Saturday, March 22, 2008

Answering the wrong question

Abu Muqawama on Pakistan:
Raise your hands if you think Pakistan would totally sell the U.S., India, and Afghanistan down the river to earn it a (temporary and illusory) respite from the Islamist insurgents currently
threatening Islamabad. (You can't see it on your computer monitor, but Abu Muqawama is typing with one hand because the other is extended into the air.)

With all due respect...wrong. I haven't blogged on Pakistani politics for a while; partly, I think, out of the pathetic cognitive bias that tells me I shouldn't for fear of jinxing a string of almost frighteningly hopeful developments. Let's recap; the Americans didn't insist on saving Musharraf, the Saudis didn't succeed in kiboshing the PPP, which hasn't fallen apart, and - wonderfully - the PPP and the PML-N have managed to agree.

So we're looking at the possibility of a Pakistani government with majority support nation-wide and in both the Punjab and Sindh. That hasn't happened since....too long. And it has enough majority to restore the old judiciary and - should this be considered advisable - get rid of Musharraf. Pakistan voted against both the jihadis and their/our mates in the military establishment, and for once its political class has delivered. Strategy beats tactics. The reason why the jihadi movement has been able to operate in Pakistan is very probably that it has been so close to the military establishment for so long; Musharraf was, famously, the top proponent of using them to harass India and carve out a sphere of influence in Afghanistan all the way up to September, 2001. He wasn't always Plucky Pervez, ya know; our special relationship with him has been very special indeed.

Plenty could go wrong; more assassinations, coalition breakdown. But one thing will not happen, which is that the jihadis win. What is the key strategic objective of an insurgency? The hearts and minds of the...zzzz. The elections demonstrated conclusively that the jihadis have nowhere near this - they have bare tolerance in restricted parts of the country, mostly among people who are ethnically and politically at odds with the vast majority of Pakistanis. Insurgents are able to let off bombs; they are not "threatening Islamabad" in the sense Vietcong sappers massing in Cholon were threatening Saigon, or 1920 Revolution Brigades men raiding the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior back in 2006 were threatening Baghdad.

In Iraq, the US co-opted the Sunni insurgency; it's at least arguable that the Pakistani military dictatorship co-opted the US counter-insurgency. Further, when things like this happen, you've got to consider the risk that somebody wants a spiral of intervention, attacks on the interveners, more intervention, and so on; especially if the somebody stands to benefit on both sides.

Update: PPP PM picked. And it's not Mr 10% or Hi My Mum's Benazir!

Update Update: See Jason Burke, and also this story a commenter brung us; this is really fucking serious, and injecting more random violence into the situation is not the answer. Further, sending convoys via Landi Kotal? Don't these people read Kipling?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is big, Pakistan's answerto that clusterfuck (aka Dick Cheney) that is Afghanistan and Iraq.

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