Pakistan Is Where The Fight Is, The Fight Is Not Military
Image by azrainman via Flickr
Pakistan is where the fight is. It is not in Iraq, it is not in Afghanistan. The gradual withdrawal from Iraq seems to be bringing in relative normalcy, the democratic state is gaining strength. Afghanistan is a relatively small country. But Pakistan is huge. It is a nuclear power. It is, officially speaking, a democracy. It has a rabid, Islamist, vocal right wing in the parliament and in the streets, and in the wastelands.
Pakistan is a tough nut to crack. America is already inside Iraq. America is already inside Afghanistan. Should America think of going into Pakistan? That is a very tough nut to crack. My instinct says no, a big no. If you have to go in, you have already failed. You could argue should not everything be done to prevent the Islamists from taking over in Pakistan, up to and including going in? To that my reply is going to be, why did you not exercise all options that would have made it unnecessary to go in? But going into Pakistan is not unimaginable, just like a dirty bomb going off in some city is not unimaginable. You just hope it does not happen, you do everything possible to make sure it does not happen.
Pakistan is a challenge for the democratic ideal. How do you build a state? How do you bring a big, strong army completely under the domain of a popularly elected parliament? How do you bring forth grassroots democracy and genuine reform? Why do the Islamists represent the idea of land reform in the Swat valley? Why not the democrats?
Why was it so easy to kill Benazir? It should not have been. The Al Qaeda managing to kill Benazir is like if the democratic forces had managed to kill Bin Laden. That was a big prize for them. That helped them grow.
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How do you strengthen democracy in Pakistan? How do you strengthen the democratic state? America has singularly poured tens of billions into the Pakistani army. The paranoia can be partly understood. But the solution is primarily political, not military. How many billions has America poured into Pakistan's primary education sector? Can America compete for the hearts and minds of Pakistan's young and vulnerable?
I am not naive. I appreciate that there is a military angle to the fight, but if that is the only angle you see, you are doomed to fail. Even with that military angle, the fights end up being nontraditional and asymmetrical.
The world has to help build Pakistan's political parties, and its democracy, and its reform efforts. The Islamists can't be seen as the vanguard of reform. The democrats have to eat their lunch.