The After innings

By Wasiq Ali 
Sep 17, 2008
This is my response to the article ‘Three Strikes and He’s Out’ by Cyril Almeida posted in Dawn on September 17 2008


Dear Mr Almeida

  Here’s the problem with your ISI-Pak military inspired analysis: What happens after the army pushes Asif Zardari out for not pushing back the Americans? They would have to suck up to the Americans over again because no one in the U.S. has any apetite for the Jihadi macho men of Pakistan and Pakistan really has few alternatives to being America’s friend.


 As my former professor, the “oily”-to-you Husain Haqqani, would explain (being the strategic thinker he is) one must think options through beyond the immediate. You dont win a chess game by thinking one or two moves at a time.


 The Americans may not be able to win in Afghanistan without Pakistan but at the end of the day they always have the option of destroying what they can of Pakistani and Afghan Jihadis and leaving the region. Pakistanis have to live in this neighborhood forever. Already one can feel the hatred for Pakistan among Afghans. The Indians never really liked us. By turning the Yanks into our enemies we would be giving a strategic edge to the Afghans and the Indians on the global stage.


 So, just as the Vietnamese “victory” was a Pyrrhic one –the Vietnamese forced the Yanks to leave, utterly humilated, but suffered more both during and after the war. Now, after all that, the only lasting impact of Vietnam on the United States is a few books, B-grade movies and a huge memorial in Washington DC. Vietnam, on the other hand, lost many precious years reeling under the impact of the destruction caused by the war.


 What happens when the Americans go beyond helicopter-borne incursions into Pakistan and launch cruise missile attacks on Jihadi safehouses in Pakistani cities? Yes, ISPR will orchestrate protests on GEO and there will be lots of outrage in the Pakistani media. What after that? Isn’t the kind of half-way thinking you reflect that led to the planners of the 1965 war into not planning for an Indian attack all along West Pakistan’s Eastern border? And wasn’t Kargil a brilliant tactical plan with no provision for the stage when the Indians inducted their Air Force into the battle, thereby causing heavy losses for the brave soldiers stuck on mountaintops?


 If you really want to write analyses for Pakistani readers, go beyond the superficial question of what might happen to Asif Zardari and explore what might happen to Pakistan and its army if the lunacy of pushing back the actually pursued.


 In tactical terms, you and the army’s anti-American geniuses might be right. But in strategic terms, can Pakistan afford the simultaneous animosity of Afghanistan, India and the U.S., with no assurance of substantive support from China, the EU or even Russia. The Chinese might keep Pakistanis happy, and sufficiently anti-Indian to serve their strategic objectives, but when was the last time they really confronted the Yanks for Pakistan’s sake?


 Instead of simply quoting the New York Times selectively for effect, read the whole body of American analysis of Pakistan. Then posit the real choice that is staring Pakistan in the eye. Follow Zardari, befriend the U.S. and become the next Korea, Taiwan, or one of the ASEAN nations. Follow the macho “Push back America” line and end up like Syria, Iran, Iraq or (worse) Cuba.


 Maybe my professor really is out of synch with the anti-Americanism of pseudo-intellectual Pakistanis like you. But I think he is genuinely concerned about Pakistan’s future. You should appreciate the fact  that Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States understands the medium to long term threats to Pakistan instead of joining Shrilleen Madzari and Co in wondering whether Husain Haqqani is Pakistani ambassador to the U.S. or U.S. ambassador to Pakistan.


 Let us start over. What if renewed confrontation with the U.S. proves a fatal Strike Three for Pakistan. Strike One was acquiring nuclear weapons against American wishes to the contrary. Strike Two was fanning global Jihad and supporting the Taliban before 9/11. Strike Three would be continuing to support Jihadis who threaten U.S. interests and attack American soldiers in Afghanistan. What is the generals’ Plan B for if/when the Americans escalate and, instead of inviting General Kayani to the U.S.S. Lincoln for talks, move their Aircraft Carriers in the Gulf to blockade the Karachi harbor?


 If the Soviets didn’t win in brinkmanship with the Americans and the Chinese really haven’t attempted it in decades, what gives you the confidence that the amateur strategicians who gave us Operation Gibraltar and Kargil would be able to win at brinkmanship against the Americans? The Americans have their flaws but their power, and their ability to walk away from theaters of war and seek security in the homeland, cannot be denied.


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