Wednesday, April 23, 2014On Pakistan: A Rerun with an Update
Almost three years ago, I posted the piece that I have copied below--it was on May 5, 2011, to be exact. I wrote it in the wake of the Osama take-down and my concerns about Western intel capabilities and the role that Pakistan played in hiding that mass murderer. A couple of days ago, a reader asked for my views on some recent lit that argues that Afghanistan was the "wrong" war and that the real war should be with Pakistan.
As you can see in the May 2011 piece below, I touched on that, noting the highly conflicted relationship we have had with Pakistan. Let me add a bit to that, and then return to the issue of the "wrong war."
India has viewed the West, and the US, in particular, as the protectors of Pakistan. As is the usual case when Indians tell their own history, they blame foreigners for much, if not most, if not all the misfortune, real and imagined, that has befallen India before and since independence. You will meet very intelligent and well-educated Indians who tell you that the British (and later the Americans) used "divide and conquer" when dealing with India. They conveniently forget, of course, that India is a British invention; there was no unified sub-continent when the British arrived. It was the British who united India and gave it whatever collective consciousness it has. The British did not invent the communal riots-cum-warfare that have swept through India since way before Hartza was a pup. The British did not introduce the dozens and dozens of languages, the many religions, and the myriad, great, colorful and very diverse cultures that characterize and divide the subcontinent.
The British bequeathed India much of what is good about India's politics and economic infrastructure. India's politicians, however, squandered much of that inheritance. The British left behind a highly educated elite that, unfortunately, proved much better at divide and conquer politics than the British, to say the least. The splitting of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan was the work of that elite; the horrendous ethnic violence that followed the British departure and the carving away of Pakistan cannot be blamed on the British, the West, or the Man in the Moon. That was the handiwork of the elites, in particular the horrendous Nehru and the somewhat less horrendous but still divisive Mohammed Ali Jinnah.
Nehru and his clan decided to take India in a direction away from the West and strike up friendships with all manner of leftist dictatorships, helping found the anti-US G-77 ("Third World") movement. They never really resigned themselves to the existence of Pakistan and, in essence, decided to make the poor and even more horribly misgoverned Pakistan's life hell. Pakistan was forced to exist with the constant threat from India that it could be terminated at any moment. This helped push Pakistan first towards the West, joining in military agreements with the United States including allowing US military facilities aimed at the USSR; then later, Pakistan tilted towards China, India's great Asian rival. India, in particular under the reign of Nehru's daughter Indira Ghandi, became very close to the USSR, and enjoyed trying to frustrate US objectives wherever and whenever possible. Under Indira, for example, the Indians would not condemn the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia nor years later of Afghanistan. India was very opposed to US efforts to work with Pakistan in support of the anti-Soviet resistance in Afghanistan.
Now to the issue of the "wrong" war. As I state below, we did the right thing by working with Pakistan and the Afghan resistance to expel the USSR from Afghanistan. Once the USSR collapsed, we did what we always seem to do after major victories, we assumed that "history had ended," and could reap the "peace dividend" without fear. Well, of course, Afghanistan quickly fell apart, and the more ruthless radical jihadis, i.e., the Taliban, soon had the country in their grip. I mention below that the Taliban was a creation of the Pakistanis who, operating under the growing influence of Islamists largely funded by the Saudis, also played a role in helping AQ set up shop in Afghanistan.
Throughout the "war on terror" the Pakistanis have played at best an ambivalent game, and usually a duplicitous one. Pakistan's government is a badly splintered one; when I served there, one was never sure with whom one was speaking and making a deal--and it has gotten worse. So, yes, Pakistan is an "enemy" to the extent that their heart is not in the WOT, but it is an enemy with grave divisions and factions that want certain other factions killed or otherwise neutralized. The Pakistani military, for example, as a rule, still relatively jihadi free, does not, despite public statements to the contrary, really object to our drone attacks on militants in the tribal areas. There are wheels within wheels within Matryoska dolls within Matryoska dolls. So, again, for example, one can never be sure what side the powerful ISI (Pakistan's intel service) is on any given day.
By invading Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11, we did the right thing. Taking out the Taliban and the AQ had a powerful impact upon jihadis around the world. They never expected that the US would dare launch an invasion of Afghanistan, that it would be mounted so quickly, and carried out so efficiently. It was a stunner.
Some would argue that we would have done better to invade Pakistan. Much messier objective, and it would not have satisfied what we needed right away, to wit, to knock out AQ's base in Afghanistan and punish its Taliban hosts. If, furthermore, we are going to worry about fighting the wrong war, then we should probably also be talking about invading Saudi Arabia, which is in many ways a much greater threat to the US and the West than is Pakistan. Are we going to do that? Doubt it very much. As I have said many, many times, our secret weapon for dealing with the jihadis is our vast energy reserves. If we frack and drill, go nuclear, dig coal, and just stop putting impediments in the way of our energy independence, much of the money-generated steam will go out of jihadi efforts.
Anyhow, here is what I wrote three years ago. I think it still holds up OK.
May 5, 2011
Pakistani Perfidy and Western Incompetence in the Hunt for Osama
In the long ago 1980s, I spent several years working on Pakistani issues. I lived for two years in Islamabad and Peshawar, travelled all over the country, including in many areas now off-limits, and spent another two years working on Pakistan in Washington and returning frequently there. Those were the Reagan years, and we were working closely (sort of) with the Zia ul-Haq government to push the Soviets out of Afghanistan (more on that below.)
Pakistan is a strange country with a strange history. It is a rump piece, a backwater of the great Indian Hindu civilization, and is wracked by any number of complexes and pathologies. It is a Muslim state founded by one of the most non-Islamic people ever, Muhammed Ali Jinnah, who only reluctantly came to the conclusion that Pakistan should be created. Most of his life he had argued for keeping the Muslims of India within a democratic India. He was intelligent and good looking; dressed well; was not religious; spoke beautiful English; and was more at home in the salons of the well-to-do and educated than he was with the street rabble. He was never clear whether his vision for Pakistan was as a secular or a religious state, and that debate over his intentions still rages in Pakistan with a lot of historical revision undertaken to show the second. A heavy smoker, and, reportedly, a man who liked his Scotch, he died very soon after the creation of Pakistan. He therefore, never saw the country's subsequent humiliations and defeats. The carving away of Bangladesh, gave the lie to the creation myth of Pakistan as THE homeland of the subcontinent's Muslims, as did the fact that India continued to host one of the world's largest Muslim communities. We should note that more Muslims live in India than in either Pakistan or Bangladesh, and do not seem in a hurry to move to either of those "homelands."
Pakistan is and always has been a mess. It is held together just barely by two forces: the military, and hatred of India. Punjabis, Sindhis, Baluchis, Pashtos have little in common except religion, and there are even differences there. The Pakistanis, especially in recent years as Saudi influence has grown, have tended to oppress non-Sunnis, and to institute a copy of Saudi-type Islamic rule. Things have gotten progressively tougher for intellectuals, artists, writers, and women in Pakistan, as well as for Christians, Ahmadis, and Shias (although the Ismaili followers of the wealthy Aga Khan have bought themselves some respite from persecution--money does wonderful things in Pakistan). Most other religious groups have long been driven out, or firmly underground in Pakistan. It is not a democratic country; democratic values run very thin and weak, and even then only among a handful of mostly Western educated elites--many of whom see "democracy" as a great way to get very rich by buying and selling votes, favors, parliamentary majorities, etc. The late Benazir Bhutto, whom I knew quite well, and her extraordinarily corrupt husband, now President of Pakistan, shine as classic examples of that sort of "democratic"elite so beloved by the West.
Pakistan is a weak, resentful state, very envious of the success of India, especially since India freed itself of the horrendous Nehru clan, in particular that evil, murdering, pro-Soviet Indira Gandhi. Islam has done nothing positive for Pakistan. Under Zia ul-Haq, later assassinated along with the US Ambassador, the country became more and more Islamized, became progressively crazier and, frankly, stupider and stupider. It was Pakistan's intelligence service, the corrupt and faction-ridden Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) outfit, working with the Saudis that created the Taliban and, eventually, al Qaida. It was not the CIA, the United States, or Great Britain. That the USA and the UK created those operations is one of those little stories put out by the left and certain others to try to discredit our current efforts against the Taliban and AQ. It was the Pakistanis and the Saudis, not the US and the UK, who created the Taliban and AQ.
I worked in Pakistan at the height of the relationship between the US and Pakistan. Even then, however, we knew not to trust them too much. Zia, after all, did nothing to protect the US Embassy when it was attacked by a mob in 1979, following false local press reports of a US-Israeli attack on Mecca. That mob burned the Embassy, and killed four embassy employees, including a young Marine guard shot in the head by a sniper.
We knew they were double dealing us on the Afghans. We would insist they not support certain groups, they would promise, but then do so anyhow. They also played games with the Iranians, and we knew they were lying about their nuclear program. We reluctantly went along, as you often have to do in the real world, because we had the theory of defeating "one enemy at a time." We, too, did things that we did not tell them about. We were on a mission to destroy the Soviet Union, which at that time, and rightly so, was seen as the major threat to the United States, including to our homeland. That mission succeeded, and I still think we did the right thing by focussing on that mission. I am proud of the very small role I played in helping bring about that defeat.Every victory, of course, brings consequences which successors must handle. The defeats of Germany and Japan were the right things to do, although those then opened opportunities for the Soviet Union and later Communist China. Our defeating Iraq in two wars benefitted Iran, but that doesn't mean it wasn't right to defeat Iraq.
Anyhow, bottom line, don't trust Pakistan. That government is ridden with factions, corrupt beyond belief, full of liars, and of people out for themselves and their families, not for the "country." Did Pakistan know that Osama had his man-cave in Abbottabad? I am sure parts of Pakistan's government did; almost certainly some officials were bought and paid for. I have been to Abbottabad many times in the past. It is inconceivable that a sprawling compound could go up in this sleepy and quaint town, without questions asked by Pakistani military, police, or intelligence services, or even by local politicians out to get some Baksheesh from an obviously rich potential benefactor who had just moved into town.
This episode, sadly, also raises some embarrassing questions which I have not read or heard asked about the West's intel services. When I worked in Pakistan, and this was well before high-tech drones, Google, and all the rest of that stuff, somebody with our Embassy, or with our friends at the neighboring British High Commission, would have commented on this compound, and undertaken an effort to find out who lived there, how it was being paid for, etc.
Since 9/11/2001, we have undertaken a multi-billion dollar manhunt for Osama, a hunt that focussed largely on Pakistan. It never occurred to anybody that he or some other very big fish might be in that complex? Had we become so enamored of the "he is living in a cave in the mountains" scenario that we couldn't conceive that this rich, spoiled, cowardly, and not very healthy man might be living in relative comfort somewhere more, shall we say, urbane? I hope I am wrong, and that the true history of the effort will show that somebody on our side asked about that compound. I am afraid, however, that this episode just shows how degraded we have let our intel services become, and, most notably, the poverty of our HUMINT capabilities. That degradation is understandable coming as it does after decades of attacks, mostly by the Democrats, on our covert capabilities. If the bad guy doesn't have a cellphone or internet we don't know who he is or what he is doing? That is a lesson our enemies, I am sure, have noticed, and that is not cheerful news.