Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Battle That Wasn’t

by WILLIAM S. LIND

About two weeks ago, the world’s attention suddenly turned to a dramatic battle in Pakistan. The Pakistani Army, we were told, had trapped a large force of al Qaeda, including a “high-value target,” possibly Ayman Zawahiri. The Pakistanis brought in artillery and air power. The fate of the al Qaeda fighters was sealed.

Then the whole thing evaporated into thin air. First, Zawahiri wasn’t there. Then no other “high-value target” was there either. The Pakistani Army invited local tribal elders to mediate, declaring a cease-fire while they did so – not the sort of thing you do when you are winning. Pakistani Army units elsewhere in the tribal territories came under attack. Finally the whole business just dropped out of sight, ending not with a bang but a whimper.

What really happened? At this point, if anyone knows they are not telling. But that is not the important question. The important question is, what didn’t happen?

What did not happen is that a force of irregulars – maybe al Qaeda, maybe Taliban, certainly local tribal fighters – was trapped by a state military and beaten. That is a very significant non-event. Normally, non-state irregulars cannot stand against state armed forces. Once they are located and pinned down, the state armed forces can use their vastly superior firepower to win an easy and guaranteed victory. They just keep up the bombardment until those left alive have little if any fight left in them (remember, these irregulars are not exactly the German Army at the Somme).

Here, the firepower was employed. The Pakistani Army used both artillery and attack helicopters. But it did not win. If it had won, you can be certain Islamabad would be trumpeting the victory. The fact that the battle became a non-event says that the forces of the state of Pakistan did not win.

What does this failure mean? The Washington Post quoted a retired Pakistani Army general as saying, “The state has to win this battle or its credibility will be destroyed.” I suspect the general is correct. In fact, I will go further: I think the failure of the Pakistani Army to win this battle marks the beginning of the end for Pakistan’s current President, General Musharraf. The defensive victory of the tribal fighters will turn into an offensive victory, giving courage and a sense of inevitable victory to Musharraf’s enemies while causing near-revolt in Musharraf’s base, the army itself. Before the year is out, I suspect we will see General Musharraf’s head impaled on a pike and surging Pashtun crowds proclaiming Osama as their leader.

At that point the American strategic failures that are the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will have transformed themselves into an American strategic disaster. As I have said before in On War, Iraq and Afghanistan themselves mean little. The centers of gravity in this war are Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. What is important about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is how they affect these other countries and their pro-American governments.

Our friends in the Middle East have warned us that the spillover effects are not likely to be positive. That has now proven to be the case. The Pakistani Army went into the Tribal Territories – something it has long known is not a good idea – under American pressure, as part of the current American “big push” in Afghanistan. In effect, the American generals in command in Afghanistan made the typical German mistake: they sacrificed the strategic situation to benefit their operational plan. As did the Germans, we will find that blunder tends to win the campaign at the price of losing the war.

Meanwhile, adding insult to injury, the putative first target in this failed operation, al Qaeda’s Mr. Zawahiri, issued an audiotape in which he cocked a snook at General Musharraf, damned him for sending his “miserable” army against the tribesmen and called on the humiliated Pakistani Army to revolt. I suspect the bad fairy of militant Islam will grant him that wish. Al Qaeda’s strategic victory in Spain will be followed by a vastly more significant strategic victory in Pakistan, while the U.S. contents itself with bombing an occasional Afghan orphanage from 20,000 feet.

Am I the only one who can see where this is all going? But perhaps it helps to be a German military historian…

WILLIAM S. LIND is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation.

 

WILLIAM S. LIND, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 30, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
Thinking Dangerously in the Age of Normalized Ignorance
Stanley L. Cohen
Israel and Academic Freedom: a Closed Book
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Can Russia Learn From Brazil’s Fate? 
Andrew Levine
A Putrid Election: the Horserace as Farce
Mike Whitney
The Biggest Heist in Human History
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Sick Blue Line
Rob Urie
The Twilight of the Leisure Class
Vijay Prashad
In a Hall of Mirrors: Fear and Dislike at the Polls
Alexander Cockburn
The Man Who Built Clinton World
John Wight
Who Will Save Us From America?
Pepe Escobar
Afghanistan; It’s the Heroin, Stupid
W. T. Whitney
When Women’s Lives Don’t Matter
Julian Vigo
“Ooops, I Did It Again”: How the BBC Funnels Stories for Financial Gain
Howard Lisnoff
What was Missing From The Nation’s Interview with Bernie Sanders
Jeremy Brecher
Dakota Access Pipeline and the Future of American Labor
Binoy Kampmark
Pictures Left Incomplete: MH17 and the Joint Investigation Team
Andrew Kahn
Nader Gave Us Bush? Hillary Could Give Us Trump
Steve Horn
Obama Weakens Endangered Species Act
Dave Lindorff
US Propaganda Campaign to Demonize Russia in Full Gear over One-Sided Dutch/Aussie Report on Flight 17 Downing
John W. Whitehead
Uncomfortable Truths You Won’t Hear From the Presidential Candidates
Ramzy Baroud
Shimon Peres: Israel’s Nuclear Man
Brandon Jordan
The Battle for Mercosur
Murray Dobbin
A Globalization Wake-Up Call
Jesse Ventura
Corrupted Science: the DEA and Marijuana
Richard W. Behan
Installing a President by Force: Hillary Clinton and Our Moribund Democracy
Andrew Stewart
The Democratic Plot to Privatize Social Security
Daniel Borgstrom
On the Streets of Oakland, Expressing Solidarity with Charlotte
Marjorie Cohn
President Obama: ‘Patron’ of the Israeli Occupation
Norman Pollack
The “Self-Hating” Jew: A Critique
David Rosen
The Living Body & the Ecological Crisis
Joseph Natoli
Thoughtcrimes and Stupidspeak: Our Assault Against Words
Ron Jacobs
A Cycle of Death Underscored by Greed and a Lust for Power
Uri Avnery
Abu Mazen’s Balance Sheet
Kim Nicolini
Long Drive Home
Louisa Willcox
Tribes Make History with Signing of Grizzly Bear Treaty
Art Martin
The Matrix Around the Next Bend: Facebook, Augmented Reality and the Podification of the Populace
Andre Vltchek
Failures of the Western Left
Ishmael Reed
Millennialism or Extinctionism?
Frances Madeson
Why It’s Time to Create a Cabinet-Level Dept. of Native Affairs
Laura Finley
Presidential Debate Recommendations
José Negroni
Mass Firings on Broadway Lead Singers to Push Back
Leticia Cortez
Entering the Historical Dissonance Surrounding Desafinados
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi: ‘My Life is My Message’
Charles R. Larson
Queen Lear? Deborah Levy’s “Hot Milk”
David Yearsley
Bring on the Nibelungen: If Wagner Scored the Debates
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]