The government of Bishara al-Assad, while predicted to have fallen many months ago, is hanging on, and is causing an agonizing dilemma on the part of the United States and Israel. Both of them want to see the end of Assad’s regime; however, neither of them wants to see Assad replaced by a nexus of Islamists and pro-AQ Jihadists in that country. The sustained hesitation of the United States regarding Syria made John Kampfner of the Guardian wonder whether this is the first conflict of “the post-superpower era.” My sense is that Kampfner is not far off the mark, especially since the PRC is reported to be demonstrating a heightened interest in playing some role in the PLO-Israeli conflict.
The threat of the outbreak of a nuclear war between the two superpowers has ended with the implosion of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. However, the threat of a military conflict escalating into a nuclear conflagration remains quite palpable in the “second nuclear age.” That is the basic theme of Paul Bracken’s, The Second Nuclear Age: Strategy, Danger, and the New Power Politics. There are not too many books that are more persuasive in establishing the argument involving the end of one historical era—the first nuclear age—and the beginning of another—the second nuclear age than this one. It is also insightful in describing how distinctive the second nuclear age has already been from the first one and why it is going to be more conflict prone and trickier to “manage” than the previous one. (more…)
The Boston bombings only underscore a reality that has been quite apparent to the Obama administration: the scourge of extremism is constantly seeping into the Internet through the so-called Saudi-trained or Wahhabi-influenced “imams” who have nothing better to do but to propagate anger and hatred toward everything Western, including democracy, Islamic moderation, the Shias, the Ahmadiyas, and even Harry Potter movies! The international dissemination centers for Islamic extremism are located in Riyadh as well as in other major cities of Saudi Arabia. So, a global solution for stemming the tide of extremism must initiate from Saudi Arabia, and the Obama administration has to prompt an acute campaign toward that end.
Watching General Pervez Musharraf’s humiliating treatment in Pakistan is a painful experience. The vibrant Pakistani press is full of all sorts of stories. Al Jazeera had an interesting discussion with a number of prominent Pakistanis on the subject. I have been a long-time watcher of General Musharraf from Washington. I find him interesting but more paradoxical than that Islamist General Zia ul-Haq. My personal preference is that, if Pakistan were to really mature into a democracy, it needs to let the old General leave the country, with a promise not to return anytime soon. This is a crucial time for Pakistan to move on with its business of conducting its next general election.
My surprise was second to none when I saw that the former dictator of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, had arrived in his native land with the audacious self-depiction of himself as a “savior.” My estimation was that it was too soon for him to return to Pakistan; there were too many angry politicians and persons in the legal community and institutions chomping at the bit to get even with him. One angry lawyer even hurled his shoe at him. The ultimate “Bush welcome” in Baghdad of December 2008 has become a permanent symbol of popular contempt for unpopular politicians in Muslim countries. Besides, the people of Pakistan had shown no affinity for the idea of his return. The professional commando decided to go on a “suicide mission” on his own. (more…)
The high visibility of Pakistan in regional and global affairs is one of the reasons for the publication of a number of excellent studies explaining the state of internal affairs as well that country’s regional and global strategic maneuvers. Ishtiaq Ahmed’s book, Pakistan the Garrison State, is certainly one such book. Borrowing the concept, “garrison state,” from one of the noted American Political Scientists, Harold Lasswell, Ahmed develops an engaging but complex narrative of Pakistan. His account starts from the birth of that nation in a highly volatile environment and brings it to 2011. Since the Indian top leadership never accepted Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s (founder of Pakistan) “two nation theory” as the basis of partition of British India, the chances of any cooperation between the two resulting states after their birth were minimal, to start with. The outburst of the Kashmir conflict in 1947, almost immediately after their inception as separate nations, dealt a severe blow to the prospects of cooperation between the two countries for several decades. (more…)
I read with interest Kapil Komireddi’s articulate, but highly litigious essay, “Why Pakistan’s Mohammad Ali Jinnah was no Mandela” (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/04/07/why-pakistan-s-mohammed-ali-jinnah-was-no-nelson-mandela.html). (more…)
One great American political tradition is to evaluate major public officials when they depart from the political scene. Presidential scholars have transformed this issue into an art. One of them—Professor David Barber of Duke University—even developed categories of “presidential types.” Secretaries of State and Defense receive quite a bit of assessment and evaluation when their terms end. Today is Hillary Clinton’s last day in office as America’s Secretary of State, thus an evaluation of her career as America’s chief diplomat is timely. The uppermost question is what kind of a Secretary of State was she? The US media is also paying a lot of attention to her because she is expected to remain a major presidential candidate for the presidential election in 2016. (more…)
Pakistan: The Garrison State, Origins, Evolution Consequences (1947-2011). Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2013. ISBN 978-0-19-906636-0
This study seeks to solve the following puzzle: in 1947, the Pakistan military was poorly armed and lacked the infrastructure and training needed to function as an effective branch of the State. It was not directly involved in politics. Over time, not only has it become a middle-range power possessing nuclear weapons, it has also become the most powerful institution in the country with de facto veto powers over politics. How and why did this happen and what were its consequences? (more…)
Reading Fred Kaplan’s thoughtful essay, “The End of the Age of Petraeus,” resuscitated long-standing doubts that I had nurtured about the effectiveness of the COIN doctrine. I am one of those professors Kaplan refers to in his essay, except that I was at the Joint Forces Staff College of the National Defense University, serving as Professor of National Security and Strategy, at a time when the COIN was referred to as “military operations other than war” (MOOTW). In that capacity, I belonged to the category of “ether heads”—as our students (senior military officers) called us—who believed in questioning, not just the thinking of America’s military leadership, but also their tactics. When the COIN was being implemented, I was at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS). My professional responsibilities included participating in a globally-oriented course entitled, Comprehensive Security Responses to Terrorism (CSRT). As the chief author of that course, I made sure that the topic of counterinsurgency was covered from the American strategic perspective. As contentious as that perspective was, it was driving the American war in Iraq, and promised to do the same in Afghanistan. However, unfortunately, I could get only one person from West Point—an active duty colonel who served in Iraq and was also one of the faculty members at that esteemed institution—to attend the course. He was a strong critic of the COIN operations and, I am sure, was envisioned by the “COINdistas”—as Kaplan refers to them in his essay—as a member of the “red team.” The distance between Hawaii and the mainland remained one of the chief impediments of having a panel of military types visit us to debate the pros and cons of that highly intricate issue.