The Great Game Begins

‘The Great Game’ otherwise known as ‘Tournament of Shadows’ was a deadly proxy fight between expansionist Russia and Imperialist England during the late 19th century.  England was defensive regarding her position as guardian of India (what constituted today’s Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Nepal and Bangladesh).  Russia was expanding Imperialist style like England only without commercial ties or sufficient Navy.  By expanding into areas dangerously close to British coveted land, Russia threatened England into a deadly proxy war that destroyed both belligerents.

We are witnessing the same today regarding the political relation between Pakistan and the United States.  Pakistan does not want a neighboring Afghan Republic favorable to India.  Pakistan is threatened at every turn by India.  This hysterical political foil is proving to be a most difficult political problem for the United States, especially given how Pakistan proclaims a partnership with the United States but continues to behave unlike an ally.

Pakistan is now courting relations with Iran in its drive to create a wedge between American objectives throughout Central/South Asia and Pakistan’s pursuit of its own hegemony in the region.

How did we arrive here?

ISI has become a terrorist agency devoted to its own survival.  Its client is ironically both the United States and Pakistan.  But it continues to behave in a Janus like fashion, taking money and pursuing political aims that thwart is biggest client:  the U.S.

This rift became exposed during the capture and killing of bin Laden.  Now an infuriated Congress wants to expose the fault line constituting this rift in threatening to slash its $13 Billion dollar stimulus.  This comes on the heels of ISI’s purge of any members with links to CIA (its own client).

Pakistan’s response?  Cease surveillance assistance for CIA, stop drone attacks in Waziristan, pull visas for American officials.  Deputy CIA director Michael Morell recently said that Pakistani assistance in the ‘Long War’ ranks about a 3 out of 10!  Worse still was U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates remark that Pakistani and U.S relations are best expressed as a ‘troubled marriage’.  How do we mend this breach?

Pakistan must take civilian control over the ISI.  This dove tails with recent popular support that Pakistan begin its implementation away from a dominate military ethos towards civilian governance over its own political objectives.  This remains the only way Pakistan can move forward away from militarization of domestic culture from which contemporary Islamic insurgents throughout tribal regions easily exploit.

As of this writing, the ISI and the Pakistani military establishment seem stronger than any civilian ethic within Pakistan.  This might change!  Especially given how the CIA have revealed how impatient it is growing with Pakistani duplicity in its domestic support for the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, terrorist bombings in Mumbai, and the bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul.

Unless Pakistan internally develops the political will to strengthen civilian life then Pakistan itself, although united in its hatred of India and America, remains internally fractured ethnically easily destabilized by insurgents and terrorists alike.

What makes the ISI arrogant enough to assume its can take hold of the monster it continually births?  Islamic radicalism has found a permanent home throughout Pakistan, the ISI thinks it can handle the very monster IT CREATED!

The Greeks were right, first comes hubris then nemesis.


About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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