February 22, 2014

THE FALLACY OF PEACE. An undited version of what appeared in Nation today

‘Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both’

Benjamin Franklin

In Pakistan, a yawning gap separates political positions and the art of state craft. Politics is the game of the rich and corrupt with linkages within to thwart the mandate of the people. In addition, Pakistani establishment is also amenable to foreign powers in subverting the aspirations of the people. Status quo pundits may cite 1970 elections as transparent at the cost of disintegrating the country. What they unlearn is that populist politics is like a river with anarchic meanders that ultimately find equilibrium. The establishment, turncoat politicians and their handlers outside do not have the patience to allow Pakistan to pass through such a metamorphosis. They want a quick fix solution. Perennially, the urgency to learn and acquire statecraft takes a backseat in preference to the long list of dos and don’ts. This list does not flow from the heart and leads to indignity. State craft is serious business. As national resources of a country like Pakistan get wasted and dwindled, it is the statesmen and leadership who are required to tenaciously hang on to fleeting opportunities to wrest victory from jaws of defeat. Leaders have to train to rise beyond the self and synergise the ocean of popular emotions into a constructive business of nation building. Pakistan has not seen it happen since 1947.

The seesaw of constitutionalism and military interventions in Pakistan is a story in contrary. Politicians have learnt to switch loyalties and abide by the dotted lines. So a checklist in the pocket though belittling is extremely important. Within this matrix, they also have a personal wish list of reinventing wheels their way. These conflicts of interests are played below the threshold of disturbing the equilibrium.

Another limitation is the inability to separate sloganeering politics from the larger interests of the state. Serious business of the state is relegated in favour of the wish list and the larger agenda. The National Reconciliations since 2007 are a case in point. Despite surgical procedures at the hand of butchers, the nation refuses to die.

Broad daylight robbery of a state in May this year has widened the cracks within the politic body and the confidence of at least 10 million voters. This has created a very large division within the country. Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf does not trust the system and is frequently at odds. Imran Khan inevitably positions himself as a symbol of change to rid Pakistan of these afflictions for good. Therefore, the larger narrative demands that he must be kept out; as for Imran Khan? He must keep attacking the system. ‘When the hurly burly is done and when the battle is lost and won’, Imran Khan places himself in posterity as a man who made the right noises and one who could lead the right way.

The airwaves of Peace Talks have eclipsed other serious business like introspection, learning, economic crises, legislation against terrorism and a broad based national security policy built around the core national interests. Despite repeated rants about the indispensability of a broad based national counter terrorism policy that works in synchronisation with selective and accurate use of force, no one seems to comprehend the urgency of the message. Military led counter terrorism with no complementary legislation, parliamentary and judicial oversight and policy implementations in other areas will keep putting the country back to square one after each pause. Going by the experience of past ten years the history will repeat itself for pursuing an approach that has failed once too often. Military operations are not the only solution.

In contrast, the militants with their apologist in mainstream politics are putting forth more broad based demands whose intentions are clear but logic dangerous. Their policy of threat, awe and selective imaging of violence before a hapless public whose leaders lack statesmanship will keep subduing willpower. They will continue creating cracks in the society till challenged with a broad based superior counter narrative. Where is this counter narrative?

So let us have a look at how this menace of militancy needs to be tackled. Clausewitz’ greatest contribution to the study of war was centrality of politics earlier seen as an exclusive and discreet activity by generals. Unfortunately in Pakistan, some generals and most politicians still think so. For Clausewitz, the use of violence is only logical if it flows out of a logical political action that leads a military battle plan. Limiting the coercive application of policy, Clausewitz insisted that policy must not promise itself a wrong effect through military means. Pakistani rulers are guilt of just that. He set the objectives of limited use of violence as ultimate submission of the enemy through a limited defeat to be used for bargaining at peace negotiations. In Pakistan, no one is clear of how the issue has to be tackled.

To explain further, Julian Lider referred to armed conflict as an activity of choice and opportunity on a perspective of relative equilibrium bonded from cooperation to coercion in which violence is exercised in rare and extreme cases to restore the political equilibrium. Therefore, modern conflicts [wars waged on non-state actors] are not an independent phenomenon, but instruments statesmen must handle with political acumen balancing the ends-means relationship. In case of Pakistan, where is this ends-means relationship?

The militant conflict in Pakistan by non-state actors has replaced conventional warfare. This is and remains the war of the future whose strategy and tactics are different from conventional military planning. Like daemons who draw energy from their hosts, terrorists live amongst people like fish in water. They melt away at will and re-emerge at the place and timings of their choosing. Invariably, they are motivated by an ideology and sustained through logistics that transcend international boundaries. Their supporters are both state and non-state actors. Unlike the interior and exterior lines of logistics in strategy, they evolve from home grown and cost effective solutions based on improvisation and exploitation of available means. The effective use of the internet, alternate means of communications and home based dual use technologies remain their leading edge. Hence a state needs to come up with superior counter narratives, effective diplomacy and awareness themes that deprive these fish the water they need. Apart from selective use of force, the major counter terrorism operations are to be fought in the societal realm of schemes.  In Pakistan, we lack such a scheme.

As technology and nations continue to evolve, Clausewitz’ Trinity of People. Army and the Government evolved into a larger spectrum of operational, logistical, technological, and social dimensions bonded by a single dynamic policy. According to Michel Howard, “The main lines along which military events progress and to which they are restricted, are political lines that continue throughout the war into subsequent peace. Do political relations between peoples and their government stop, are diplomatic notes no longer exchanged? Is not war just another expression of their thought? Its grammar, indeed may be its own, but not its logic”.

So unless the government does not come up with a comprehensive ends-means relationship, military operations will continue to provide 20-40% respite and nothing more. The cycle will continue to be repeated. If politicians lack the capacity, they must engage professionals, specialists and experts on the subject to provide the needed impetus. Successful military operations can only be a part of the larger political victory and not a solution. A political rather than a short lived military victory is the order of the day. 

Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson.

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