Sunday, February 01, 2009

What To Do With Pakistan?

We are already talking about a MacArthur solution for Pakistan, because it indeed presents the dangerous mix of nuclear capability, a failing state and continuing military sponsorship of terrorism. The key argument is that it is no longer enough to throw money out of helicopter and expect Pakistani government will be able to break the back of terrorists. So, what is needed is an international engagement - with a figure like General MacArthur [Tommy Franks, perhaps, or are we talking Colin Powell] taking charge, and rebuilding the country bit-by-bit like post-war Japan.

Despite the obvious appeal of this doctrine, I think there are at least three clear flaws in this thinking:

(A) Pakistan is no Japan. The Japanese adventurism was an aberration in its history - Pakistan's existence is based on its islamist identity. Japan's problem was its wartime leadership, which was replaced effectively by General MacArthur. Pakistan's issues today are of identity and purpose - much more complex issues to solve.

(B) Japan had lost an war and went through two nuclear explosions as General MacArthur walked in. The country was devastated, its leaders discredited. If anyone went out recruiting a Japanese Resistance that time [I am unaware anyone did], he would have been returned empty-handed. Pakistan today has a strong military with nuclear capabilities. Its covert/overt strategies are actually helping Taliban win the war against Americans in Afghanistan. It is a neighbour to, and keeps good relationship with China. This is no cakewalk for the modern-day MacArthur, if such a man can be found at all.

(C) Post-war, Americans were the victors - undisputed Masters of the Universe. It was easy to claim a moral, economic as well as military supremacy. Today, the picture isn't that black and white anymore. If anything, Barack Obama needs to limit America's commitments abroad. Americans do not have the appetite for another lengthy occupation, which, if it happens. is indeed going to be more like Iraq than Japan.

Also, the war that is being fought in Pakistan, on a closer look, is not between the Western civilization and an oriental, Islamist one. The war is between the state as we know it, and non-state communities which will increasingly form an alternative to national affiliation, for good or evil purposes. We are so far losing the war because our solution thinking is statist - invoking General MacArthur is a classic example, and the Bush administration's failed Musharraf policy only aggravated the situation. What we actually need is an alternative solution - one that addresses the real issues on the ground and bring the people back on the side for the rest of the world.

Am I saying that people in Pakistan has gone onto the other side and become blood-thirsty monsters? Not at all. In fact, despite the fact that the Pakistani state was created as a 'homeland for Muslims in South Asia', the Pakistani electorate shown maturity and poise and never let an Islamic fundamentalist party win a popular vote. In fact, Pakistan's current Islamic stance can be traced back to the time of dictatorship, during the last MacArthur experiment with General Zia-ul-Haq, and not to any popular will. However, progressively, Pakistani people lost faith on state, their state, and turned to non-state formations or became generally disinterested.

The state has failed in Pakistan. And, the blame goes, if one studies history, to external meddling than to the connivance of Pakistani people. It is the policy of regime engineering of the West, which has actually created the troubles in Pakistan. It has alienated its people - as secular and as decent as anyone in the world - from its own state and from any other for that matter. I am saying that we always tried a MacArthur solution for Pakistan. Though counter intuitive, but it is time to step back and let the country return to democracy.

One thing about Democracy that George Bush [and all others who think like him] do not understand. We can not have the luxury of dictating the process as well as the outcome. Whatever his faults, Bush believed in democracy, possibly genuinely, but could not give up the hawkish attachment to outcome [otherwise, he would have talked to Hamas - that would have solved a lot of problems]. We hope that Obama will be more preoccupied at home and therefore, more pragmatic. So, I am not sure we shall be looking out for a new Governor General in Pakistan anytime soon.

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