Thursday, September 22, 2011

It's Not Me, It's You

In his waning days as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen is certainly speaking freely, blaming the recent attacks in Kabul on Pakistan directly via its support of the Haqqani network.
"The Haqqani network... acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Agency," Adm Mike Mullen told a Senate panel.
Admiral, tell us how you really feel!  Oh my.  So much for mil to mil relations.  When the arm of the US govt that has had the most interactions with another government becomes this blunt, it is hard to imagine things getting better.  The intel must be pretty good/bad for the Chairman to be saying such unpolitic things.  It is one thing for an out-going SecDef to spew a bit about burden-sharing in NATO.  It is another thing entirely for the head of the American military to say such stuff about a supposed ally.  But given the events of the past year--Bin Laden being found so close to various military HQs, the increased sense that Pakistan is not merely tolerating the Haqqani folks but working with them, and all the rest, the gloves are coming off.

Not that the US can really get what it wants out of Pakistan* through threats and bluster.  Kindness failed, and it is hard to see how being brusque will work better.  Still, the farce is apparently over--that the idea that Pakistan is helping out rather than hurting the US.  So much for that.  There is something to be said for being clear about what is going on.  It may not change anything, but at least people cannot hide or be offended by others hiding or being hypocritical.  US relations with Pakistan are a mess--the Emperor has no clothes.
* As a student of caveats, let me issue one: I am not an expert on Pakistan or India, but am wildly speculating.

The timing is interesting to me, as I was lecturing my intro course the other day about how political scientists define power: to get others to do what they would otherwise not do.  How does the US get Pakistan to change its behavior?  It seems clear that the US either lacks the levers to push Pakistan or the willingness to accept other costs to get Pakistan to do what the US wants. Part of the problem is that Pakistani leaders doubt American will to support it in a time of crisis.  Which is legitimate given how the last three wars or so played out (with Pakistan getting its butt kicked and the US tilting a bit towards India).  But part of the Pakistani problem is that they have views that are almost Foxs-news-esque in terms of their divorce from reality.  Enough actually believe that Afghanistan provides them with strategic depth--that Pakistan could have forces retreat to Afghanistan in the face of an Indian invasion.  They also fear that India can use Afghanistan as a way to encircle Pakistan.  Of course, Pakistan's own policies do a good job of creating encirclement.  The laughable part is that Afghanistan is a crappy place for any outside to use for any particular purpose.  Yes, it can serve as a base for terrorism, but Pakistan has proved that its own territory works just fine for that (as does India's).

So, the US ability to change things is limited.  It is unlikely that shaming will work better than the other efforts made by the US, but it might have been one of the few tools left in the box.  Now what?  How about a great tilt towards India?  As the US leaves Afghanistan over the next few years, dependence on Pakistan will wane.  Then the incentives and options will be much, much clearer.  Pakistan can embrace China, and is already doing so, of course.  But it is used to having both China and the US on its side.  Having the US really jump onto India's side is very much a worse case scenario.  Well, for Pakistan.  For the US, India and many others, it may very well be inevitable.  If I were a Pakistani leader today, I would be trying to figure out whether China can fill the holes left by the breaking American relationship.  

Update: More details from NYT story.  Mullen is very, very sharp, as he points out that Pakistan is not only messing with everyone else but is watering the seeds of its own destruction.  They will not see it that way, but sometimes you have to tell an alcoholic that they are an alcoholic.  My words, not Mullen's.

1 comment:

Addison said...

This reminds me, have you read 'Obama's Wars'? It provides an interesting look into the civ-mil relations from right before the McCrystal's troop surge. I'd be interested to hear what you take away from it.