The central tenant of any counterinsurgency is the consolidation of domestic political leadership. What the Bush administration got right was his unwillingness to bend to the wishes of the Pentagon, State, Media, Congress or Wise men on the absolute need to search and kill terrorists and insurgents. He learned the lesson that Pericles knew so intimately: political leadership divines when to bend and when to stand firm.
The release of AfPak papers during the summer of 2010 is a bitter irony for this democratic administration. The history of disabling leaks is usually left for Republican Presidents. A leak is political sabotage. I think Nixon got it right when he demanded absolute loyalty from his subordinates, if they could not deliver on that, tender your resignation.
Presidents must shape domestic consensus, this is the primary quality of leadership, but it remains in short supply throughout ‘inside-the-beltway’ political craft, which is usually tacking after polls. What future Presidents must learn is that Roosevelt’s canny craft of remaining just behind domestic consensus is inadequate for today’s world of digital media, open borders and proliferating states. If President’s refuse to spend political capital they remain outside the vortex to shape events. The AfPak papers shows a President unwilling to trust the American people in divining statecraft. This is a deadly mistake that the insurgents would never make. How? Because it becomes an excuse for the political class in Washington to abandon the necessity of confronting Pakistan’s wily behavior as an ally. It also weakens the Americans domestically. We are at a turning point in this war, analogous to 2006 Iraq! Osama and the legions supporting him will smell weakness and expand.
The central damaging tenant of the AfPak papers is that Pakistan is a wily double dealing agent. The conflicting loyalties of Pakistan’s Directorte of Inter-Services Intelligence/ISI is known. What was hidden from the American’s was that ISI was assisting the Taliban.
What is Pakistan’s objective?
Pakistan fears Indian influence in its own region. It doubts U.S. staying power for ‘the long war’ and it wants to use the Taliban to shape the events on its Western border. To do these it must shape and influence the Taliban. But as I wrote in yesterday’s post regarding Honi Mubarak ironic grasp of authoritarian rule; the Pakistani’s are threatened by the Taliban. Notice large Pakistani movements in Swat Valley and South Waziristan.
The key political question is how can America best persuade Pakistan to act. That may require more political acumen from Obama. ISI has already read a weak American President, it may begin to shape its own political arrangements to acquire a lead so as not to be abandoned from the U.S.
We are witnessing an unpleasant reversal from the gains that Bush made in Iraq. Only sound political leadership out of Washington can defeat both the wiles of Pakistan and unfortunate leaks.