Will Pakistan Become A Theocracy? II

Posted by sepoy on April 17, 2009 · 3 mins read

Read what David Kilcullen, close advisor to General Petraeus, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee back in Feb:

In Pakistan, we need to stop asking ourselves the question “Is Pakistan an enemy or an ally?” Pakistan is NOT the enemy. But we have enemies — as well friends — in Pakistan. We need to identify those friends and enemies, and empower our friends to deal with our enemies. This is a classic diplomatic strategy, and an essential enabler for it is to build a willing partner in Pakistan — something that will mean, amongst other things, that we need to help Pakistani civilian politicians gain control over their own national-security establishment, and we need to impose a much more stringent set of limitations on strikes into Pakistani territory.

Things aren't hopeless, but they are extremely serious.

Now via Jonathan, comes this gem, U.S. experts: Pakistan on course to become Islamist state. The first cited source is Kilcullen. Via google, I found the same quote from him predicting the collapse of Pakistan within months at the SMH. Juan Cole even rebutted.

Is this quote, in the McClatchy, also Kilcullen?:

"The place is beyond redemption," said a Pentagon adviser who asked not to be further identified so he could speak freely. "I don't see any plausible scenario under which the present government or its most likely successor will mobilize the economic, political and security resources to push back this rising tide of violence.

"I think Pakistan is moving toward a situation where the extremists control virtually all of the countryside and the government controls only the urban centers," he continued. "If you look out 10 years, I think the government will be overrun by Islamic militants."

This appears to be a drastic shift of opinion. What is going on Kilcullen? This is a drumbeat (of what? war? invasion? pre-emptive drone attacks on nuclear sites?). Check our moon-crazy,Tony Blankley:

Yet Pakistan's military seems insufficient to deal with the radical Islamists. After the Taliban took over the Swat Valley in the middle of Pakistan, seized an emerald mine to help finance their war with America and Pakistan, and established Shariah law, the Pakistani government was so weak it accepted a cease-fire with Maulana Fazlullah, a local thug and terrorist.

With our own Army too small, our NATO allies unwilling to help, and Gen. Petraeus' senior counterinsurgency adviser worried that the Taliban and al-Qaida will be able to take over nuclear Pakistan, we are left with a policy of temporizing and crossing our fingers.

Blankley is not the type to cross fingers and wait. Some crazy spin is in the air.


Long Time Chapati Lover | April 17, 2009

A very Pakistani trait to take a statement, not at face-value, but as a tool to advance some more secret agenda. Maybe Kilcullen has changed his mind, due to recent events, and is saying what he thinks. No crazy spin required.

DesiBackToDesh | April 17, 2009

LeCarre preached the many virtues of cousins from across the pond for 30 years. In the end he gave up and focused on the lesser evils of the earth such a money laundering, drugs, arms and big pharma. From his later works, one gets a sense that he found these subjects immensely cleaner and lighter than the twisted betrayals, within the same teams, behind the same lines. And we are not even related. So bring the conspiracy theories on.

Long Time Chapati Lover | April 17, 2009

My last comment came off a little hostile -- I apologize. To make amends, I offer you the latest Robert Kaplan article on Pakistan. . To travel the Makran coast is to experience .. an exploding sea ... against a knife-carved apricot moonscape of high sand dunes ... conical incrustations that hark back far before the age of human folly

Qalandar | April 17, 2009

I am not a fan of Kaplan's work, and its typically breezy combo of superficial comparisons, invocation of ancient historical parallels, and general breathlessness. However, I found this piece very interesting because of the discussion of Baloch nationalism, and the number of Baloch "voices" Kaplan quotes here -- this isn't a discourse one often encounters in the English-language media of the sub-continent...

Conrad Barwa | April 17, 2009

To paraphrase Twain, I think reports of the imminent or upcoming demise of the Pakistani state are much exaggerated. not to say that there isnt' a need for concern but books and works on this subject have been around for at least 20-30 years now; it is just that recent pressures have brought such concerns to the fore. Kaplan is a hack; a hack who writes well and has a few insights but a hack nonetheless. Wrote a fluent and smooth piece on Modi's Gujarat a few weeks ago in the Atlantic that was awful in its content while being elegant in its style.

Qalandar | April 17, 2009

The problem is how influential Kaplan can be: I recall reports that his "Balkan Ghosts" was one of the books Bill Clinton was most affected/informed by on the issue in the 1990s. On his piece on Modi, I at least took some comfort from the fact that Kaplan was quite clear on the fascistic aspect of Modi's rule in Gujarat...

karuna44 | April 17, 2009

Yes, the voices . . . “If we keep fighting,” he [Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri, the chief of the Marri tribe of Baluch] told me gently, “we will ignite an intifada like the Palestinians'. It is the cause of my optimism that the young generation of Baluch will sustain a guerrilla war. Pakistan is not eternal. It is not likely to last. The British Empire, Pakistan, Burma—these have all been temporary creations. "

Qalandar | April 17, 2009

Following on from Conrad's comment: I agree, and am reminded of what someone once said about Egypt, namely that the problem is not its instability, but the fact that it is a bit too stable (it was said in the context of the fact that Egypt has basically had two regimes for the better part of two centuries). W/r/t Pakistan too, one could construct a narrative that -- by focusing on the non-existence of land-reform, and the consequent persistence of feudal preeminence in the country's most populous provinces; and the permanent primacy of the military; and the enduring nature of tribal/clan-based modes, as well as the maintenance of colonial-era legal regimes to "manage" them -- turns on stability, not collapse. My concern with Pakistan (borne out in large part) has always been a slow and steady drift towards certain sorts of ideologies -- implosion etc. simply does not happen to countries with the sort of military/bureaucratic steel frame that Pakistan does. Here's an interesting thought-experiment: has any country that the British colonized for an extended period just up and collapsed? Off the top of my head, and racking my brains for multi-ethnic examples, I would have to say no: Nigeria, India, Kenya, South Africa, Malaysia, have all shown endurance in the face of civil wars, insurgencies, etc. (needless to say, all inherited the colonial state and persisted with it, no-one having come up with an alternative model = that combination of military force + bureaucratic control + violence + status quo-ist nature of the post-colonial ruling structures has weathered the test of time). Pakistan ended up split in two after a civil war, but I think all will agree that the East/West dichotomy post-1947 was a rather unusual way to run the country. Given that the Pakistan army unleashed a genocide rather than yield to the Awami League, and given that there is no sign of abandoning Balochistan, the pashtun areas, etc., I find it hard to believe we are dealing with a collapse here. The concern is te increasing prestige of certain ideologies, and the increasing acceptance of certain discourses as "normal."

karuna44 | April 17, 2009

"The concern is the increasing prestige of certain ideologies, and the increasing acceptance of certain discourses as 'normal'.” Yes, perhaps this is a more productive frame . . .

gaddeswarup | April 17, 2009

There is a discussion of Kilcullen's views here Fighting terror with brain power

rd | April 17, 2009

Here is the reason Taliban will win. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/17/world/asia/17pstan.html?_r=1 Pakistan has population growth rate of 4.4%. Pakistan had lived on hatred. Only thing they look for is defeat of India. So there is no Pro reason for Pakistan. Society has to have compact. Pakistan cannot just have landlord and military keeping all the loot. You can talk about till you turn blue on the face. So keep scamming the Chinese , Saudis and Americans for few dollars so you think you can outsmart the talibans.

Conrad Barwa | April 18, 2009

^ The Taliban as leaders of the dispossesed and oppressed peasantry thesis?! Oh dearie me. Even Kaplan could come up with something more original.

sepoy | April 18, 2009

No one has been as consistently wrong as Kaplan. Hmm. Let me rephrase. No one has been as consistently wrong-headed as Kaplan. Here is an oldie but goodie: http://www.vqronline.org/articles/2006/summer/bissell-euphoria-perrier/

Qalandar | April 18, 2009

Excellent piece, hadn't read this one before...

Conrad Barwa | April 18, 2009

That is a great article sepoy - I haven't read anything of Kaplan's apart from "the Coming Anarchy" which was one of the worst and most disturbingly crypto-racist things I have ever come across. Scary that this guy is taken even vaguely seriously. I loved this quote btw: "We need more works like Taras Bulba, to better understand the emotional wellsprings of the threat we face today in places like the Middle East and Central Asia.” PMSL - Taras Bulba as a way of understanding the Taliban! I will say this for Kaplan though; he isn't boring like most of the dried up apologists and enthusiasts for imperialism - it takes a creative imagination to be as wrong as he is!

Akbar | April 19, 2009

"The concern is te increasing prestige of certain ideologies, and the increasing acceptance of certain discourses as “normal.”" I think that is the money quote. Looking back " Communism" collapsed. Now "Monoply Capitalism" has committed suicide on Wall Street. And Taliban like voters in California pull the plug on Gay marriage etc. So one can sense that there is an urge for a better social/ economical model/ Idealogy. Now I am not saying that it will come from Pakistan or Talibans but majority of very poor and chronically deprived Pakistanis may have a legitimate desire to look for alternative to the present day,Zaradari/Milliatary/Dollar/Drones dispensation that is being rammed down their collective throats. The Analogy of Taliban and Pakistan and all the doomsday scenarios can be compared to the Bush Regimen and use of Al-Qaida threats( remember Tom Ridge and color coded warnings). Iam mazed how Pakistani press has started painting Taliban as Hitler and Pakistani Govt as Chamberlaine appeasing at Munich. Have we lost our collective minds. Why are we so afraid to look at the real issues and define them rationally rather than succumbing to fear and hyperbole.

Salman | April 19, 2009

"Kaplan's new book, Imperial Grunts, in which one cannot be sure whether the latter word is a noun or a verb" Hilarious. Thanks for sharing the VQR article. Speaking of Kaplan, my only encounter with Kaplan so far, had been an essay that Michael Sells wrote about Bosnia called "Christ killer, Kremlin, Contagion", published in the book "The New Crusades." Sells describes how Kaplan was obsessed with the smells and appearance of the places he was writing about, and with how Albanian young Muslim men of Kosovo "wore threadbare pants held up by safety pins in places where zippers should have been." Following is a review of the essay http://americansforbosnia.blogspot.com/2008/06/christ-killer-kremlin-contagion-by.html For those interested, "The New Crusades" was a very good read.

omar ali | April 20, 2009

I was on a road trip across the North East last week and met 10 or so different pakistani expats (I know, small unrepresentative sample) and found that ALL were uniformly pessimistic about Pakistan. The biggest optimist (that is how he labeled himself) presented this optimistic theory: "This is nothing new. It is the role of Punjab to act as a buffer for India. The taliban will take over and do their thing and in a hundred years we will teach their descendants poetry and music and make them sufficiently Indian for their grandchildren to act in Hindi movies. Dont worry..." I am worried...

karuna44 | April 20, 2009

Can any of you learned ones tell me anything about Vikram Singh, Defense Advisor on Pakistan and Afghanistan? I know that until earlier this year he was affliated with the CNAS (Center for a New American Security, where the aforementioned deservedly much maligned Robert Kaplan is currently a senior fellow - what does that say about the CNAS?). I was just listening to Singh speak on C-Span on a panel about U.S. Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq policy at Duke University. I did not hear anything particularly compelling (except for his odd reference to "beauty salon" policy). Any informed insights would be appreciated . . .

laleh | April 21, 2009

CNAS is the home of counterinsurgents. John Nagl, Andrew Exum, Thomas Ricks are all there still (Nagl is a co-author of the counterinsurgency manual; Exum runs the Abu Muqaqwama COIN blog; Ricks celebrates the rescue of Iraq by COIN/surge). Other former founders and fellows are now at DoD. Michelle flournoy, Shawn Brimley, and a few others have now moved to DoD. Kilcullen is also an occasional fellow, I think. In the CNAS version of COIN, humanitarian militarism (or military humanitarianism) is wedded to a "cultural" vision of military operation in which anthropologists with local knowledge of the indigenous tribes shape the work of the military units on the ground. Singh belongs to the same group...

laleh | April 21, 2009

And Kaplan is probably at CNAS because his Imperial Grunts specifically celebrates special operations forces (which is central to COIN). Also, the Bissell review of Kaplan, though very funny and comprehensive, I am afraid suffers from the delusion that the US is *not* an empire. On this one, I am afraid I have to agree with Kaplan (although, of course, unlike Kaplan, I don't celebrate the empire and its footsoldiers).

karuna44 | April 21, 2009

Thanks for the info. laleh.

Qalandar | April 27, 2009

Some useful points here: http://www.chowk.com/articles/urban-middle-classs-steady-descent-into-conservatism-and-religious-right-raza-habib.htm

Will Pakistan Become a Theocracy? III | April 27, 2009

[...] Previously: I, II. [...]

Why are we fighting in Pakistan? « Fabius Maximus | May 15, 2009

[...] Part two, 17 April 2009 — Crazy spin in the air about Pakistan; cites Kilcullen as an example. [...]