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The Final Betrayal

Published Jul 01, 2012 12:05am


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STUBBORN, irrational, emotional, paranoid — the self-appointed custodians of the national interest easily lend themselves to parody, if there’s anything funny, that is, about the stewardship of a declining state chock-full of ill-resourced people, well-resourced terrorists and nuclear weapons.

Wherever there is a conspiracy theory against Pakistan to peddle — no matter how convoluted or deranged — someone in that orbit of influence will peddle it.

Unhappily, sometimes they don’t have to try very hard.

The outside world regards Pakistan’s generals as self-interested, which is fine, but also not very competent — which isn’t so good given the volatile mix of factors that has Pakistan seemingly always teetering on the edge.

And that leads to debates and ideas there that play out very badly over here.

A new book is about to hit Pakistani shores that will elicit howls of anger and we-told-you-sos through gritted teeth in certain quarters.

It’s not so much what has been written but who has written it: David Sanger, The New York Times Washington correspondent more plugged in than most to the US national-security establishment.

Sanger’s words carry more weight because he has both access and insight, and what he has to say about debates within the Obama administration on Pakistan will not go down well here.

Put on your best Pakistan-lovin’, everyone’s-out-to-get-us, the bomb-will-keep-us-safe, we’re-a-fortress-of-Islam hat and sample these words from Sanger’s ‘Confront and Conceal: Obama’s secret wars and surprising use of American power’:

“Of course, [keeping Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal] ‘safe’ meant very different things to the men …. To the Americans, it meant preventing terrorists from getting a hold of nuclear weapons or material from the world’s most vulnerable arsenal. To Kayani, it meant, first and foremost, protecting that arsenal from the Americans, and making sure that, unlike that night in Abbottabad when they snuck in to kill Osama bin Laden, no SEAL team could seize or disable Pakistan’s arsenal. It was hardly paranoia. The Americans had an elaborate, well-rehearsed plan to do exactly that, which had been ramped up and revised when Obama came into office [emphasis added].”

With your uber-nationalist hat on, the only thing you take away is: the Americans are out to get our nukes!

The outside world, of course, will focus more on the ‘world’s most vulnerable arsenal’ and probably nod in agreement.

Or try this on for size:

“This approach [a new way of dealing with Pakistan that the Obama administration is debating] — some call it ‘mitigation’ — has three goals. The first is helping Pakistan keep its arsenal safe — while improving the American ability to find and immobilise the weapons if that effort fails. The second is to keep the Pakistani civilian government from being toppled, by the army or extremists, through various forms of assistance. And the third is to keep up the pressure on insurgents and Al Qaeda operatives, mostly with drone strikes.”

What the paranoid here will read: the Americans want our nukes; they know the army is standing in their way so they’re propping up corrupt civilians who will sell their souls for a fistful of dollars; and American activities inside Pakistan are really about destabilising the country, to make it look weak and speed up the end goal of defanging our nuclear programme.

Here’s some more from Sanger:

“There was another reason to establish an ‘enduring presence’ in Afghanistan after 2014 — a reason the White House did not want to discuss. It was Pakistan. The United States could live with an Afghanistan that was messy, even with some parts of the country under de facto Taliban control once the international forces pulled back. But stability in Pakistan — and the security of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal — was another story. The Amerin forces in Afghanistan had a role as a ‘break the glass’ emergency force if Pakistan, and its arsenal, appeared to be coming apart at the seams.”The hawks’ are likely to read: it was never about Afghanistan; getting Al Qaeda was just a ruse; the US wants to use its base in Afghanistan to project power inside Pakistan — Iran too; it’s all about keeping Muslims down — and remake the configuration of power in Afghanistan to favour India and to harm Pakistan.

Of course, less paranoid, more rational minds will see in the debate in the US a less conspiratorial version of reality.First, as Sanger writes, “for all the Pakistani paranoia, there is no good plan for sweeping up Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, largely because on any given day it is not entirely clear where they all are.”

Second, American national-security circles primarily worry about Pakistan not because we have nukes or because we’re a predominantly Muslim country with nukes — they worry about Pakistan because we have both internal instability and nukes. “Pakistan, as Obama told his staff in 2011, could ‘disintegrate’ and set off a scramble for its weapons. It was his single biggest national security concern, he told them — and the scenario he had the least power to prevent.” Three, because Pakistan has been seen through the muddied lens of Afghanistan the past decade, the US is yet to truly sit down and decide what it wants to do about Pakistan.

“So three years into [Obama’s] presidency, the arguments over how to deal with Pakistan still rage. ‘On this issue, more than any other, you get such disparate accounts from different parts of our government,’ one senior State Department official conceded to [Sanger]”.

Those three facts combine to produce something akin to an opportunity for Pakistan: set our house in order for our own sake and the outside world will respond positively.

But the problem with irrationality, emotionalism, paranoia and stubbornness is that opportunities are obscured by ever-present threats, sometimes real, often invented.

The Americans think Pakistan and its army worry about the Fourth Betrayal — a repeat of 1965, 1971 and 1989 when the US either turned its back on Pakistan or refused to help.

But we may already be beyond that; we could be in the realm of the feared Final Betrayal — a Pakistan neutered of the one element that supposedly guarantees its survival: its nuclear programme.

As Sanger claims, one of the first things Kayani did in the aftermath of May 2 was to move around the components of the nuclear arsenal — just in case the Americans tried to take it out.

The writer is a member of staff.

twitter: @cyalm


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The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (21) Closed

Manu Jul 01, 2012 12:26pm
If Pakistan nukes could be defanged how would the world view Pakistan - with relief and indifference. How would Pakistan view itself - there could be a greater focus on economy, trade with India, perceptual downscaling of the army in the public eye reducing its influence. There would be increased assertion by the LeT, increased support for thye civilian govt by international community. The best Pakistan can do is to surprise everyone by dismantling its nukes and devoting that effort to nuclear energy.
JBashir Jul 01, 2012 07:09am
What sophisticated English display are you talking about Mr Akbar? Please read the full sentence about final betrayal which you refer to.
prakash Jul 01, 2012 07:21am
Concerned Jul 01, 2012 12:38pm
The writer is not paranoid. People who wish to improve their lot observe, take lessons and do something about it. They do not dig their head deeper in to sand. The book is another opportunity to observe and draw lessons. So is so much of the other things around us.
Cheema Jul 01, 2012 04:45pm
Is Pakistan failing because it has nukes or is it failing because of corrupt government. Who imposed these corrupt politicians on its people. Who created NRO (national reconcialiation ordinance) so that all the corrupt politician come back to power. I think readers know who worked with Musharraf to design NRO. Why dont USA use their resources to rid Pakistan of corrupt politicians rather than facilitating them. War, poverty, failing economy, lack of energy planning, corrupt pathetic government are real problems that threaten to fail Pakistan. I wish USA had put some effort in tackling these problems rather than focussing on elaborate plans for disabling the nukes. What do you want people of Pakistan to think about US foreign policy. What is in it for people of Pakistan. Allow Pakistan to fail and then secure the nukes. To me the question is can people of Pakistan make a wise choice during the next election. Why keep electing parties that have failed us before.
Azam Chowdhry Jul 01, 2012 06:45pm
You always do a great job as an educated level headed writer. I am proud of you. Azam Chowdhry USA
Akhtar warriach Jul 01, 2012 04:39pm
Akhtar warriach, I reviewed the article, I agreed with few aspects of this, like we in Pakistan need good leadership, one could improve the law and order situation in the country and we have resources to do that .Second shortage of power, this is simply the incompitence of current government, which is totally utelising all her resoursis to hide or coverup each other dirty deeds instead of serving people.Pakistan,s Army,its people, industrial potential, Agriculture, nuclear might,medicne and IT are great and has the potential to be one of the best, Pakistan only needs good leadership , nothing else, no help from any other country.Mostly non Pakistan media is Biased , ill informed and has hidden intentions, some people on fereign pay roles, trying to destabalize the country, can not shake the Pakistan loving Balouchs, Kashmires, Pathans, Punjabes and Sindhis, Pakistani need to elect Good , Honest, Educated and well rounded leaders.
Batilshikan Jul 01, 2012 04:05pm
What is interesting is Mr. Almeida's definition of the word "world." It seems that according to Mr. Almeida, US is the world, or may US and Israel, the usual definition in Washington DC.
BRR Jul 01, 2012 04:46am
The writer does well to point out the divergent views - Pakistan seems to have a paranoid version while the world seems to have a version concerned about Pakistan's survival and its aftermath. As Cyril points out - there is perhaps still time for Pakistan to make the write choices, and the right noises to ensure its own survial and make a new narrative.
hariharmani Jul 01, 2012 04:11pm
Thought provoking observation from Sanger and good analysis by Cyril.But what next?Can we do anything about it?I can say ,Pakistan is out of control and hence not governable,and India like wise too corrupt.There will be many who will agree with that assessment.Things do not happen in vacuum.It took long time to get this way.To get better,we will have to work hard,to make changes.What are the odds.?Very low.So what do we do?NOTHING,JUST WATCH THINGS UNFOLD,Good day.
Akbar Jul 01, 2012 05:14am
Please for gods sake could you be more clear!! If you intend to say something please make it simple and straight because such serious issues need no sophisticated english display!! Your sentence on final betrayal seems to make people that necessary? Thank you.
shahid Jul 01, 2012 06:07am
>> Of course, less paranoid, more rational minds will see ... The rule is that there are two kinds of people in the world: the "irrational" and the "rational". Of course the classification is done by the rational. And also worth remembering is the famous quote attributed to former American secretary of state Dr. Henry Kissinger thet "even the paranoid have enemies".
Akil Akhtar Jul 03, 2012 12:01am
Some of our opinion makers seem to eb single track and every article they write has one theme criticise Pakistan for sake of criticism
nasir Jul 01, 2012 04:48pm
Ignore the piece. These are the type of INTELLECTUALS for whom any utterance by a western INTELLECTUAL is divine.
Anuj Jul 02, 2012 11:35am
Pakistan has a right to it's nuclear weapons, howsoever it acquired them. BUT it ca take the step of assuring the world of it's intentions by putting out a clear doctrine of usage of it's weapons and of usage of it's nuclear plansin civilian areas. Whether the doctrine of usage is India centric or world wide to be used, is not the issue - but ensuring Pakistan takes it's nuclear responsibility seriously and announces HOW, will help. Second , Pakistan is at another key cross roads - deciding who betrayed their nation in 1965, 1971 or other 'wars" ....was it's own hubris or external bodies as it currently believes predominantly. That soul searching will help it along with point 1 above, come to a mea culpa moment that will ensure a future not shorn of problems, but one definitely where it's future path will be one where the direction will be of a global citizen and not mark it a pariah state as some in the west believe it is.
mhammed Khanzada Jul 02, 2012 12:07am
writer is confused, analogy will be like that " i am hurting you, because it is good for you"
Saleh Jul 01, 2012 09:27am
There is nothing new in Sanger's book; it reflects the American foreign policy the way it's always been. So, what is it that the writer is so paranoid about?
Sohaib YAHIA Jul 02, 2012 05:49am
Sadly, the paranoids are in much higher proportion here than the rationales. The brainwashed mind-set that everyone is out to get us, whereas we are the most behaved and reasonable nation is leading towards continued degeneration of society. It is very important that few saner voices that remain must be vociferous in expressing their thoughts. This is the only hope that a time may come when our future generations realize that how desynchronized we have been with the rest of the world living in our own fool’s paradise.
Guest UK Jul 02, 2012 10:35am
Look who is worried about Pakistani Nuclear Arsenal, the one and only country in the history of the mankind to have ever used Nuclear/atomic bombs on civil popoulation. What gives them the right to be concerned about any one else while they themselves are responsible for cold blooded killings of millions of people worldwide. Its a shame for the whole world that a country (US) with histroy of crimes against humanity talking about Pak Nukes.
SAK Jul 02, 2012 03:52pm
The Good, Honest, Educated leaders will have to be imported as, unfortunately, we don’t produce them locally.
Maestro Jul 06, 2012 02:41pm
The crux of the Pakistan problem is the nature of the state - It is a security state, and has been a security since its very formation. Every policy is looked at through the lens of security, thereby undermining the growth of the country. Unless, the Military changes its mindset or is forced to do so, nothing will change but will rather get worse.