DAWN - OpEd; January 15, 2002

Published January 15, 2002

Anti-terror coalition’s next difficult phase

By Henry A. Kissinger


AS military operations in Afghanistan are winding down, it is well to keep in mind President George W. Bush’s injunction that they are only the first battles of a long war.

An important step has been taken toward the goals of breaking the nexus between governments and the terrorist groups they support or tolerate, discrediting Islamic fundamentalism so that moderates in the Islamic world can reclaim their religion from the fanatics and placing the fight against terrorism within the context of the geopolitical threat of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to regional stability and to American friends and interests in the region. But much more needs to be done.

Were we to flinch, the success in Afghanistan would be interpreted in time as taking on the weakest and most remote of the terrorist centres while we recoiled from unravelling terrorism in countries more central to the problem.

Three inter-related courses of action are available:

(a) To rely primarily on diplomacy and coalition building on the theory that the fate of the Taliban will teach the appropriate lessons.

(b) To insist on a number of specific corrective steps in countries with known training camps or terrorist headquarters, such as Somalia or Yemen, or those engaged in dangerous programmes to develop weapons of mass destruction, such as Iraq, and to take military action if these steps are rejected.

(c) To focus on the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq in order to change the regional dynamics by showing America’s determination to defend regional stability, its interests and its friends. (This would also send a strong message to other rogue states.)

Sole reliance on diplomacy is the preferred course of some members of the coalition, which claim that the remaining tasks can be accomplished by consultation and the cooperation of intelligence and security services around the world. But to rely solely on diplomacy would be to repeat the mistake with which the United States hamstrung itself in every war of the past half-century. Because it treated military operations and diplomacy as separate and sequential, the United States stopped military operations in Korea as soon as our adversaries moved to the conference table; it ended the bombing of North Vietnam as an entrance price to the Paris talks; it stopped military operations in the Gulf after the Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait.

In each case, the ending of military pressure produced diplomatic stalemate. The Korean armistice negotiations consumed two years during which America suffered as many casualties as in the entire combat phase; an even more intractable stalemate developed in the Vietnam negotiations; and in the Gulf, Saddam Hussein used the Republican Guard divisions preserved by the armistice to restore control over his territory and to dismantle systematically the inspection provisions of the armistice agreement.

Phase II of the anti-terrorism campaign must therefore involve a specific set of demands geared to a precise timetable supported by credible coercive power. These should be put forward as soon as possible as a framework for Phase II. And time is of the essence. Phase II must begin while the memory of the attack on the United States is still vivid and American-deployed forces are available to back up the diplomacy.

Somalia and Yemen are often mentioned as possible targets for a Phase II campaign. That decision should depend on the ability to identify targets against which local governments are able to act and on the suitability of American forces to accomplish this task if the local governments cannot or will not. And given these limitations, the United States will have to decide whether action against them is strategically productive.

All this raises the unavoidable challenge posed by Iraq. The issue is not whether Iraq was involved in the terrorist attack on the United States, though no doubt there was some intelligence contact between Iraqi intelligence and one of the chief plotters. The challenge of Iraq is essentially geopolitical. Iraq’s policy is implacably hostile to the United States and to certain neighbouring countries. It possesses growing stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons, which Saddam has used in the war against Iran and on his own population. It is working to develop a nuclear capability. Saddam breached his commitment to the United Nations by evicting the international inspectors he had accepted on his territory as part of the armistice agreement ending the Gulf War. There is no possibility of a negotiation between Washington and Baghdad and no basis for trusting Iraq’s promises to the international community.

If these capabilities remain intact, they could in time be used for terrorist goals or by Saddam in the midst of some new regional or international upheaval. And if Saddam’s regime survives both the Gulf War and the anti-terrorism campaign, this fact alone will elevate him to a potentially overwhelming menace.

From a long-range point of view, the greatest opportunity of Phase II is to return Iraq to a responsible role in the region. No comparable objective could have a similar impact. Were Iraq governed by a group representing no threat to its neighbours and willing to abandon its weapons of mass destruction, the stability of the region would be immeasurably enhanced. The remaining regimes flirting with terrorist fundamentalism or acquiescing in its exactions would be driven to shut down their support of terrorism.

At a minimum, we should insist on a UN inspection system to eliminate Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction with an unlimited right of inspection and freedom of movement for the inspectors. But no such system exists on paper, and the effort to instal it may be identical with that required to overthrow Saddam. Above all, given the ease of producing biological and chemical weapons, inspection must be extremely intrusive, and experience shows that no inspection can withstand indefinitely the opposition of a determined host government.

But if the overthrow of Saddam is to be seriously considered, three prerequisites must be met: (a) development of a military plan that is quick and decisive, (b) some prior agreement on what kind of structure is to replace Saddam and (c) the support or acquiescence of key countries needed for implementation of the military plan.

A military operation against Saddam cannot be long drawn out. If it is, the battle may turn into a struggle of Islam against the West. It would also enable Saddam to try to involve Israel by launching attacks on it—-perhaps using chemical and biological weapons—-in the process sowing confusion within the Muslim world. A long war extending to six months and beyond would also make it more difficult to keep allies and countries like Russia and China from dissociating formally from what they are unlikely to join but even more unlikely to oppose.

Before proceeding to confrontation with Iraq, the Bush administration will therefore wish to examine with great care the military strategy that is implied. Forces of the magnitude of the Gulf War of a decade ago are unlikely to be needed. At the same time, it would be dangerous to rely on a combination of US air power and indigenous opposition forces alone. To be sure, the contemporary precision weaponry was not available in the existing quantities during the Gulf War. And the no-fly zones will make Iraqi reinforcements difficult. They could be strengthened by being turned into no-movement zones proscribing the movement of particular categories of weapons. Still, we cannot stake American national security entirely, or even largely, on local opposition forces that do not yet exist and whose combat capabilities are untested. Perhaps Iraqi forces would collapse at the first confrontation, as some argue.

A second prerequisite for a military campaign against Iraq is to define the political outcome. Local opposition would in all likelihood be sustained by the Kurdish minority in the north and the Shiite minority in the south. But if we are to enlist the Sunni majority that now dominates Iraq in the overthrow of Saddam, we need to make clear that the disintegration of Iraq is not the goal of American policy. This is all the more important since a military operation in Iraq would require the support of Turkey and the acquiescence of Saudi Arabia.

Neither of these is likely to cooperate if they foresee an independent Kurdish state in the north and a Shiite republic in the south as the probable outcome. A Kurdish state would inflame the Kurdish minority in Turkey and a Shiite state in the south would threaten the Dharan region in Saudi Arabia and might give Iran a new base to seek to dominate the Gulf. A federal structure for a unified Iraq would be a way to deal with this issue.

Creating an appropriate coalition for such an effort and finding bases for the necessary American deployment will be difficult. Phase II is likely to separate the members of the coalition that joined to achieve a veto over American actions from those willing to pursue an implacable strategy. Nevertheless, the skillful diplomacy that shaped the first phase of the anti-terrorism campaign would have much to build on. Saddam has no friends in the Gulf region.

Britain will not easily abandon the pivotal role based on its special relationship with the United States that it has earned for itself in the evolution of the crisis. Nor will Germany move into active opposition to the United States — especially in an election year — even if its support will be more equivocal than heretofore. The same is true of Russia, China and Japan. A determined American policy thus has more latitude than is generally assumed.—Dawn/Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Saving education sector

By Shahid Javed Burki


GENERAL Pervez Musharraf has embarked on a new course — his aim is to rescue the country from the grasping hands of the groups that, although representing a small segment of society, have succeeded in sending Pakistan back into the dark ages. This is a new course since a number of leaders in the past had gone in altogether different directions.

Ever since Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto succumbed to the pressure of the Islamists and adopted a number of regressive measures, a series of Pakistani leaders had pandered to the growing demands of these groups. The result was a country and a society which was becoming increasingly backward, intolerant and unattractive.

Will General Musharraf succeed in turning the clock back to where it was in the ‘fifties and ‘sixties and get the country moving once again on a track that will eventually result in its modernization? The answer to this question will depend not on the number of people his government puts in prison. It will depend, more importantly, on three other things. One, how successful he is in reviving the country’s slumping economy. Two, how fast and how far he moves in reforming the educational sector. And, three, whether he can rescue the legal system from the confusion created by the attempts to Islamize it. In today’s article I will address only the issue of education.

Illiteracy among women in Pakistan is twice as high as among men. While general enrolment rate increased by 23 per cent in 1990-97 — equivalent to a growth rate of 5 per cent a year — the drop-out rate remains very high. By the end of the 1990s, primary gross enrolment rate had reached 84 per cent but only 48 per cent of the age-group reached grade five. The enrolment and retention rates taken together give some indication of the amount of resources wasted in the educational sector. Pakistan’s poor are so poorly educated that they cannot lift themselves out of poverty. The incidence of poverty is increasing at a rate four times the increase in population. Today there are 50 million people living in poverty and their number is increasing at an alarming rate of 5 million a year.

The usual reaction to these numbers is to place education at the centre of the donor community’s agenda, to make available large amounts of resources to the country on the condition that they be spent by the public sector on education. The result of these efforts has been waste and corruption but little improvement in the state of education. Now that Pakistan has returned as a frontline state in a new war — this time a war against terrorism — and the donors are rewarding it with more economic assistance, education is back on the front burner.

Such an approach will not work. It is my strongly held view that Pakistan will only make progress in education if the structure of the system is drastically changed. To change it, we must understand how it evolved over time and what is its shape today.

Pakistan’s educational sector collapsed slowly. The process began in the early 1970s and took forty years to complete. The collapse occurred in four fairly distinct phases, with each phase leaving a deep impression on the system’s evolution.

As was the case with so many things that were to go wrong in Pakistan in the last thirty years, education’s collapse also began during the period of Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Bhutto’s government nationalized a number of private educational institutions. This action increased the size of the public sector without increasing the size of public funds made available to education. The second phase also occurred during Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s period.

In the late 1970s Bhutto allowed the politicization of college and university campuses in order to build a political base for himself and his party among the country’s students.

The third phase brought Islam into the educational system. In the 1980s while Pakistan was helping the United States to expel the troops from the Soviet Union from Afghanistan, President Zia-ul-Haq allowed a number of foreign governments to set up deeni madressahs — or religious schools. These institutions provided instruction in religion and martial arts to tens of thousands of young males. The fourth and final phase encompassed most of the 1990s when a group of bilateral and multilateral donors provided a very large amount of money to rescue the educational system but, unwittingly, continued the process of politicization begun by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

I need to explain why I think the donor community’s involvement in education did not save the educational sector but, instead, hastened its collapse. An explanation is needed since the donors are about to start assisting the educational sector once again.

The World Bank, in association with several other donors to Pakistan, launched the Social Action Programme — or SAP. The programme had three basic purposes: to increase the amount of public money spent on education; to bring about a significant increase in school attendance by persuading parents to send their girls to school, and by bringing education to the more backward areas of the country.

These were laudable objectives but the donor community — including the World Bank — did not recognize that pouring money into the government’s coffers when the government’s institutions were extraordinarily weak would only result in waste.

That is exactly what happened. The SAP did increase for a while by one full percentage point of the gross domestic product the amount of public money going into education. But that, unfortunately, was its only success.

The SAP failed to bring education to the people of Pakistan. It only created a system that became increasingly corrupt with “ghost schools,” “ghost teachers” and “ghost students.”

As a result of these four developments — or phases as I have characterized them — Pakistan has a highly fractured system of education. It has four parts. The first and the largest part is managed by the state. The quality of education is poor, those who teach in the system are poorly trained, textbooks used by the schools working within the system are poorly written, curriculum followed is not designed to serve a modernizing society and economy, and there is a great deal of corruption in the way students are graded and the way examinations are conducted.

Government schools, colleges and universities are simply not producing the workforce needed by an emerging economy. Public sector is the only place where most of the graduates of these institutions can find jobs. This is one reason why government institutions have become increasingly inefficient over time. It is also the reason why successive governments have been unwilling to reduce the size of the public sector. They would not know how to accommodate the people who will lose jobs as a result of any rationalization of the public sector.

The second part of the educational system is made up of several thousand deeni madressahs that provide education to a million or so young people. The graduates of these institutions cannot find jobs in the market, either. They can only teach in the institutions from which they graduate, or go to the mosques to lead prayers and give sermons, or join the groups of jihadis waging war in various parts of the world. In other words, this part of the educational system simply feeds on itself and, propelled by an internal momentum, has continued to grow rapidly in size. Until recently, it has been generously financed by several Middle Eastern governments and charitable organizations based in that part of the world.

The third part of the system also caters to a million or so people. It is made up of privately managed schools, colleges and universities. This is the system that supports the modern sector of the economy and society. It has also developed strong links with foreign educational institutions to which it sends some ten thousand students every year for higher education. But this access may not be readily available any longer as America begins to tighten controls over the entry of students from the Middle East and Pakistan.

The fourth and final part of the system is made up of the institutions providing technical education in disciplines such as health sciences, business management, accounting, banking and finance and information and technology. These institutions also provide workers for the modern sector in Pakistan. The total number of students graduating from these institutions, however, remains very small.

This four-part system is not working for Pakistan. How should it be restructured? This is an important question in view of the growing interest of the donor community in helping the development of the educational sector. The donors are likely to do what they did in the past — pour large amounts of money into governments’ coffers. What they are not likely to do is something they don’t have much experience in doing — help the private sector in expanding its reach. In this context, I would like to suggest a five-pronged approach.

One, the state should withdraw from those parts of the system where private operators have demonstrated their ability to provide appropriate services. It should concentrate its energies in the country’s backward areas and provide education to the under-served segments of the population, in particular women.

Two, the state, assisted by the donor community, should make effort to modernize the curriculum, produce textbooks and train teachers. The state should require the private sector to set up accreditation councils for certifying all educational institutions.

Three, deeni schools should be allowed to function only if they adopt the state approved curriculum and use the state approved text books, and employ teachers trained in certified institutions. Otherwise they should be closed.

Four, a national scholarship programme should be put in place to help students from less well-to-do families to attend institutions of choice in the private sector.

Five, for a period of, say ten years, political parties should not be permitted to operate on the campuses of colleges and universities.

In concluding, I should emphasize that I have focused much more on the policy side of the educational reform agenda than on the resource side. Also, the policy prescriptions I have made are based on my understanding of the structure of the system and how it has developed over time.

This paralysing fear

AN aspirin will lessen or remove the pain of a headache but not its cause. Similarly, the war on terrorism may be won by military action but once the guns have been silenced, terrorism will reappear in one form or the other.

September 11 brought terrorism to the fore and the impression was created that it was something new. What was new was that the United States, for the first time in its history, was the target, the unthinkable had happened. And this gave terrorism a new dimension.

The United States, understandably, reacted with great anger and in its perceived wisdom decided that Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida organization were responsible and went after them with great military vigour. Because the Taliban were harbouring Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida, the Taliban had to be crushed and Afghanistan became the theatre of a one-sided war but one which caused massive damage and killed many hundreds of Afghans, who may or may not have had anything to do with either Osama bin Laden or the Taliban.

Collateral damage is unavoidable in modern warfare and from the heights from which the bombs were dropped, even smart bombs could not tell who was the enemy. Some innocent people got hurt. One thing is certain that no country will harbour terrorists in the future, that is to say, terrorists who have an anti-American agenda. This is a positive gain but it is like the aspirin, it removes the pain but does not remove the root cause of that pain. Now that the war in Afghanistan has been won, can we honestly say that the world has become safer?

September 11 provided a golden opportunity to, at least, two countries — India and Israel — to ride piggy-back on the war on terrorism. They rushed to declare themselves as victims of terrorism, hoping to gain sympathy and a justification for their own actions. This was the downside of the war on terrorism. Both the Middle East and South Asia have become flashpoints as a result.

Because the line between terrorism and legitimate grievances has become blurred, the Israelis are waging war on the Palestinians with ferocity and the Indians are massing their troops on the Pakistan border and Advani is in Washington spewing his venom in an effort to have Pakistan declared a terrorist state.

It is this that needs to be checked for this kind of criminal irresponsibility that carries the seeds of destabilisation and a wider danger. The Americans need to be reminded that they gained their own freedom through a war against Britain, what the Americans proudly call the war of independence. Surely, the British must have considered those bearing arms against them as either traitors or terrorists? Similarly, when the Indian National Congress issued the call for Quit India in 1942, Britain was at war with the Axis powers and the Japanese were in Burma, at the door-steps of India, was this Quit India movement to be non-violent but he, along with the top leadership of the Indian National Congress was in jail and the movement turned violent.

Both the war of independence and the Quit India movement have a proud place in history. History must not be erased. The Kashmiris are fighting for their right to self-determination which both India and Pakistan had guaranteed them. India has reneged and now calls this right to self-determination terrorism much as Ariel Sharon calls Arafat a terrorist.

September 11 should have provided the world with a sobering message, those who make the resolution of disputes by peaceful means impossible, make violent means inevitable. To equate freedom fighters with terrorists will make the war against terrorism more difficult to win.

The objective of such a war should not only be to stamp out terrorism but to make the world a safer place. Something good has to emerge from it. A terrorist is someone who spreads terror. It does not have to take a violent form. It is enough the terrorist creates a climate of fear.

Eternal vigilance may be the price of liberty but we must be careful to ensure that this vigilance does not put liberty itself at risk. Democratic societies must prize human rights and civil liberties above all else. We need to ask the political equivalent of the question: what doth it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?

There is a letter in the latest edition of Time magazine which makes a lot of sense but it is disturbing as well. The writer Ms Victoria Lansdowene says; “I am an American living in Canada. Like most Americans, I reacted to the events of Sept. 11 with disbelief, horror and then outrage. A fierce patriotism was rekindled in me. But I think years of living outside the US have given me a different perspective. I watch my country with great sadness now, for it seems to me that the terrorists have won. Everywhere I look, I see signs of great fear and paranoia. Terrorism and war are the main focus of the media. The detention of innocents, the attacks on anyone of Middle Eastern origin and the suspension of civil liberties only strengthen my opinion. Until we can overcome this paralysing fear, the terrorists will be in control.”

We, in the Third World, are accustomed to having our civil liberties taken away, from time to time. And we can truthfully say that civil liberties and human rights are not a part of our political culture. We have admired, from afar, societies that value individual freedom and are prepared to fight and defend them. Is it fear that is preventing people from protesting outrages against persons of Middle East origin? I think, not just the United States but the entire world needs to be reminded of the calming words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: “We

have nothing to fear, but fear itself.”

The world needs to move ahead. The events of Sept. 11 must not be forgotten but they should not get into the psyche of the American people and their allies. Unfortunately, no country is without sin that it is able to cast the first stone.

Deterrence that failed

By Syed Refaqat


WHEN over 1.5 million soldiers, thousands of tanks, hundreds of war-planes and dozens of missiles moved from either side to India-Pakistan borders, fully ready and deployed for instant response, the classical paradigm of deterrence crumbled with it with the same spectacular tragedy as the Twin Towers.

The physical move of military assets was abundantly backed with jingoism, sabre rattling, and fiery war rhetoric. India danced with joy. Pakistan placed emphasis on restraint. The rest of mankind is watching the dangerous and discredited game of brinkmanship with horror and disbelief. Some guys beyond the seven seas have actually moved in with an intent to inject a measure of sobriety and sanity in this tension ridden scenario.

Deterrence, crudely put, implied the military capability of one adversary to inflict, as a cost, so much punishment and pain on the other that he (the other) would find it unacceptable for attainment of his political objectives by military means.

The vital brick in the foundation of paradigm of deterrence is ‘assumption of rationality’. That is the adversary’s politico-military mind worked on well established rational basis, such that one adversary could safely predict the nature and ferocity of reaction of the other side under a given set of perceived threats. This involved a careful study of adversary’s history and psychology to understand and vector into own policies his sensitive spots, his perceived vital interests, the political limits of his tolerance, and the pain threshold of the society as a whole. In addition to that the question of will to use nuclear weapons and readiness to suffer consequential retaliatory destruction emerged equally relevant. Without this the ‘deterrence’ was devoid of the essential ingredient of ‘credibility’.

As these refinements in the intellectual domain were going on, and the number of nuclear weapons available to either side were still limited, policy planners came to the conclusion that whereas it was reasonable to presume that nuclear threshold would not be reached unless there was a serious threat to the ‘vital national interests’ of the other side, and that prior to reaching that threshold there would be a visible movement of the escalation ladder, yet contingency against ‘surprise’ attack had to be an essential ingredient of the dialectics of deterrence. That brought in the role of surveillance, information, intelligence and survivability. When interpreted in operational terms, it meant the ability to absorb the damage and destruction of first strike, and yet be able to mount a second retaliatory strike of sufficient destructive capability to cripple the adversary’s potential to pursue the war any further in any meaningful way.

Even a cursory look at this thesis discloses that once someone gets into this logic loop, the argument becomes spiralled leading to unstoppable race for addition and accumulation of assets and injection of esoteric technology. The name given to this game, appropriately, was MAD — Mutual Assured Destruction. This happened when both of the superpowers (i.e. the US and former Soviet Union) had stockpiles of nuclear weapons capable of ‘destroying the entire mankind many times over’.

Happily the nuclear theology of the two adversaries of the last half of the 20th century was becoming increasingly aware of the absurdity and risks of such an over saturated situation. The turning point came over the fiasco of the Bay of Pigs soon after President Kennedy took over and discovered that Soviets had deployed nuclear capable missiles in Cuba, only a stone’s throw away, so to say, from the mainland the US.

The nuclear systems of either side were put on stand-by status, the escalation ladder was in full gear, each waiting who blinked first. One of the most interesting side story of the history of management of that crisis lies in the fact that at every step of politico-military escalation, Kennedy would ask his adviser to continue working simultaneously on the best manner of getting off the escalation ladder, and to discover or devise an honourable route of exit for the Soviet Union.

In continuation of this philosophy, I recall US Assistant Secretary of State, Mr. Armacost educating Zia-ul-Haq and his entire team during the final days prior to signing of the Geneva Accords that ‘the US had no intention of rubbing the Soviet nose in dust; after all Soviet Union is a superpower’.

In the sixties the major players opened up a series of dialogues on avoidance of war by miscalculation, accident or misinformation. A remarkable pioneering work was done by the Helsinki Initiative (which finally flowered into Helsinki Final Act, and creation of Organization for Peace and Security in Europe). This system focused its enormous energy on confidence building measures — CBMs, nuclear risk reduction regimes, and a host of other practical and innovative measures.

Concurrently, serious and structured dialogue, first for arms control and then for arms reduction ultimately leading to full and complete disarmament was undertaken by the US and the Soviet Union. The last element remains a distant and idealistic goal. However, despite a formidable plethora of political and technical hurdles, the quantum of work on treaties relating to arms control and arms reduction concluded so far stand as monument of the sanity of the principal players in contrast to the deplorable madness of the same period, ironically by the same players.

Now, we come back to the scene in the subcontinent. After a senseless and obnoxious technological demonstration by India in 1974 in the form of a nuclear test, and then in May 1988, the strategic scenario had changed dangerously in our region. The worst part of the episode lays in the sad reality that general public on either side of the border remains completely ignorant of the risks involved in a nuclear confrontation and nuclear exchange. Many thoughtful outsiders and some courageous persons from inside have tried to draw attention to the dangers and responsibilities that fell upon the shoulders of the two nations, but on most occasions these voices have remained unheard.

The Draft Nuclear Doctrine released by India sent shivers of deep concern far and wide, except in India itself. Grandiloquently, it declared that ‘India’s strategic interests require effective, credible nuclear deterrence and adequate retaliatory capability should deterrence fail.... (To) provide for a level of capability consistent with maximum credibility, survivability, effectiveness, safety and security ...... Deterrence requires that India maintain: (a) Sufficient, survivable and operationally prepared nuclear forces, (b) a robust command and control system, (c) effective intelligence and early warning capabilities, and (d) comprehensive planning and training for operations in line with the strategy, and (e) the will to employ nuclear forces and weapons in accordance with the concept of credible minimum deterrence.

These forces will be based on a triad of aircraft, mobile land-based missiles and sea-based assets in keeping with the objectives outlined above’. Mercifully, before the Draft concluded, it added that this policy and capability was for ‘retaliation only’, further assuring that “‘no-first use’ remained India’s basic policy”.

On the home side, Pakistan adopted ‘open-option’ policy as the theoretical pillar of its ‘deterrence’.

In the current worrisome scenario Pakistani policy makers and the press have shown unusual sense of responsibility and restraint in dire contrast to India where the leadership at the highest level, while unleashing political rhetoric (such as ‘whatever weapon is available, will be used, no matter how it wounds the enemy’), completely ignored the destructive power of nuclear capability that both sides possess. In fact all the genuine concern is coming from outside, and it is coming in the form of a deluge.

Unfortunately, so far it has not been able to budge India an inch from its declared objective behind the massive military deployment. On the contrary, with every conciliatory gesture and signal of restraint from Pakistan, the Indian appetite is getting whetted, not abated. As reported by the media on January 8, even President Bush wants President Musharraf to do more. How far can you push Musharraf? His bold gesture of handshake at Kathmandu was an excellent opportunity for Mr Vajpayee to get off the escalation ladder. That opportunity has been missed.

The writer is a retired Lt-Gen of Pakistan Army.

Deterrence that failed

By Syed Refaqat


WHEN over 1.5 million soldiers, thousands of tanks, hundreds of war-planes and dozens of missiles moved from either side to India-Pakistan borders, fully ready and deployed for instant response, the classical paradigm of deterrence crumbled with it with the same spectacular tragedy as the Twin Towers.

The physical move of military assets was abundantly backed with jingoism, sabre rattling, and fiery war rhetoric. India danced with joy. Pakistan placed emphasis on restraint. The rest of mankind is watching the dangerous and discredited game of brinkmanship with horror and disbelief. Some guys beyond the seven seas have actually moved in with an intent to inject a measure of sobriety and sanity in this tension ridden scenario.

Deterrence, crudely put, implied the military capability of one adversary to inflict, as a cost, so much punishment and pain on the other that he (the other) would find it unacceptable for attainment of his political objectives by military means.

The vital brick in the foundation of paradigm of deterrence is ‘assumption of rationality’. That is the adversary’s politico-military mind worked on well established rational basis, such that one adversary could safely predict the nature and ferocity of reaction of the other side under a given set of perceived threats. This involved a careful study of adversary’s history and psychology to understand and vector into own policies his sensitive spots, his perceived vital interests, the political limits of his tolerance, and the pain threshold of the society as a whole. In addition to that the question of will to use nuclear weapons and readiness to suffer consequential retaliatory destruction emerged equally relevant. Without this the ‘deterrence’ was devoid of the essential ingredient of ‘credibility’.

As these refinements in the intellectual domain were going on, and the number of nuclear weapons available to either side were still limited, policy planners came to the conclusion that whereas it was reasonable to presume that nuclear threshold would not be reached unless there was a serious threat to the ‘vital national interests’ of the other side, and that prior to reaching that threshold there would be a visible movement of the escalation ladder, yet contingency against ‘surprise’ attack had to be an essential ingredient of the dialectics of deterrence. That brought in the role of surveillance, information, intelligence and survivability. When interpreted in operational terms, it meant the ability to absorb the damage and destruction of first strike, and yet be able to mount a second retaliatory strike of sufficient destructive capability to cripple the adversary’s potential to pursue the war any further in any meaningful way.

Even a cursory look at this thesis discloses that once someone gets into this logic loop, the argument becomes spiralled leading to unstoppable race for addition and accumulation of assets and injection of esoteric technology. The name given to this game, appropriately, was MAD — Mutual Assured Destruction. This happened when both of the superpowers (i.e. the US and former Soviet Union) had stockpiles of nuclear weapons capable of ‘destroying the entire mankind many times over’.

Happily the nuclear theology of the two adversaries of the last half of the 20th century was becoming increasingly aware of the absurdity and risks of such an over saturated situation. The turning point came over the fiasco of the Bay of Pigs soon after President Kennedy took over and discovered that Soviets had deployed nuclear capable missiles in Cuba, only a stone’s throw away, so to say, from the mainland the US.

The nuclear systems of either side were put on stand-by status, the escalation ladder was in full gear, each waiting who blinked first. One of the most interesting side story of the history of management of that crisis lies in the fact that at every step of politico-military escalation, Kennedy would ask his adviser to continue working simultaneously on the best manner of getting off the escalation ladder, and to discover or devise an honourable route of exit for the Soviet Union.

In continuation of this philosophy, I recall US Assistant Secretary of State, Mr. Armacost educating Zia-ul-Haq and his entire team during the final days prior to signing of the Geneva Accords that ‘the US had no intention of rubbing the Soviet nose in dust; after all Soviet Union is a superpower’.

In the sixties the major players opened up a series of dialogues on avoidance of war by miscalculation, accident or misinformation. A remarkable pioneering work was done by the Helsinki Initiative (which finally flowered into Helsinki Final Act, and creation of Organization for Peace and Security in Europe). This system focused its enormous energy on confidence building measures — CBMs, nuclear risk reduction regimes, and a host of other practical and innovative measures.

Concurrently, serious and structured dialogue, first for arms control and then for arms reduction ultimately leading to full and complete disarmament was undertaken by the US and the Soviet Union. The last element remains a distant and idealistic goal. However, despite a formidable plethora of political and technical hurdles, the quantum of work on treaties relating to arms control and arms reduction concluded so far stand as monument of the sanity of the principal players in contrast to the deplorable madness of the same period, ironically by the same players.

Now, we come back to the scene in the subcontinent. After a senseless and obnoxious technological demonstration by India in 1974 in the form of a nuclear test, and then in May 1988, the strategic scenario had changed dangerously in our region. The worst part of the episode lays in the sad reality that general public on either side of the border remains completely ignorant of the risks involved in a nuclear confrontation and nuclear exchange. Many thoughtful outsiders and some courageous persons from inside have tried to draw attention to the dangers and responsibilities that fell upon the shoulders of the two nations, but on most occasions these voices have remained unheard.

The Draft Nuclear Doctrine released by India sent shivers of deep concern far and wide, except in India itself. Grandiloquently, it declared that ‘India’s strategic interests require effective, credible nuclear deterrence and adequate retaliatory capability should deterrence fail.... (To) provide for a level of capability consistent with maximum credibility, survivability, effectiveness, safety and security ...... Deterrence requires that India maintain: (a) Sufficient, survivable and operationally prepared nuclear forces, (b) a robust command and control system, (c) effective intelligence and early warning capabilities, and (d) comprehensive planning and training for operations in line with the strategy, and (e) the will to employ nuclear forces and weapons in accordance with the concept of credible minimum deterrence.

These forces will be based on a triad of aircraft, mobile land-based missiles and sea-based assets in keeping with the objectives outlined above’. Mercifully, before the Draft concluded, it added that this policy and capability was for ‘retaliation only’, further assuring that “‘no-first use’ remained India’s basic policy”.

On the home side, Pakistan adopted ‘open-option’ policy as the theoretical pillar of its ‘deterrence’.

In the current worrisome scenario Pakistani policy makers and the press have shown unusual sense of responsibility and restraint in dire contrast to India where the leadership at the highest level, while unleashing political rhetoric (such as ‘whatever weapon is available, will be used, no matter how it wounds the enemy’), completely ignored the destructive power of nuclear capability that both sides possess. In fact all the genuine concern is coming from outside, and it is coming in the form of a deluge.

Unfortunately, so far it has not been able to budge India an inch from its declared objective behind the massive military deployment. On the contrary, with every conciliatory gesture and signal of restraint from Pakistan, the Indian appetite is getting whetted, not abated. As reported by the media on January 8, even President Bush wants President Musharraf to do more. How far can you push Musharraf? His bold gesture of handshake at Kathmandu was an excellent opportunity for Mr Vajpayee to get off the escalation ladder. That opportunity has been missed.

The writer is a retired Lt-Gen of Pakistan Army.

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