Aug. 15, 2014 by Darius
[Earlier this week, I saw Georgetown University professor Christine Fair discuss her new book Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War. Fair is both an expert on South Asia (including South Asian languages) and has extensive experience with military issues. Her comments were insightful and pulled no punches towards Pakistan’s military establishment. Because of the length of my notes, I’ve divided them up over two days: yesterday, I shared the themes of Fair’s research findings, and today I’ll share her other observations about Pakistan.]
Fair first described the Pakistani military’s “persistent revisionism.” In particular, the Pakistani military is obsessed with gaining control of Kashmir. It isn’t a matter of reclaiming Kashmir, as Pakistan never had Kashmir in the first place. In its quest for Kashmir, Pakistan has launched three major wars (1947-1948, 1965, and 1999). (That Pakistan has consistently failed to gain Kashmir militarily is beside the point; as noted in yesterday’s post, Fair has concluded that the Pakistani military sees challenging India as a victory in itself.)
The Pakistani military’s major tactic to try to win Kashmir, though, has been asymmetrical warfare. Pakistan has sponsored insurgents in Kashmir since 1947. In recent decades, Fair described the Pakistani military’s primary tactic as “jihad under a nuclear umbrella.”
US foreign policy towards Pakistan, in her view, has been guided by a fundamentally flawed assumption: that Pakistan is a security-seeking state. The US logic is rather simple: as a security-seeking state, Pakistan will not cooperate on issues like Kashmir and facilitating terrorism until it feels secure in its borders against India. Therefore, the US should provide Pakistan with conventional aid to make it feel secure. According to Fair, such a policy shows a shocking ignorance of both Pakistan’s military and the Kashmir dispute. Pakistan is not a security-seeking state. The Pakistani military does not argue its position in Kashmir and elsewhere based on security concerns: it argues its position based on ideology. Fair went so far as to describe the US policy of treating Pakistan as a security-seeking state – in effect, appeasement – as “methadone treatment,” by which the US enables Pakistan to continue its behavior injurious to US interests without addressing the underlying addiction.
According to Fair, the Pakistani army thinks of itself as the only institution in Pakistan capable of defending Pakistani geography and Pakistani ideology. Civilians are, in effect, the enemy. Though Fair dismissed the stereotype of the “bloody civilians,” she acknowledged that the military is far from Pakistan’s only problem. Military coups, for instance, could not happen without Pakistani politicians’ total complicity with the military. In effect, the military controls the judiciary, selects the acceptable opposition, and undermines the civilian government as necessary with “protests” and other emergencies that point to the civilian government’s inability to manage the country.
The Pakistani military’s economic interests are also vast and completely opaque. In addition to entities like the Fauji Foundation, the military runs patronage networks. These networks ensure that the group of people benefiting from civilian rule continue to benefit under military rule, thereby minimizing opposition to coups.
According to Fair, the Pakistani military’s current operations in Waziristan and the tribal regions are not designed to go after terrorists. Instead, the Pakistani military gives most of the terrorists threats and bribes to go fight the US and Afghanistan well ahead of actual military operations. (In this latest case, there was a five-month warning.) That means that anyone left in the tribal regions when the Pakistani military arrives wants explicitly to fight Pakistan. The military then attempts to eliminate these individuals and groups, which it does at great cost.
The Pakistani army has also gone to great lengths to convince both rank-and-file recruits and the population as a whole that India is behind unrest in the tribal regions. This elaborate charade is designed to hide from the people the fact that Pakistanis are killing Pakistanis. Fair also made a critical distinction: the Pakistani military has been killing Balochs for decades; nobody seems to care. But Pashtuns, the group in the tribal regions, is overrepresented in the military itself. It matters what Pashtuns think.
According to Fair, Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent targets not just India but also the US because whenever there is a major problem between the India and Pakistan, Pakistan’s nukes are mated to delivery systems and forward deployed. It is precisely in this condition that they are most vulnerable to theft. The last thing the US wants is for terrorists to steal one of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, so the US pressures India to deescalate any conflicts before Pakistan deploys the nuclear weapons. In essence, the major value of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons is as a tool of coercion.
It may not surprise readers to know that Fair has been blacklisted and is no longer able to travel to Pakistan.