma 2009-05-11 09:14PM | 0 recs
Re: I would like to share your optimism

Very fair and well informed comment and I don't disagree that Pakistan is a 'troubled' state, if not a failed one.  And neither Pakistan's history nor close reading of the Pakistani media does not offer overwhelming confidence for their immediate prospects and future.  Much of this goes directly back to the expedient decisions made in 1947 and there are some interesting parallels with Israel in regard to the mandates, demarcation of territory and hasty exit of British authority at the time.

Bear in mind that the Pashtun are disproportionally represented in the Pakistani military at present, it is not merely a Punjabi fief, and the recent operations in Banjaur demonstrated a much more professional, if not 'softer,' approach and showed consideration for humanitarian issues and recognition of the importance of the sensibilites of local authorities at the village level.

I don't disagree that Pakistan's aspirations in respect of Kashmir are unrealistic, indeed counter-productive, but it seems we should give them some breathing space to create the 'strong, central government' you mentioned without considering them merely a geopolitical pawn, as we have so often in the past.  Perhaps a decade of benign attention to Pakistani affairs by the international community would be worth a shot before they are dismembered into a Punjabi and Muhajir rump state.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-11 09:49PM | 0 recs
Re: I would like to share your optimism

Thank you for the complement.  

And I sense that you are intimately familiar with Pakistan as well, even though you also appear to be an American expat in Australia.  Maybe you, like Obama, visited Pakistan as a young man or something =)

by Ravi Verma 2009-05-12 08:16AM | 0 recs
Re: I would like to share your optimism

You are very perceptive, I was probably among the last westbound hitchhikers to leave Tehran for India and ended up travelling through Balochistan to Kandahar because the border was closed at Herat.  As a consequence of the civil disturbances in Kabul I had to make a precipitous departure and ended up crossing back into Pakistan on foot, following the old railroad route across the Khyber Pass.  It was a considerable relief to reach Pakistan, on that occasion, though I was probably never in any real danger.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-12 01:01PM | 0 recs
Re: I would like to share your optimism

Sorry, I meant eastbound, and Obama's visit never really made much of a splash, did it?  Let's not forget he also majored in international relations at Columbia in the early eighties.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-12 01:14PM | 0 recs
Re: I would like to share your optimism

I am guessing this is after 9-11 ?

And I would have staked half my savings to have had that experience =)

I have a fascination with the ancient Mohenjodaro civilization... I would like to go see all that history someday!!

by Ravi Verma 2009-05-12 04:38PM | 0 recs
Re: I would like to share your optimism

No, that would have been impossible, I'm guessing, it was between the fall of the Shah in Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.  A long, long time ago but an opportunity to have enjoyed the village hospitality and dignity of the Pashtun as well as many other indigenous cultures along the way.  The hot-spot back then was Lebanon where I had inadvisedly hitchiked as far South as the ancient city of Tyre out of interest in ancient history, which you apparently share, and celebration of the adventurous spirit which youth inspires.

I 'enjoyed' the hospitality of the PLO there for several days before I was reunited with my passport and belongings and sent on my way having learned, along with a sense of geopolitical caution, how to field strip a Kalashnikov blindfolded from my bored but playful captors.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-12 05:34PM | 0 recs
Re: I would like to share your optimism

Wow, I must say that I am really really impressed.

I was never that bold as a young man.  You must have learnt a lot of stuff that cannot be taught in schools, or learnt from books !!

by Ravi Verma 2009-05-12 06:24PM | 0 recs
Re: I would like to share your optimism

Maybe that's where my 'optimism' comes from.  People are people and ideology, nationality and ethnicity has little to do with it.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-12 06:36PM | 0 recs
Re: I would like to share your optimism

An interesting development:

"The Obama administration conveyed to President Asif Ali Zardari and other senior officials in his delegation during their trip to Washington that it is willing to use its "good offices" for the durable settlement of Kashmir issue," said a diplomatic source here on Monday seeking anonymity.

He said that in return what they wanted from Pakistan was to shift its focus from the country's eastern border to the western frontier with more troops being deployed there to block the cross border movement of al-Qaeda and Taliban militants from the restive tribal areas into Afghanistan for terrorist attacks against the Nato forces.

"The Obama administration also wants the continuation of recently launched operations in Swat, Buner and Dir against the Taliban militants till their elimination," he said.

According to source, the US authorities also wanted effective military operations against the al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in other parts of tribal areas such as Waziristan, so the threat of terrorism could be eliminated forever.

He said that the US help for the resolution of Kashmir issue would be in addition to its pledge to assist Pakistan and India for the settlement of dispute over water.

Shaiq Hussain - Conditional US offer to Pakistan on Kashmir The Nation (Pakistan) 12 May 09

Maybe Obama is a sharper study than we have been giving him credit for recently.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-12 02:04AM | 0 recs
But this is not new...

Pres. Candidate Obama often spoke about his strategy for Afghanistan, and it was always thus: (a) solve Kashmir, (b) get the Pakistanis to focus on the border regions, (c) defeat Taliban/Al Quaeda with Pakistani resources.

The problem with this approach is that it is guaranteed to not work.  (And I do not use the word guaranteed lightly).  It is an example of a very poorly constructed program plan.

The reason is that there are 3 sequential steps in the process, each with a success probability of much less than 1, and when you multiply those 3 odds, you end up with an overall probability of success close to zero.

On top of that, it is relatively easy for the bad guys to game the scenario.  What happens, for instance, if another bunch of armed Pakistani boys go on a rampage in Mumbai, and this time India decides to retaliate.

What you need is a program plan with lots of "parallel elements", such that the failure of any one of them does not jeopardize the overall mission.  

Softening the borders, and decentralizing the problem is, in my opinion, the only way to achieve that.

by Ravi Verma 2009-05-12 08:23AM | 0 recs
Re: But this is not new...

Gee, you're pretty pessimistic about all this.  Hasn't any mystic ever told you that you 'create the world with your thoughts?'  Seriously, there are some projects, like moonshots, which just have to embark on the kind of linear probability path you describe.  And in this case there seems to be a heuristic component in Obama's methodology which is difficult to quantify.

No doubt there are other parallel paths being explored but in this case it seems that Obama is leveraging the widely acknowledged 'shift' in public opinion and perception which has accompanied his novel presidency worldwide.  My take is that he is finally giving these problems the undivided attention of the US foreign policy apparatus after years of neglect and this may create some opportunities which are too good to pass up, for all concerned.  Watch this space is my advice.

And as for this latest nugget, it may have been part of his policy but this is the first time I have seen it put on the table as a quid pro quo with our Pakistani friends and it is interesting it has appeared in the Pakistani media which has been agitating for some evidence of participation by the US in this matter.  Little do they know it is not necessarily going to turn out the way they expect.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-12 01:28PM | 0 recs
Re: But this is not new...

Actually, my Dad used to tell me that (create the world with your thoughts) all the time... perhaps he sensed a problem =)

I promise to keep an eye out for your diaries.  You definitely appear to be very well informed!

And yes, I also agree that in some situations, the probability of success increases in a non-linear fashion with the amount of resources devoted to it.

by Ravi Verma 2009-05-12 04:36PM | 0 recs
Re: But this is not new...

Your Dad sounds very wise.  And, as always, enjoyed this dialogue with you.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-12 06:23PM | 0 recs
What makes us "qualified" (and I'm not

using the word "qualified" lightly) to give such assurances about Kashmir to Pakistan? Why should we get involved in Kashmir?

by louisprandtl 2009-05-12 02:52PM | 0 recs
Why Not?

Well, at face value we have the 'great power' status to bring Russia and China in on a deal, this group representing the historical 'patrons' of both antagonists, and we have no apparent vested interest in a settlement which favours one side over the other on the grounds of geopolitics or ideology.  Not to mention we have considerable resources which could be brought to bear on initiating such negotiations.

Our vested interest is clearly on establishing a peaceful outcome to a conflict that has remained unresolved since 1947, the parallels with Israel and Palestine are many and a simple answer to 'Why should we get involved in Kashmir?' is for all the same reasons that a settlement in the Middle East would go a long way to resolving the underlying tensions which have given rise to militant Islamism in the region.

The justification for the support of militancy by the Pakistani military and the sinkhole that absorbs so much of our aid dollars is the perception that war with India is imminent and inevitable.  And it would pave the way for a reduced threat from arguably the most volatile nuclear conflict in the world.

As to our 'qualification' in the sense of our competence to facilitate such a negotiation, that remains to be seen, but fortune favours the bold in diplomacy as well as in war.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-12 03:57PM | 0 recs
The mediation is possible when all parties

agree to us being the mediator. In this case, India for a long time had publicly asked us not to be involved. One thing that unites all Indian political parties from leftwing communists to rightwing Hindu fundamentalists, is painting American policies in poor light. I think Obama administration is over-estimating their influence on Indian politicians.

by louisprandtl 2009-05-12 04:11PM | 0 recs
Re: The mediation is possible when all parties

This is another reason why I am not too optimistic about the (a) solve Kashmir (b) refocus Pakistan (c) defeat Taliban approach

by Ravi Verma 2009-05-12 04:46PM | 0 recs
I liked your probabilistic approach to reach
to the conclusion that the above strategy has very small probability of success if they are linked...
Sometimes mathematical models can provide a very simple but "probably" a very accurate answer to a complex problem...
by louisprandtl 2009-05-12 05:45PM | 0 recs
Re: I liked your probabilistic approach to reach

That would probably explain why they sent fighter pilots on the moon missions and not mathematicians.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-12 06:39PM | 0 recs
true....but most of them are aeronautical

or aerospace engineers who were well versed in probabilistic mathematics..:)

by louisprandtl 2009-05-12 07:04PM | 0 recs
Re: true....but most of them are aeronautical

I was kidding, mostly.  I think the whole deterministic, one might say reductionist, approach works great in science and engineering but wonder if it lacks for something when it comes to the social 'sciences,' not to mention politics, relative to heuristic methods.

Just to take the analogy further you are surely not suggesting that JFK consulted a probabilistic model before he announced that the US would put a man on the moon 'by the end of this decade.'  He said it and then we did it, mathematicians and all.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-12 07:16PM | 0 recs
Coming from the probabilistic World, I'm not

so sure that I agree with you that reductionist/deterministic approach works great in Science and Engineering :) Yes it is true, it works nicely for linear system responses but not so in nonlinear systems which are more akin to reality.

As far as your analogy about JFK and his famous Moon speech goes, there surely is an infinitesimal probability that JFK actually consulted a probabilistic model before outlining his Space goals for the nation...

by louisprandtl 2009-05-12 07:38PM | 0 recs
Re: Coming from the probabilistic World, I'm not

LOL, I'm sure there is.  And I agree about complex systems, we've barely worked out a decent method for mapping them, much less navigating them.  So who said the probabilistic model for a Kashmir settlement was linear in the first place?

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-12 07:47PM | 0 recs

Unfortunately, I have to board a flight in less than 2 hours, so I cannot read the rest of your fascinating dialogue with the diarist.  Maybe I will catch up in 48 hrs, when I come back!!

by Ravi Verma 2009-05-12 07:17PM | 0 recs
Thanks...same goes for the great conversation

you had with Shaun. Shaun is the probably the best here in terms of knowledge and experience in international affairs and foreign is always a privilege to be able to converse with him..

Have a safe trip.

by louisprandtl 2009-05-12 07:45PM | 0 recs
Re: The mediation is possible when all parties

Well, we managed to negotiate a ground-breaking nuclear deal with India recently, though nobody in India seems to be hustling to take credit for it.  I took that as a clear sign that we were intending to warm up our relationship, invite India to the nuclear table and send a warning to Pakistan.  I think we have to be cautious about placing too much importance on popular opinion among the respective protaganist's citizenry, although that is obviously the end-game for enhanced US reputation abroad.

At this point India seems the least problem in getting the two parties to the negotiating table and if Zardari's recent renewed offer, originally promised in the wake of Mumbai, of a meeting betweent the ISI head and the Indian intelligence chief Manmohan Singh is any indication the Pakistani civilian government is feeling more confident about overruling foreign policy hatched by their own generals:

In the last couple of days, Zardari has stated that he is waiting for the Indian elections to be over so that Pakistan can start a fresh dialogue with India.

In his interview, Zardari reiterated that he does not consider India as the primary threat to his country and asserted that Pakistan at present is at war with the Taliban.

"It's a war of our existence. We've been fighting this war much before they attacked 9/11. They're kind of a cancer created by both of us, Pakistan and America and the world," he said.

Zardari, who was here to attend a trilateral summit with his counterparts of the US and Afghanistan last week, met US President Barack Obama and his top officials and discussed the strategy to deal with Taliban and al-Qaida militants.

"We need to find a strategy where the world gets together against this threat, because it's not Pakistan specific, it's not Afghanistan specific. I think the world needs to understand that this is the new challenge of the 21st century and this is the new war, and we've all got together," Zardari said.

"I don't think so. I don't think so," he said when referred to the often reported statement that there is a view in Pakistan that the Taliban should be kept around for a rainy day, as a bulwark against the Indian influence in Afghanistan.

Zardari moots meeting of India, Pak intel chiefs Times of India 11 May 09

If you see evidence of arm-twisting by the US here I'm not suggesting you are wrong, still it indicates a positive step in the direction of further relaxation of tensions preliminary to a diplomatic initiative.  Maybe involving Russia, a long-standing Indian ally, would make sense if the opportunity arises.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-12 04:49PM | 0 recs
Zardari might have moved to offer to send

his intelligence Chief (he made the same offer was the same right after Mumbai attacks, but then rescinded it after Kayani, Pakistan's Army Chief interfered) because of our moves. But it also can be because India's public prosecutors are filing papers for an arrest warrant against a sitting Pakistani Colonel who is accused of coordinating the Mumbai attacks.

Its investigation into the massacre revealed that a Colonel Sadatullah of the Pakistan Army's Signal Communication Organisation had contacted the terrorists by email.

Manmohan Singh, India's prime minister, accused Pakistan's security apparatus of involvement in planning the attack, which officials believe would not have been possible without their logistical support.

The same article also states what India truly believes which is that "Pakistan is taking US for ride" in its fight against Taliban. With this type of distrust, I doubt our leverage is very high in the region. I want our goals to be more realistic and focused in the region. If we want to neutralize Al Qaida and their main supporters in the region, that's what we should be working on. Kashmir, Baloch, Karachi ethnic problem, NPT et al are long term problems but these are peripheral to our main goal in the region...we don't have to provide solutions for every problem in the World. The South Asians should work to solve their own problems themselves. s/asia/pakistan/5279694/Pakistan-is-taki ng-US-for-a-ride-India-believes.html

by louisprandtl 2009-05-12 05:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Zardari might have moved to offer to send

Well I'm grateful fo your comment because this is where we part company, I think that the these problems are intrinsic to resolving our 'main goals' in the region.  If we have learned any lesson from the events since the end of the Cold War it is that short-term objectives and the dismissal of the underlying diplomatic, social and economic problems into the 'too hard' basket is exactly the recipe for more of the same, if not militant Islamism then something else.

I'm not suggesting the US should be the world's policeman but perhaps we should consider being among it's 'playground monitors,' for our own sake as well as everyone else's.  To me this seems exactly the 'big picture' foreign policy vision of Obama's candidacy and I expect nothing less from his presidency.  This is 'engagement' on a grand scale and as difficult as it seems the success of these diplomatic initiatives is going to be worth a dozen infantry divisions in effect and thousands of lives in outcome.  The South Asians can't work out their own problems for themselves, evidently, and the consequences end up in our laps time and again.  Ditto the Israelis and the Palestinians, apparently.  Think of how much cheaper it would be to get Iran to reaffirm the NPT, for example, than to build a multi-billion dollar 'missle shield' for our European allies.  And we don't have to go it alone, Russia and China, among others, are in the same boat.  They can't be too thrilled about a nuclear capable Iran or North Korea, or global Islamist militancy, don't you think?

Sure realistic and focused goals are necessary, and I see no evidence we are overlooking them at them moment, as 25,000 Pakistani troops in the NWFP would attest, but they are also the stuff of a foreign policy tailored for the four-year domestic electoral cycle and local consumption that seems hostage to the insular, almost isolationist, attitudes which you seem to be echoing.  We have got to break this cycle, to facilitate the global trend toward literacy, prosperity, human rights, liberalism and democracy which seems to be underway even in the face of all the obstacles which we face.  Surely a commitment to these shared values, absent ideology and theology, are the basis for the ethos we want to present to the world.  If we really want to insure our prosperity and security in the 21st century I see no other alternative.  We should become a nation of amateur linguists, anthropologists and internationalists for a generation and lift our sights beyond our national borders, not just send in the Marines when things get out of hand.

As for the Pakistani Colonel, if he were thrown to the wolves as a consequence of US pressure on Pakistan to come to some kind of terms with India it wouldn't bother me one bit.  I don't doubt there is a tangled web of intrigue behind the Mumbai attack but I wonder if the Indian leadership wants a nationalist firestorm over it either.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-12 06:11PM | 0 recs
I think i have learned a different lessons from

visiting and staying in other countries. Lot of these countries in the so called problem regions of the World were former colonies of European nations and had been subjected to vicious exploitation. Also as we noted that quite a few in the South Block had been affected by powerplay between Soviet Union and America in the last Century. An active interference from European or North America is still regarded as colonial interference and can construe a national outrage. I'm not advocating an isolationist approach. What I'm advocating is that after the World had seen eight years of Bush style active interference strategy, we need a softer, carefully calibrated strategy. An approach that give us a role which is more closer to a global citizen and not a global policeman. This approach, of course, need to comprehensively address the issue of terrorism and its causes which includes military, civilian and helping with nation building aspects as you're advocating but much more low key.

by louisprandtl 2009-05-12 06:55PM | 0 recs
So We Agree

No arguments there, I agree that we have a generation or so of fences to mend, probably more.  And I'm not sure I'm advocating 'nation building' which has a very negative connotation these days, with good reason, but perhaps calibrating our support more toward a nation's stability and prosperity than a short-term political advantage with it's leadership.

But I don't see that advocating, indeed facilitating, a Kashmir settlement, for example, is particularly intrusive.  I agree that we have a lot of mistrust to overcome but suggest that we also have a sterling opportunity as Obama's administration represents a departure from past US policy, probably more in the perception of the world than ourselves.

Our current 'interference' in Pakistan is a special case, it seems to me, in which the immediate possibility of a crisis precipitated a timely and urgent response.  But even there it seems as though we have taken a subtly different approach and coupled resolution, at least in part, of the long-term causal problems with the short-term immediate solution.  And rarely has a US administration shown 'boots-and-all' support for an elected civilian government in Pakistan, no matter how fragile.  I'm guessing we have quietly put the generals on notice to play this latest gamble out in a determined but constitutionally decorous fashion.

I think we agree more than we disagree, frankly.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-12 07:09PM | 0 recs
I agree we have to be involved in Pakistan...

I find nothing wrong in helping a nation like Afghanistan or Pakistan to rebuild or reinforce their democratic institutions and the support structures including building secular schools and institutions. I also agree that Obama himself makes a lot of difference in how US is perceived around the World. However I'm not as optimistic as you are, I guess...

I find it very interesting, that last year I was in favor of pursuing an aggressive approach towards the present Iranian regime while you opposed it. Our opinions continue to evolve with our own experiences and continued learning. Now we agree more than we disagree on foreign policies.. :)

by louisprandtl 2009-05-12 07:25PM | 0 recs
Re: I agree we have to be involved in Pakistan...

And a delightful exchange, as usual, though I'm guessing we still have our differences over Iran, perhaps in another diary sometime?

If I have one ideological weakness it is my continued loyalty to Obama, now as president rather than a candidate, and I do have a knee-jerk' readiness to support his administration's stated policies and actions.  So far, so good, though there is no doubt a collision pending down the road.  How do you say 'Yes we can' in Urdu?  We've already seen Ahmadinejad's translation into Farsi.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-12 07:43PM | 0 recs
Actually you'll be surprised..I've no problems

with Obama's efforts to engage Iran and efforts to bring them back to international stage. The effective use of diplomacy to obtain recently release of the journalist Roxana Saberi, was a deft play by Obama administration. I'm fully supportive of Obama administration and its main goals. Of course, that doesn't mean I'll not disagree with some of his actions or policies down the road.

I don't know how to say "Yes we can" in Urdu. I'm not as polyglot as you're probably. I tried to Google but couldn't come up with any valid links.

by louisprandtl 2009-05-12 07:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Actually you'll be surprised..I've no problems

Not much of a linguist myself though I found this, no Urdu, sadly.

You are tempting me to write a diary on the current state of things with Iran, with the pending elections and all.  In spite of a domestic media narrative to the contrary I agree that the Saberi case was a significant step in the right direction, as was Khameini's admonishment of Ahmadinejad not long ago.  I think the Iranian leadership is pausing a moment to digest the shifting scene, as it were.  Bibi may yet find himself outflanked by the Obama administration if he relies too heavily on the 'existential' threat from Iran.  And Russia just might take the bait on trading our commitment to European missile defense for an assist with Iran's intransigence, and with India too, perhaps.  Interesting stuff.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-12 08:26PM | 0 recs
If the corrupt Mr. Zardari is our point man for

our Pakistan strategy, I don't hold too much hope for success of that strategy.

It seems Mr. Zardari and in general Pakistani elite are still in denial about the threat of terrorism and seems to believe that Osama Bin Laden was an American operator.

Somewhat disturbingly, the source for the "top story" on Pakistan Daily today is Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari. As an anonymous article on the site reports accurately, in an interview with NBC News which aired on Sunday, Mr. Zardari claimed that he "knew" that Osama bin Laden was an American "operator" during the 1980s.

Mr. Zardari told David Gregory, in the part of the interview embedded below, that this knowledge dates from 1989, when, he said, his late wife, Benazir Bhutto, who was then Pakistan's prime minister, had called the first President Bush to complain about Mr. bin Laden's efforts to destabilize Pakistan, presumably on behalf of the government of the United States.

Conspiracy theories in abundance..

While most of the conspiracy theories posted on Pakistan Daily seem easy to debunk -- like allegations that "Osama bin Laden may be Jewish" or that Islamist militants in Pakistan's Swat Valley are Indian intelligence agents -- it is not hard to understand why some Pakistanis are so willing to believe that unseen forces are behind their current troubles. After all, during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, the United States did in fact work closely, and secretly, with Pakistan's spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, to destabilize that country's government by supporting Islamic extremists like Mr. bin Laden.

This is how Pakistani Army is fighting Taliban and trying to sway public opinion in their favor alleging that Taliban is same as the Jewish forces...

According to Dawn:

The security forces also distributed pamphlets in various areas accusing the Taliban of playing in the hands of anti-Pakistan elements. `They are the same as Jewish forces who are against the existence and security of the country and wanted to create disturbance in the region,' read a leaflet.

Pakistani citizenry unfortunately are in state of denial about the terrorists. Although I'm not very sure about the IRI as a legit polling source.

Clear evidence that the Pakistani public is not buying the Western media's explanation of recent events is also offered by the results of a recent poll conducted in Pakistan of 3,500 adult men and women by the International Republican Institute, a nonprofit group based in Washington that is affiliated with the Republican Party and promotes democracy abroad. Despite strong indications that the attacks in Mumbai last November were the work of a militant group based in Pakistan, Pakistanis surveyed overwhelmingly said that they did not believe the media reports.

Results from a survey of Pakistan public opinion conducted in March, 2009.
Asked, by the same pollsters, to say who they believed was behind the attacks in Mumbai, the largest number of Pakistanis pointed the finger at the Research and Analysis Wing, India's intelligence service. Just one per cent of the sample said that terrorists were responsible, while 20 times that many Pakistanis blamed America:

For more, please refer to 12/a-grand-conspiracy-theory-from-pakis tan?hp

by louisprandtl 2009-05-12 03:12PM | 0 recs
And the Alternatives Are?

All true and disheartening stuff.  Though some of the widely believed narratives in US public opinion make equally entertaining reading, apparently a significant number of us still believe Obama is a Muslim, for example.  But read on in that IRI poll you cited:

On the issue of terrorism, although only 10 percent of respondents cited terrorism as the most important issue, the March 2009 poll registered rising concern over terrorism in general. When asked if they felt that religious extremism was a serious problem in Pakistan, 74 percent replied yes, the highest percentage since September 2007. The highest percentage yet, 69 percent, agreed that the Taliban and al-Qaeda operating in Pakistan was a serious problem, while
45 percent said that they supported the Pakistani Army fighting the extremists in the North West Frontier Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, another all time high.

The March 2009 poll saw an increase in the willingness of Pakistanis to cooperate with the United States against extremism, with the number supporting such cooperation climbing to 37 percent. There was also an increase in the number saying that they would support American military incursions in the tribal areas, nearly doubling to 24 percent.

45pc Back Military Operation THe Nation (Pakistan) 12 May 09

While I agree none of this inspires much confidence at least the trends are headed in the right direction.  And as for Zardari, a more venal, corrupt fraud could have hardly been found, many in the PPP blame him for Benazir's dismissal in 1999.  And yet he was the choice to lead the minority PPP to a coalition government, the only populist alternative for US policymakers to support being the equally problematic but apparently more popular Sharif clan and the PML-N.  And in the 'crisis' now underway in Pakistan, Zardari and Gilani seem to be weathering the storm, in spite of rumblings of discontent and parliamentary grandstanding by coalition partners there seems to be general, if grudging, support for the Swat operation, at least until the final outcome is known.

We have a lot riding on this too, and it is daring but fairly clever to see that the Obama administration has at least aligned the civilian coalition government, the military and our own foreign policy aspirations in an endeavour which will be equally damaging to all concerned if it fails.  It's a start, and Zardari wouldn't be the first corrupt politician to pull a populist rabbit out of the hat when cornered by circumstances.  Keep your fingers crossed.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-12 04:29PM | 0 recs
I agree I don't have any alternatives to offer...

I'm sure Obama administration is doing the best given a very difficult situation. However I don't like to be taken for the same ride again where the ruling party, in this case Mr. Zardari, is somehow painted as our sole saving grace in Pakistan. We have seen that hand being played when Gen. Musharraf was the President, before that when Nawaz Sharif was the PM, so on and so forth since Zia's time. We need to try something different in Pakistan..

by louisprandtl 2009-05-12 04:39PM | 0 recs

Well, it's hard to say who is being taken for the ride in some of these historical instances and who was doing the rough-riding, US foreign policy or the aspirations of Pakistanis.  Of the cases you cited the Zia coup is widely acknowledged to have been fully backed by the US in preference to the populist but radical Zulifar Ali Bhutto who misjudged the crisis in East Pakistan.  Sharif, now a populist, was a creature of this regime and when Zia was assassinated in a mysterious airborne explosion along, significantly, with the US ambassador at the time, then it was Benazir's turn but her government was stymied by corruption and opposition by the military and fell twenty months later.

But you neglected to mention Ayub and Yahya Khan, another pair of military dictators who ruled Pakistan with covert US support.  General Ayub Khan assumed power in October 1958, five months before Pakistan's first ever general election was scheduled to be held.  Are you getting the picture?

In fact the only transition to military rule not clearly endorsed, if not provoked, by the US was Musharraf's in 1999 over Nawaz Sharif when the Clinton administration ineffectually opposed the coup and then acquiesed to the outcome.  Within a year or so we were backing Musharraf to the hilt with consequences clearly apparent today.

To my mind giving unequivocal support to the civilian government of Pakistan is something different in Pakistan, at least in regards to US foreign policy.  And providing aid for economic renewal, education and improved living conditions for it's citizens, rather than lining the pockets of the ruling elite, is equally novel.

As should be clear I am no fan of Zardari on first principles but Sharif is an equally notorious piece of work and the alternatives are just not evident.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-12 05:15PM | 0 recs
I agree, our foreign policies fostered
in the 50s by the Dulles brothers when we thought it is easier to influence a country through a dictator than a democratic government. This allowed us to aggressively manipulate electoral outcomes and change the course of countries...I'm not claiming our hands is pristine clean as history shows but we cannot stay beholden to the past...
Under any case Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto is no great man either. He as a civilian PM of Pakistan presided over one of the largest mass killings, ethnic and religious genocide and cleansing of 20th Century leading to the division of his country.
by louisprandtl 2009-05-12 05:38PM | 0 recs
Re: I agree, our foreign policies fostered

I agree, there is no diary big enough to catalogue all the misjudgements, perfidies, duplicities and criminal misconduct of the rogue's gallery which is Pakistan's historical leadership.  I can't think of any of them whom are either admirable or blameless, although Chief Justice Chaudhry probably deserves an honourable mention.

But that's an argument for wiping the slate and moving on, dealing with the now and not dwelling on the moral high ground.  The same goes for Israel and Palestine, there are few virtuous actors and yet a settlement is needed.  As I said before if we ignored the third part of idiots among all parties involved and avoided setting the historical record straight, for now, we might just achieve something.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-12 06:21PM | 0 recs


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