The Realm of Ideas

Posted by sepoy on September 01, 2004 · 6 mins read

Via Abu Aardvark, I learned about A Practical Guide to Winning the War on Terrorism. As our fearless leader recently said that we may never win the war on terror, I was curious to see what this here practical guide was all about
(yeah, it's a cheap shot, move on). The guide is indeed filled with notables like Dale Eickleman, Muqtedar Khan, Prince Talal (my lil'est brother was named after him!), Martin Kramer, Olivier Roy, and Amir Taheri. Oh, I forgot to mention Stephen P. Cohen. It is this gentleman who wrote the piece on Pakistan, entitled, With Allies Like This: Pakistan and the War on Terrorism.

Dr. Cohen is the author of 5000 books and articles about homistan (remind me some other time to tell you all about the 5000 year joke). He is the "expert". I would call him the Bernard Lewis of South Asia. Yeah, that lame. I have no idea what he is saying half the time but I know that people listen to him, people in power. People in Pakistan hate him because he is pro-India. People in India hate him because he is pro-Pakistan. People in Pakistan love him because he is pro-Pakistan. People in India love him because he is pro-India. They all can cite profusely from his work as evidence for their like/dislike. I am dead serious.
updated below the fold

How did Dr. Cohen get to such expertitude heights? He got his M.A. in 1959 (or A.M. as we call it) from UChicago with a thesis on US Foreign Policy and Unconditional Surrender. In 1967, he got his Ph.D. from UWisc-Madison on Indian military during the British period. It is unclear to me if he even knows hindi or urdu from glancing at the abstract for his dissertation (his bio says he knows hindi but does not mention urdu which qualifies him to read bupkuss printed in his major field of expertise). He taught at UIUC for a while and then parlayed all that into a successful career with the state dept. and various right-center-right think tanks. He churned out books on India, Indian military, Pakistan, Pakistan military and the rise of the Indian Tiger against the Chinese Dragon (can he get more orientalist?).

Now, the reason I am telling you all about Dr. Cohen is that after the sub-continent went nuclear in 1999, he became the goto guy. On every talk show, in every op-ed we could find him telling us, what it all means. After 9/11, Dr. Cohen's level of expertise rose from military Pakistan to terrorist Pakistan. He has a lot to say and it is mostly, if not entirely, full of horseradish.

He is the quintessential Occidental "expert" who can pontificate from afar with his cadre of native informants and translators (his collaborator on this piece is a Mr. Moeed Yusuf, a consultant with SDPI). He has no insight. It is half-ass statements and vague generalities ("tie US support of the military with their performance in human rights"). This current piece was filled with all that. US should continue to support the Pakistani military dictator BUT promote democracy. Wow. How exactly does that work? It works by promoting secular education and fighting the war on terror in the realm of ideas!

Finally, Washington must take seriously the fact that Pakistan is an important arena of ideas. Most educated Pakistanis are not ideologically anti-American, but they are angry with the United States for changing the regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq and supporting President Musharraf. There is no one telling Americaís side of the story or engaging its critics in the realm of ideas and public discourse. American information programs in the country are practically nonexistent; these programs need to be revived and vastly expanded, and private organizations must be encouraged to increase their exchange and cultural programs, especially with younger Pakistanis, academics, journalists, and opinion leaders. In the long run the greatest challenge to the United States in Pakistan is in the realm of ideasóthe field must not be abandoned to Islamic radicals or those who see the United States as an inherently evil state.

So, instead of yanking on the General's chain or stop treating the country as your backyard in the proxy war on terrorISM, the US should convince the critics otherwise by hiring their own native experts. Sheesh! Here is an idea: How about we actually PROMOTE democracy by not propping dictators whenever it suits our needs. I have had it with these experts. [/end rant]. I look forward to reading his new book coming out on Pakistan, The Idea of Pakistan. Nitin has a synopsis. Actually, I don't really want to read it. I do think Sunil Khilnani should get royalty check for the title.

update: I must be in a really bad mood but wtf is up with the cover art for the Idea of Pakistan?? Is Pakistan a Mughal State? Is the Idea of Pakistan some medieval army charge? Compare that to Khilnani's cover. continuing with the rant...
What is up with covers of all recents books on Pakistan? Check this and this and this and this. guns. beards. scowls. lovely. in retrospect, I thank Dr. Cohen for his cover.