Are we now into the third war in our decade old serial wars? Is Pakistan the latest recipient of our belligerent capacities or was it all foggy night visions, and errant bombs, missiles and messages?
If none of the fatalities and injuries that transpired on the north-western frontiers of Pakistan during our Thanksgiving week was a case of mistaken identities and misplaced or faulty gun sights then who is responsible for this terrible new phase of violence? Have they been undertaken by angry marginal military operatives at the frontline, isolated self-serving policy makers, or by a lethal combination of the two?
Regardless, lately, we have been nibbling and needling Pakistan willy-nilly. Is this a tactic or a strategy?
Do we really expect that we will be able to stare down Pakistan repeatedly and it will not break or snap? Are the Pakistanis devoid of self-respect or self-respecting leaders? We seem to think the Pakistanis are deficient on both accounts. Their chaos, corruption and history seem to bear out that inference. However, there is global evidence that would override that particular read on history. Repeatedly, nations have been able to expunge dark phases of their history. The Arab Spring would be a near enough example.
Clearly, from the language we hear from our officials, Pakistan is an unworthy ally who refuses to play the part assigned to it? We have paid so much and they are still not fully in our bag! We have paid upfront blood money to take care of Pakistan’s loss and blood-letting. So, what’s their hang-up? They are seemingly dishonest in that they have not completely abandoned residual veneer of honor or love for their people or their motherland.
The Pakistanis may counter by saying that they are US’ partner of convenience serving her defense needs while ignoring their own. They may even table evidence or two to that end. The most cogent one would be the abandonment of Afghanistan after the rock star Mujahedeen humbled the mighty Soviet Union.
Of course, we are not going to attack Pakistan at the scale of Afghanistan or Iraq, at least not in this election cycle. We all know why that is. It’s the same reason why we have left North Korea alone! We want Pakistan to bow or kneel. Prostration is neither in the works nor in the stars. At this time, that’s ideally reserved for another nation in the neighborhood.
Besides, if one of the goals of war is to cause chaos, disarray and disorganization, we are achieving that marvelously in Pakistan with our slow turn of the screw. The Pakistanis are like the proverbial frog cast into comfortable water and gradually boiled to death. They are not supposed to jump out of the pot in the middle of the routine. That’s outrageous! So not fair!
But, why after all this ballyhoo and posturing, are we so desperate for a partial settlement or acceptance on the part of the Pakistanis of our way of thinking and acting? Is Pakistan the missing link to our 2014 exit strategy from Afghanistan?
Pakistanis have long figured out that this is our war, not theirs. The longer they linger with us, the more it becomes their war. In tackling the regional “extremists”, we seek a military solution. Pakistanis seek a political one. What they can end by give and take, why would they pursue it by other costly, non-ending, lethal means? Our plan suggests zero compromise, which one would think amounts to seeking total elimination. However, that would be warranted by an entirely ideological enterprise, a position we have always denied no matter the perception. Anyway, whatever our mission, we seem to want to achieve it directly or by attrition even if it means having our ally, Pakistan, complete it after we leave. Thus, the military strategies and consequent methods will differ between the two “allies”. The Pakistanis have anticipated the Petraeus’ counterinsurgency doctrine.
But is it possible that we do not want them to subscribe to that somewhat accommodating stance? The question is: If not, why not?
There are two possible reasons. First, we want to close shop in Afghanistan with the least amount of scarring on our national psyche and the political, military and communication institutions. To the extent the Pakistanis can help us accomplish that end, they must comply and cooperate. Alternatively, albeit a weaker explanation, if Pakistan can be made to irreversibly cross swords with the extremists so that the war exits Afghanistan, then they will inherit the war and liberate us from the “Godforsaken” outpost.
Needless to say, neither approach is likely to be palatable to Pakistan. Only if Pakistan’s internal situation becomes sufficiently and immutably bloodied by the extremists is she likely to buy this particular solution path. So long as extremist actions in Pakistan are not fundamentally organic, Pakistan stands to gain a lot by following Petraeus’ celebrated doctrine.
Either way, the trick now is to get Pakistan to stand on the slippery slope.
Shafi A. Khaled is a freelance writer. He teaches and does research in Business & Economics.