Arthur Herman: The Perils Of Rigid Historicism

Ever since Leo Strauss wrote his infamous ‘Natural Right & History’ which forever defeated that overly rigid mental habit to discover a cyclical theme running throughout history (in academic circles its called Historicism), this Marxian habit certainly dies hard.  Witness the great Arthur Herman, a lovely historian who has finally decided to leave the Ivory Tower for real academic discourse as a visiting scholar at Washington’s American Enterprise Institute.  His latest column on Pakistan proves Tocqueville’s correct admonition that scholars arrogate unworthy authority on matters under their concern.

The recent successful drone attack inside Pakistan on Islamic militants is proof that Islamabad is not serious about tackling American interests!

The military is the only functioning institution within Pakistan.  It is also dreadfully wrong on India.  Pakistan continues to favor Taliban militants who target Afghans.  The continued false analogy that Pakistan needs a friendly Afghan government to give Pakistan ‘strategic depth’ as a policy/cultural reserve against an impending India is wrong.  India is not a threat to Pakistan.  Period.  But old ideas die hard in this land.

Western academics who portray themselves as authorities are providing false analogies with Vietnam as did Herman in his latest column.

The fact remains simple:  Dr. General David Petraeus knows that counter-insurgency strategy cannot win if it borders a region, a state that provides refuge.  Although research has proven that ethnography is no bulwark against common ideological interests as evidenced in the tribal regions shared by both Kabul and Islamabad.  Pakistan has been such for the Taliban for decades.  Dr. Petraeus knows that if the American strategy in its AfPak theatre is to gain traction then Islamic militants cannot have any safe harbor.  Period.  The consequences of upending this favorable relation is now sadly on display as we prove our worth and seriousness to a profoundly dubious ally.

Our soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan most know that theatre commanders are serious about their strategy.  Get good working cultural and legal governance in Afghanistan.  If that means up-ending the apple cart with Pakistan, then so be it.

Professor’s Arthur Herman ought to know the limits to his intellectual mistake in adhering to his rigid historicism by citing analogies to Vietnam.  The truth is far more sophisticated.  American theatre commanders are not going to be politically swindled by weak governments that give safe harbor to Islamic militants.

What does this mean?

Good news for American strategy in the AfPak region.

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About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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