Exclusive: A No-Brainer on Pakistan Raids
by N. M. GUARIGLIA
December 10, 2008
I do not know anyone smart enough to solve Pakistan’s complicated domestic-political neurosis with one fell swoop. There is, however, common ground where serious minds can meet. Clearly, the outcome in Afghanistan is directly linked to Pakistan. Nobody really disputes that. But the consensus seems to end there.
There have been recent suggestions that “one surge does not fit all,” implying merely because the Iraq surge succeeded, does not mean a similar strategy should be employed in Afghanistan. While this is all well and good, I fear these suggestions miss the forest for the trees. What the United States must do – if it wishes to pacify the Afghan-Pakistani borderlands – is not simply a repeat of the Iraq surge, but an implementation of the timeless military, political, and psychological principles behind it.
This means we must accept the premise that military options are as equally capable of reaching a political solution as the latter is capable of reaching the former. In fact, many times, the two are intertwined. For three years in Iraq, the carrots of political representation and greater say in parliament failed to bring the Sunni insurrection in from the cold. It was only when the Anbar and Diyala tribes realized al Qaeda had overplayed its hand and overstayed its welcome, did they “flip.” It was only when the domestic bad guys feared the United States more than the Jihadi foreigners did they accept our extended hand, and request greater U.S. presence to maintain local security.
The same rule applies with the al Qaeda-Taliban clique in Waziristan. For messianic movements, “submission” is a deeply gratifying psychological experience; one with highly religious overtones. Reaching out to Mullah Omar’s men with olive branches – whether it is President Karzai, General Petraeus, the Saudi royals, or Mr. Obama – before a literal (and more significantly perceptional) resounding humiliation of the Taliban-allied militiamen in Pakistan is foolhardy. If we have learned anything in the last eight years, it is that religiously-inspired militants are more likely to question their own piousness in the aftermath of undisputed defeat, than they are to “re-radicalize” themselves in some manner.
Currently, it seems we are doing just the opposite. The West seems to believe only inviting the Taliban movement back into Afghan polity will work, when in truth, such social redemption should only be offered to those Taliban people who have left the insurgency, renounced the Taliban’s aims, al Qaeda, terrorism, and theocracy.
Secondly, and perhaps most importantly in the case of Pakistan, we must address state sponsorship of insurgency, address it accordingly in that context, and derive our respect for sovereignty from that orientation. This is what Col. Ralph Peters calls “the sovereignty con,” perhaps the most ludicrous modern arrangement of international relations theory – another gem from the obsolete European legacy – whereby, no matter what the facts present, we are to respect the sacrosanct sovereignty of a state like Pakistan. Nonsense.
Despite billions of dollars in American military and economic assistance given to Islamabad, it’s the same old song and dance. As Bill Roggio, the irreplaceable war correspondent, has reported, the United States is now considering listing several senior officers in Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) agency as international terrorists.
Thousands of innocents have perished, whether in New York, Mumbai, or elsewhere, because the Pakistani government – be it Gen. Musharraf or Asif Ali Zardari – continues to triangulate, and cannot adequately control its own military and intelligence apparatus. Sure, the Pakistanis hand us over the proverbial “Number Three Guy in al Qaeda” every year or so – to whet our appetites – but in the end, pressuring the government either for more crackdowns or more democracy, they swear, would only lead to the worse alterative of an Islamist takeover.
While we should do everything in our power to wean the Pakistani government away from its dependency on the ISI, and to cleanse the ISI of al Qaeda-linked murderers, we must accept the humble possibility that in the Afghan-Pakistani fight – what President-elect Obama calls the “real war” – we are largely on our own. On our left flank, NATO allies refuse to fight in certain provinces and at certain times of the day; on our right flank, the Pakistani government remains either incapable or unwilling, or both, to take the proper sovereign responsibility of all national governments, and restore order to the madness committed by its own citizenry on its own soil.
Tens of thousands of people around the world remained threatened because of a lack of political will from various quarters, both home and abroad. To have a nuclear power with large swaths of its territory deemed “no-go zones,” regions controlled by apocalypticists with the blood of thousands on their hands, is an unacceptable predicament. Considering the circumstances, the magnitude of the menace, and the archaic and outdated nature of the legalities which tie our hands, we reserve the right to intervene into wilderness Pakistani territory, with or without Pakistan’s consent – and preferably without Pakistan’s knowledge.
So speak softly, Mr. Obama. But please wield some sort of stick. To paraphrase one former Pentagon official: there will be some things people will see, there will be some things that people will not see. And life goes on.