On the ideas that follow us, one decade to the next….

Detente’s greatest achievement was the opening of consistent contact between the United States and the USSR in the early 1970s—a gradually intensifying engagement on many levels and in many areas that, as it grew over the years, would slowly but widely open the Soviet Union to information, contacts, and ideas from the West and would facilitate an ongoing East-West dialogue that would influence the thinking of many Soviet officials and citizens.

From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider’s Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War by Robert M. Gates. (I am currently reading this book).

Indeed Washington’s on-again off-again attention to the region, driven by relatively short term developments like the Soviet-Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the war against terror, makes Iranian and Chinese overtures appealing to Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Myanmar.

A Sino-Persian grab for the Indian Ocean? by Jamsheed K. Choksy (Small Wars Journal)

Earlier this month the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, twisted his mouth into the shape of a pretzel to explain why it was okay for the U.S. to support Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal but not okay to support North Korea’s arsenal and Iran’s nuclear ambitions. He also saw no problem with the United States as much declaring war on India when he sympathized with Pakistan’s need to use nuclear weapons against India in order to feel safe.
Then Americans wonder why Pyongyang and Tehran laugh at Washington’s lectures on nuclear proliferation. The leaders of both regimes have been doing clandestine nuke business with Pakistan for decades. They know Pakistan is the biggest nuclear weapons proliferator on the planet — and so does Mullen, who is the highest ranking military officer in the USA and as such is the principal military advisor to the President of the United States, the National Security Council, and the Secretary of Defense.
That’s not the half of the double standard America has practiced with regard to Pakistan. Barely a day goes by that the American news media doesn’t warn of the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran because of the regime’s end-of-time religious views, which American news analyst John Batchelor has termed “hallucinatory.”
It doesn’t get more hallucinatory than the views of Pakistani media mogul, Majeed Nizami, the owner of the Nawa-i-Waqt, The Nation, and Waqt TV channel. During a recent speech at a function given in his honor he declared that Pakistan’s missiles and nuclear bombs were superior to “India’s ghosts,” and that unleashing nuclear war against India was imperative. “Don’t worry if a couple of our cities are also destroyed in the process.”
That would be the same Nation newspaper that cites the United States government as being behind every terrorist incident in the world, including the Times Square attack.
If you think Nizami is an isolated nut case, you don’t know much about him, or Pakistan. He is the true face of the most powerful factions in Pakistan including its military leaders.
But in the view of the U.S. government and news media it’s okay for Pakistan’s military to hold hallucinatory views whereas it’s not okay for Iran’s leaders because, well, because.
It’s the same for anti-Semitic views that abound in Pakistan. In the same article that discussed Nizami’s view that nuclear Armageddon was the ticket to peace in South Asia, Pakistani journalist Shakil Chaudhary reported on a June 18 column in Nizami’s Nawa-i-Waqt paper in which Lt. Gen. Abdul Qayyum (ret), former chairman of Pakistan Steel Mills, approvingly quoted Adolph Hitler as saying: “I could have annihilated all the Jews in the world, but I left some of them so that you can know why I was killing them.”

He ain’t heavy, he’s my genocidal, hallucinatory, two-faced ‘ally’ by blogger Pundita.

Why do you suppose certain factions in DC appear so adamant on retaining Pakistan as a “strategic asset” post 9-11 and post Abbottabad? CBz blogger Joseph Fouche recently posted a nice piece about the tendency for some to see patterns and intrigues when mere muddle may well explain reality. Sadly, I am prone to this….

So what exactly is our muddle? Is what I’ve posted above overstated and alarmist? State and USAID want to keep its various lucrative aid programs? The Pentagon/DOD want to keep its favorite “proxy” Army for future use against any kind of “sino-islamic” alliance – or Russia or Iran? Tons of money (supposedly….take all of this with a grain of salt) sloshing around DC from various foreign entities, such as the Saudis or the Pak Mil/ISI? Plain old strategic “incompetence” typical of a big, energetic and free-wheeling democracy?

What other rationales might be keeping warring DC factions up at night? Placating the Saudis and keeping the oil flowing? Monitoring Pakistani nukes? (Okay, this one for sure). Preventing even more proliferation via Pakistani-Saudi transfers?

The world is three dimensional and complicated with various currents pulling our policy makers in different directions. I’d be delighted to hear creative thinking on any of these topics by one of the Republican presidential candidates. Your thoughts? Opinions? Relevent anecdotes, articles, films, or books?

Help a gal out, people.

What should our “Afpak” policy be and how should we think about Afghanistan….

….now that calls to leave will likely increase exponentially?

(Update: I don’t think I was very clear in this post when I wrote, “there is a state vision and a state plan to carry out that vision.” I did not mean complicity or duplicity or anything like that. The point I am trying to make is that the regular use of non-state actors as an instrument of internal power-politics or foreign policy is dangerous and should not be excused).

Security analyst Rory Medcalf from the Lowy Institute says parts of Pakistan’s security establishment were either aware of his location or were harbouring him.
Mr Medcalf says in continuing to support Pakistan, the international community risks more of the same treatment.
He says Australia should consider withdrawing support for Pakistan’s military and instead build up its police force and civil society institutions.

– from the news article, “Australia urged to rethink Pakistan military aid.”

I don’t know about Australia, but the United States has had every possible type of diplomatic and military relationship with Pakistan – we’ve developed and trained parts of its military (and this from the beginning. The UK, too.), stuffed it to the gills with military aid, provided money intended for education of its civilian population which was then squandered and looted, prevented India from retaliating against terror attacks emanating from the region, attempted to cut aid during the time of the Pressler Amendment, and “walked away” from Pakistan during the 90s:

Of course, Pakistan’s complaints are not entirely unfounded: the United States did abandon the region once the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989. Pakistanis, however, never acknowledge the enormous benefits that the country derived from its partnership with the Americans during the 1980s. Between 1979 and 1989 Pakistan received $5.6 billion (in constant 2009 dollars) in total aid, of which $3.5 billion was military assistance.) During this period, Pakistan developed its nuclear weapons program without penalty until 1990 while receiving enormous financial and military support from the U.S., which allowed Pakistan to improve its capabilities to fight India.
Most frustrating is Pakistan’s refusal to acknowledge its own role in undermining its security by backing various Islamist militant groups in Afghanistan throughout the 1990s, including the Taliban. (Pakistanis often claim erroneously that the CIA created the Taliban.)

C. Christine Fair in Foreign Policy

So engagement hasn’t worked and disengagement hasn’t worked, either.

My initial read is that the American political and policy community is utterly confused – and a bit terrified. Over the years it has lied to itself and to the American people over the true nature of the regime running Pakistan. There are no rogue elements, unless you want to count the true democracy activists and human rights activists. It is a state expressly set up for the benefit of the feudals and the military and to allow non-state actors to develop so-called asymmetric capabilities. And the West provided intellectual cover for many years, initially because of its existential war with the Soviets. This initial engagement morphed and mission-creeped in various ways: poking back at the Soviet-friendly Indians, opening up relations with China, attempting to leverage Pakistan within the context of the Saudis and Iran (and now, again, a “different” China), “help” with Afghanistan, and so on and so forth. One of the reasons solving Kashmir became a US State department hobby-horse – and a standard of the DC think tank community – is because we were trying to placate a NATO member (the UK) that has its own problems with radicalization and a large immigrant population from Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

The United States won’t cut aid even though aid has been misused and propped up the most corrupt elements of the state. Aid is fungible and it has traditionally made things worse, not better. Money spent on the civil sector (or to train the police) means more money for the military and ISI. We are afraid, however, of the very nuclear weapons that the West’s money – and Chinese and Saudi aid – has helped to purchase ending up in terrorist hands or being gifted to the Saudis. And we still need to hunt down more people in that region and will pay almost any bribe to do it.

So here we are: “Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.” – Sun Tzu.

A theory: Our foreign policy community is confused within the context of “Afpak” because our traditional DC foreign policy mandarins never came to terms with the repercussions of fighting tyranny in one part of the globe by explicitly ignoring versions of it in another. I mean, in terms of what this does to your own institutions long-term, what it does to your military and State department bureaucracies, and to think tanks and a generation of South Asia analysts. In this, our attempts to nation-build in Afghanistan are highly laudable but unworkable (witness the recent furor over the allegations regarding Greg Mortenson’s “Three Cups of Tea” charity). Yes, yes, I know that sometimes you have to hold your nose and work with people you don’t want to for a greater good and that greater good is continuing some version of our counterterrorism or counterinsurgency work within the region. But you shouldn’t lie to yourself or lie to the people you are meant to serve. It’s time for Washington to face facts. There are no rogue elements. There is a state vision and a state plan to carry out that vision.

To those who say, “well, we never really supported the civil sector in Pakistan in the past”: How do you do that effectively when the military colonizes the economy? When it owns large tracts of land and businesses? Once again, aid is fungible and the State department and its Western development theories (building civilian governmental capacities; in other words, social engineering abroad) has a rocky track record, at best. So now what?

What say you?

It would be nice if our politicians paid attention to the strategies of other nations.

More than nice, actually. Call it due diligence.

Ali K. Chishti: ISI is widely misunderstood. It’s not rogue.

In fact, it’s a fit unit who has learned the art of maneuvering. It’s obviously run by its separate directorates but acts on the policy guidelines of the Pakistan Military Chief. If you need to understand the working of ISI, I will give you one example — a section of the ISI is deputed to protect Mullah Omar and another is working with the US to catch him.

That is ISI for you.

Pakistan, since its inception, has been a security state governed by fear of India. The 1971 partition of its Eastern bloc — Bangladesh — forever tarnished the ideology of Pakistan. Because of this, the Pakistani security establishment (military) started creating various proxies from Kashmir to Afghanistan to Nepal and, of course, they made the atomic bomb to forever protect national integrity at the cost of food, education and basic facilities.

The whole security establishment of Pakistan is India-specific. And with the increasing influence of China on Pakistan and on its military, the Pakistanis have started relying on China more than the U.S.

U.S. and Pakistan’s strategic, economic and military interests cannot be one in this region. It’s not the “coalition of the willing.” It’s a forced marriage bound to break anytime. Pakistan would never want stability in Afghanistan.

A former ISI chief told me, “Son, we need to keep Yank interests alive to get dollars rolling in.” And that has, unfortunately, been the psyche of Pakistanis.

– from an interview at Carl Prine’s Line of Departure blog. I got carried away in the comments section over there. Oops.

I’ve covered this particular example of “rent-seeking” as national strategy (or part of a national strategy) before at ChicagoBoyz:

“America needs Pakistan more than Pakistan needs America,” was Jinnah’s reply. “Pakistan is the pivot of the world, as we are placed” — he revolved his long forefinger in bony circles — “the frontier on which the future position of the world revolves.”

He leaned toward me, dropping his voice to a confidential note. “Russia,” confided Mr. Jinnah, “is not so very far away.”

Want another one? This one is a doozy:

The clearest evidence of the Iran link came in January 1990, when Pakistan’s army chief of staff conveyed his threat to arm Iran to a top Pentagon official. Henry S. Rowen, at the time an assistant defense secretary, said Pakistani Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg issued the warning in a face-to-face meeting in Pakistan. “Beg said something like, ‘If we don’t get adequate support from the U.S., then we may be forced to share nuclear technology with Iran,'” said Rowen, now a professor at Stanford University. Rowen said former President Bush’s administration did little to follow up on Beg’s warning. “In hindsight, maybe before or after that they did make some transfers,” Rowen said. Rowen said he told Beg that Pakistan would be “in deep trouble” if it gave nuclear weapons to Iran. Rowen said he was surprised by the threat because at the time Americans thought Pakistan’s secular government dominated by Sunni Muslims wouldn’t aid Iran’s Shiite Muslim theocracy. “There was no particular reason to think it was a bluff, but on the other hand, we didn’t know,” Rowen said.

Emphasis mine. But you know what? I’m sick of this topic. The foreign policy establishment in Washington – right and left, both – is a little bit in love with its supposed awesomeness. As a group, they are incapable of sense. And all that aid money we gave Pakistan after 2001? The generals went and made more nukes with it. Brilliant, Republican and Democratic foreign policy mandarins of the DC establishment. You guys are stone cold geniuses.