Diplomacy is but continuation of war by other means
There was a briefing by the Pakistan army about the possible repercussions of the current tension with the US. Defence experts clearly said that the Pakistan army is in no position to fight a war with the allied forces. The same was said by analyst Farrukh Saleem. He said that no force in the world can counter the might of the American military machine. He had numbers and we know they seldom lie: Their defence budget stands at seven and a half trillion dollar whereas 192 of the rest of the world’s countries spend a combined 15 trillion dollars on defence. Pakistan’s budget stands at 5 billion dollars, a miniscule 0.67 percent of the US’ budget.
People who are clamouring for teaching the Yanks a lesson are maybe unaware of these harsh realities. The cancer that is thriving in us – what the world calls terrorism – is something both our foes and friends including China, are afraid of. A few days ago, I was reading an essay which analysed how to procure China’s help and get it on board for any action against Pakistan. It surmised that China could be persuaded if the US said that the target of its activities would only be the terrorists and the neutering of Pakistan’s nuclear programme. According to the analyst writing this, separatist in Xinjiang are getting support from Pakistan. Despite Pakistan’s friendship with China, there are elements in Pakistan who support these separatists and it is these very elements that carry out activities against Chinese working on development projects here. Xinjiang’s population is well above 100 million and China cannot afford to lose such a huge chunk of its country and encourage other such copycat rebellions. China’s biggest fear – much like the US’ – is that these Chinese terrorists could get their hands on Pakistani nukes.
I don’t think the Mohmand attack was coincidental, accidental or a response to some immediate development. It was the part of a well-laid plan. There are even reports that multiple scenarios were considered when planning this attack including what would be done if Pakistan retaliated in kind. The 300 targets that the US identified in case of open confrontation with Pakistan, 15 percent of those targets are in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa alone. It was planned that the US response would be restricted to this area in the first stages of its reprisal.
The mention of this retaliatory activity in response to Pakistan’s possible retaliation was first seen in Spengler’s article Blazing Saddles in Pakistan published in Asia Times Online. The article even mentions that one of the American plans is ‘exporting instability into Pakistan.’ To this end, they purport supporting insurgents and separatist in different regions so that Pakistan’s army is spent fighting these elements and has little juice left for other things. The Iran-Iraq war was mentioned as an illustrative example saying that it was prolonged to the extent that it completely broke the backs of two countries involved. They think if Pakistan is entangled enough in internal wars, it won’t have the strength for external ones.
I just want to remind here that the thought of a direct confrontation with the US is neither on the minds of our defence experts nor is it even a noteworthy option in the eyes of our analysts. The Americans themselves know we can’t fight them. But they want us to accept that the only acceptable solution to the Afghan situation is one that is acceptable to the US. The Americans say that it is their ‘right’ to implement the strategic aims that they have formulated for Western Asia. The aims of strategic depth that Pakistan has are irrelevant in the grand American scheme of things. They didn’t start the Afghan war so that Pakistan could get its way; they started it so they could get their way. They want Pakistan to be an ally that is helpful of US aims and situates its own Pakistani ends within those American ends. GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum said in a debate on security issues that “Pakistan must be our friend.” This clearly means that the US ‘needs’ our ‘friendship’ and will do what it seems right to get it.
This is why I am in favour of using diplomatic and ethical means to counter American aggression rather than doing something reckless in our incensed state. I also gave the suggestion in an interview to a private TV channel that the matter of the Mohmand attack should be taken to the Security Council. This was debated muchly on many talk shows. In this discussion, a former diplomat said that this plan of action could turn out against us as instead of helping us, it could lead to some resolution being passed against us. I don’t think there is any chance of that. Russia and China will both be present there. They could veto such a resolution. But if diplomatic mandarins think that such a resolution could be passed against terror centres in Pakistan, it is a misconception on their part.
Don’t get me wrong here. It is true that international opinion is already shored up against terrorism and the Afghan invasion was taken after a UN resolution. It is not unthinkable that the US could get the ambit of such a resolution increased to include Pakistan by proffering the simple argument that the terrorist formerly in Afghanistan have also extended their ambit of influence. I don’t disagree with the diplomats saying that there could be a resolution against us. But I don’t also think that resolution will be passed. What will happen is that our stance against American aggression will have reached the Security Council’s platform.
I would even say that we should go one step ahead and conduct a proper and widespread diplomatic campaign where our special envoys should go to influential countries and present our side of the story and the tale of our difficulties and compulsions. We should let the world know that we are trying to fight terror to the best of our (restricted) abilities. But the US is not helping because of such activities. It is strengthening the hands of the terrorists as it is giving them a treasure trove of anti-Americanism to capitalise on. It is also leading to undue public pressure on the government which is weakening its hand against the terrorists. Thus, the US itself is then helping promote terrorism.
I stated at the start of this article that a military war with the US would be unwinnable. What we can’t do is fight America militarily. What we can do is seek recourse to diplomatic means and stand our ground there. What we can do is take our case to the international comity and ask it to tell the US not to stifle us so that we can devote ourselves to fighting terrorism. If all we keep doing is making lots of noise instead of formulating a cogent case, it will be much like wee little us throwing stones at the giant that is the US.
The writer is one of Pakistan’s most widely read columnists.