Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Trump card

Many of Blog Simple's posts link to articles in TomDispatch. Tom Engelhardt gets some (most?) of the best and most realistic thinkers on world affairs, articles that are so far above the claptrap we're normally fed by the 'distinguished' New York Times and Washington Post that the difference is almost absurd.

Once again, Tom has a must read article, this time by Tariq Ali, that looks at the apparent escalation of the excellent Afghan war into Pakistan. By all means, read the whole thing, but here is the conclusion:

The key in Pakistan, as always, is the army. If the already heightened U.S. raids inside the country continue to escalate, the much-vaunted unity of the military High Command might come under real strain. At a meeting of corps commanders in Rawalpindi on September 12th, Pakistani Chief of Staff General Ashfaq Kayani received unanimous support for his relatively mild public denunciation of the recent U.S. strikes inside Pakistan in which he said the country's borders and sovereignty would be defended "at all cost."

Saying, however, that the Army will safeguard the country's sovereignty is different from doing so in practice. This is the heart of the contradiction. Perhaps the attacks will cease on November 4th. Perhaps pigs (with or without lipstick) will fly. What is really required in the region is an American/NATO exit strategy from Afghanistan, which should entail a regional solution involving Pakistan, Iran, India, and Russia. These four states could guarantee a national government and massive social reconstruction in that country. No matter what, NATO and the Americans have failed abysmally.

Really required, unfortunately, is another way of saying, won't be done. Instead, we have the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mullen, jetting off to Islamabad for talks with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Gilani, as well as the head of the Pakistan military, Kayani. Our 'do everything' military has pretty well cornered the market on diplomacy in Pakistan. Sending a military man to placate or armtwist our supposed allies makes one believe that armtwisting is the order of the day. Washington has been coy lately about the delivery of F16 fighters to Pakistan, might that be the carrot being offered? Certainly, to get Gilani and Kayani to sign off on the new cross-border US policy is a tall order. To get them to sign off publicly seems far fetched. If they do not sign off, Pakistan has a trump card to play, as explained in the conclusion to the NTY article linked to above:

On a visit to Britain on Tuesday, Pakistan’s newly elected president, Asif Ali Zardari, was quoted as saying after meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown: “This situation doesn’t help democracy. “

When asked about future cross border attacks, Mr. Zardari said: “I don’t think there will be any more.”

In a meeting in Islamabad on Tuesday with Jack Straw, the British justice secretary, Mr. Gilani said that Pakistan’s sovereignty had to be respected.

According to a press statement by the Pakistani prime minister’s office, Mr. Straw said that he “hoped that Pakistan would continue providing passage to NATO convoys through its territory on their way to Afghanistan.

You had better hope so, Mr. Straw, and you too, Adm. Mullen.


Anonymous Rabia said...

Well, articles like Ali's are really frustrating because they don't ever entertain the possibility that the Pakistani military isn't as "conflicted" about its support for the US as people like Ahmed Rashid and the rest of the media make it out to be. In my opinion, despite Kayani's rhetoric, the Pakistani military will go along with the US no matter what, even if it means the loss of our western provinces. The explanation being passed around these days that the Pakistani army was really stabbing the US in the back and everyone just got wise to it is just too simplistic to buy.

9/16/2008 6:05 PM  
Blogger Dick Durata said...

rabia, I think that all organizations of the size and national importance as the Pakistan military are going to be conflicted. Musharraf seems to have managed them effectively, we don't yet know about Kayani.

Anyway, thanks for your insight, I value it and enjoy reading your blog.

9/16/2008 8:15 PM  
Anonymous Rabia said...

I don't think I was clear enough about what I was trying to say in the previous comment:

When you read blogs by currently serving officers in the US military, do you ever get the feeling that you need to suspend a certain amount of disbelief in order to take them seriously? To them, everything is about counterinsurgency and even the most cynical of them are unwilling to question the motivations of their leadership, probably because it is not exactly constructive at this point.

This is similar to the much-touted conflict that is currently tearing apart the Pakistani army. I am not denying that there is a lot of support for the taliban and for an anti-US jihad among the serving members of the military. The question is, what are we to make of the anti-US rhetoric coming from the military leadership. Specifically, what were General Kayani's motivations for speaking out so strongly against Adm. Mullen's statements? Is it really an expression of his willingness to risk anything to defy the US? Or is it about the fact that Zardari is being set up to fail by being made to look like the pro-US stooge so that the military can act as the saviour of the public yet again with the blessing of the United States.

9/17/2008 7:16 AM  

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