Thursday, March 26, 2009

Helping Yglesias and Berry Understand Pakistan

Matthew Yglesias at Think Progress and Patrick Berry at Democracy Arsenal have discussed ways to gain military cooperation, get the ISI under control, and maintain governance in Pakistan. I think they underestimate the potential for chaos and the value of stability. Yglesias states that:
The outsize role the military plays in Pakistani society is closely linked to Pakistan’s long-running conflict with India. A Pakistan that didn’t see the struggle with India as of paramount importance wouldn’t just turn its a large and powerful military establishment in a direction that’s more favorable to our policy objectives, it actually wouldn’t need such a large and powerful policy military establishment.
Certainly these military officers have spent their entire careers training and preparing to fight India. The ISI officers were raised not only on traditional intelligence tasks but also making contacts and funneling resources to the mujhadeen for the United States and likewise preparing Kashmiri groups to serve as proxy fighters against India. But it was also under a military leader, General Musharraf, that a peace deal on Kashmir was almost reached in secret.
Zardari is ineffective, with little control over the military, and probably on his way out. Sharif is a populist with close ties to many of the religious and militant groups. The recent events were, in the words of one of my Pakistani colleagues, a "triumph of civil society over authoritarianism" but also that "people power has defeated state power," with potentially revolutionary results. Do you really want to see the disastrous experiment from the Swat valley repeated in the whole country?
Ordinarily I, like most progressives, would applaud the triumph of people over authoritarian government, but not with nuclear weapons involved. Luckily the military is far and away the most stable institution in Pakistan, and Pakistanis value that and view it as an important element in society.
Sheer force of argument will not convince the Pakistani military to ignore India entirely. But if we reach out directly to the Pakistani military along with the unstable government and provide them incentives and benchmarks they may pleasantly surprise us. But we need to trust them a little more too. I've heard that night vision devices we have provided to the military are recalled once a month for counting to make sure they haven't been shipped to the Indian front and depriving the Pakistani troops of them for up to a week per month. That's no way to convince them we are allies.

No comments:

Post a Comment