Contemporary analysts don’t study military history, specifically civil military relations. Its reserved for generals who attend secular universities or the uncommon scholar who insists on studying varying political regimes and their dependent relations with the United States. When McMaster wrote Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff & the lies the led to Vietnam, he insisted that a proper study of the conflict would entail sufficient reflection on civil military relations and its corrupting influence on policy formation throughout the changing nature of the conflict.
What McMaster knew played out in America’s limited reach throughout Southwest Asia. Pakistan and by extension, Afghanistan isn’t a humbling case study regarding the limits of American power, for McMaster and others residing in the American defense establishment recognized that war as formal policy cannot change the domestic consensus of regional allies, especially those that are feudal. Japan, Germany, and a dozen other countries have proved otherwise, but American calculus was always limited; it always sought to strengthen alliances before relying on unilateral power abroad.
Immediately after 9/11, U.S. policy in Pakistan was to defend Islamabad’s nuclear arsenal from falling into the hands of jihadi’s. Its second aim was to destroy al-Qaeda and other regional allies from developing bases in Afghanistan. It is this policy that has proved indomitable.
The chronic, triangular mistrust can be sourced to the Obama administrations desire to withdraw from both Mesopotamia and Southwest Asia, this encouraged Islamabad to field plans to secure its rear in Afghanistan by fomenting civil war by proxy in the hope of displacing New Delhi’s interests in Kabul.
Pakistani interests are difficult to disentangle from the feudal state it stokes domestically. Islamabad openly promotes jihadi’s on both sides of Durand while justifying its outsized claims on state resources. Both domestic objectives have damaged Islamabad’s relations with its dominant partner while fracturing its tenuous hold on domestic jihadi’s.
The canard that the American’s lacked a coherent geopolitical vision for Southwest Asia was always wrong and shortsighted. Written by academics with no formal experience or training in the region; sighting a fatal ambiguity that endures sells media coverage, but it cannot account for the duplicitous nature of Islamabad. Evidenced in its handling of both domestic drone strikes and Hafiz Saeed, the Citadel is proving itself to both masters: the U.S. and its own national interests.
Three days ago Hafiz Saeed, leader of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) gave a blistering attack upon his political masters in Islamabad at Friday’s prayers in the Jamia Qadsia mosque. JuD remains a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terrorist group whose aim is perpetual agitation against India.
The reason: Trump is pushing to harm Pakistan’s political economy by withholding $2 billion in aid while demanding that Pakistan take an open public confrontation with JuD or risk having Pakistan listed by Treasury as complicit in terrorism, effectively opening the Jamia Qadsia mosque and its JuD dependencies to state confiscation.
Saeed’s speech was aimed at his political masters claiming that “our rulers are making this country an American colony“. Unnoticed was how many decades Saeed has roamed throughout Lahore with a $10 million bounty.
The state has confiscated over 200 properties belonging to JuD including its charity, schools, religious seminaries, ambulances and clinics throughout its campus at Muridke immediately outside Lahore. All of this is to prevent the U.S. and its European allies from listing Pakistan as an enabler of terror at Paris’ meeting of the Finance Action Task Force.
If the American’s want a win with Islamabad, they’ll need to confront the intrenched feudal political culture that dominates the ruling Punjabi’s. That would mean liberalizing Pakistan’s political economy. Having Pakistan return to being a functioning Republic will permanently threaten how the ruling Army views Pakistani interests.
We occupied Japan, Germany and hosts of nations states because we believed in changing the domestic political regime of countries that chose war. We no longer believe that that option is viable; so the long game remains.
Until Pakistan returns to being a functioning Republic laid out by its founder Mohammed Jinnah, we’re left monitoring clowns like Saeed.