Monday, April 13, 2009

The Pakistani Mindset

A friend of mine sent me a link to an op-ed in the Peshawar/Quetta, Pakistan-based newspaper The Frontier Post entitled "Iraq & Pakistan: Similarity in Pre-Attack Situation." My first impulse was to laugh and refute it point by point (we have a new, non-warmongering president now; Pakistan really does have WMDs; Obama's strategy is to strengthen the Pakistani government, not overthrow it; Pakistan's annual defense budget is around $7.8 billion and is mostly focused on India, so how could they claim we owe them $6 billion a year for counterterrorism operations; etc), but such an article is far more valuable as a learning tool. The author is clearly smart and well educated, but also quite paranoid and deeply afflicted with the standard Pakistani tool of blaming outsiders for all problems.
Can the nukes save us from an all-out American attack? My humble view is, not. Only courage, and a policy based on national consensus, can ensure the same.
Pakistanis, both in government and ordinary citizens, need only examine the situation from the United States' perspective. We were brutally attacked by a group based in a neighboring country whose rulers were supported by Pakistan. The leaders of that group are now based just inside the Pakistani border. The country has nuclear weapons and a weak government. What do you do?
Are there contingency plans buried deep in the Pentagon somewhere for sending in teams to secure Pakistani nuclear weapons if the government collapses? Almost certainly, next to plans for all kinds of other far-fetched scenarios. But an "all-out American attack" will not happen.
Instead of focusing their anger on India and the United States, how about focusing on the expansion of the Taliban and other militants into the main province of Punjab, the government's surrender in the Swat valley, and the fact that the government is more concerned with infighting, enriching themselves, and political rivalries than in meeting the needs of its people. Pakistanis love to point fingers, where are the fingers pointed at the militants themselves and at their own government?
U.S. policymakers should also read articles like this. Every Predator drone strike that kills civilians feeds right into the paranoia. A Pakistani report stated that, "Of the 60 cross-border predator strikes carried out by the Afghanistan-based American drones in Pakistan between January 14, 2006 and April 8, 2009, only 10 were able to hit their actual targets, killing 14 wanted al-Qaeda leaders, besides perishing 687 innocent Pakistani civilians." Although that is probably not entirely accurate, the point remains that each time an attack occurs it has both positive and negative consequences.
Both Pakistani civilians and U.S. policymakers desperately need stability in Pakistan before any trust can be built and real progress can be made. And both parties need to think about who is really standing in the way of that stability and that progress, and how their words and actions can help.

1 comment:

  1. “Laugh and refute”: The American mindset
    Thanks, first.
    While your comment on my article is titled “the Pakistani mindset”, it very much represents “the American mindset” – I must say. Just in the second sentence you share your impulse “to laugh and refute” – what better example we need for it to be anything but “the American mindset”.
    Sad that laughter and refutation continues even when hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed. And scholars like you call this laughter and refutation as “perspective”. It is “power madness”, in the simplest of the words.
    While one can feel comfortable even to stop here – thinking what really is the need to respond when the mood on that side of the table is such (“laugh and refute”) whatever criticism comes your way – just a few more words……..!
    Is it logical to gauge US “aid” to Pakistan in comparison with its defense budget? Pakistan’s GDP is close to 150 bn $, perhaps more, my dear, and that is where the ‘war on terror’ has hit hard – not the defense budget. The ‘defense’ forces in this part of the world are too strong to claim their share even from a teetering economy, same as in the US itself.
    Yes, Pakistan has WMDs, so does US, and the only example of use of WMDs recorded in history is by the US – no need to mention that. And a country next door to Pakistan named India too has WMDs with which your country has signed the notorious nuclear deal – making a mockery of the non-proliferation, dear “south Asia and proliferation expert”. 
    About the Al-Qaeda, you say that “The leaders of that group are now based just inside the Pakistani border.” First, I must repeat, it is the “intelligence” of the same CIA – so not the word of bible, of course. Even if some of them have managed to escape Afghanistan, the question is whether over 50 thousand US/NATO troops in Afghanistan were “unable” to stop them from doing so or were “not willing” to do the same? The same two conditions Obama set for an attack/operation inside Pakistani territory in his presidential campaign, and you declare him a ‘non war mongering president’. Good.
    Well, just consider a scenario that US/NATO troops are given free hand to hunt Al-Qaeda in Pakistani territory. Well, on which stone it is carved that after a few weeks, or months, they will not start shouting that “al-Qaeda” has now slipped into Tajikistan, or China next door, and are planning an attack on US from there……!