Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Magnificent Delusions

If you don't have the time to read Pakistan's former Ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani's "Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding", then this cartoon
conveys a great deal. It, of course, needs updates, with drones, and so on, to reflect the current situation.  

One could go into an excursion of how American leaders were charmed by Pakistani dictators in uniform - notably, Ayub Khan and Yahya Khan.

Or one can go to the very beginning, where the perceptive Margaret Bourke-White wrote the following, reporting on her interview with Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of the nation of Pakistan:

What plans did he {Jinnah} have for the industrial development of the country? Did he hope to enlist technical or financial assistance from America?

"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."

This had a familiar ring. In Jinnah's mind this brave new nation had no other claim on American friendship than this - that across a wild tumble of roadless mountain ranges lay the land of the BoIsheviks. I wondered whether the Quaid-i-Azam considered his new state only as an armored buffer between opposing major powers. He was stressing America's military interest in other parts of the world. "America is now awakened," he said with a satisfied smile. Since the United States was now bolstering up Greece and Turkey, she should be much more interested in pouring money and arms into Pakistan. "If Russia walks in here," he concluded, "the whole world is menaced."

In the weeks to come I was to hear the Quaid-i-Azam's thesis echoed by government officials throughout Pakistan. "Surely America will build up our army," they would say to me. "Surely America will give us loans to keep Russia from walking in." But when I asked whether there were any signs of Russian infiltration, they would reply almost sadly, as though sorry not to be able to make more of the argument. "No, Russia has shown no signs of being interested in Pakistan."

This hope of tapping the U. S. Treasury was voiced so persistently that one wondered whether the purpose was to bolster the world against Bolshevism or to bolster Pakistan's own uncertain position as a new political entity. Actually, I think, it was more nearly related to the even more significant bankruptcy of ideas in the new Muslim state -- a nation drawing its spurious warmth from the embers of an antique religious fanaticism, fanned into a new blaze.

Jinnah's most frequently used technique in the struggle for his new nation had been the playing of opponent against opponent. Evidently this technique was now to be extended into foreign policy. ....
The Soviets eventually did march into Afghanistan and "the whole world was menaced".  The US helped create a cadre of jihadis, which, once the Soviets withdrew, posed a threat to the US.  The last decade has been all about the US' efforts to curb this threat.  Pakistan meanwhile. mastered the art of being the threat that could be mitigated by US bribes. ("Pakistan now negotiates with its allies and friends by pointing a gun to its own head" - Stephen P. Cohen, The Idea of Pakistan,  2004). Without a jihadi threat, Pakistan was of little interest to the US in the post-Cold War world, and so Pakistan fostered jihadis on the one hand and took money and arms to help fight them on the other.

The planned withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan in 2014 will open a new chapter of this book.  If the past is reliable guide, this chapter will make no more sense than any of the previous chapters.