FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Will History Repeat Itself?

by M. SHAHID ALAM

In January 2002, when President Bush named Iraq, Iran and North Korea as the first targets in his ‘global war against terror’–the putative ‘axis of evil’–few noticed a curious omission. Pakistan was not on the list.

The targeted countries–we were told–sought weapons of mass destruction. In truth, Iraq and Iran were targeted because they stood in the way of Israeli ambitions–and they had oil.

Although Pakistan has been unlucky in oil, it could make stronger claims as a target for American and Israeli ire. It is the only Muslim country with nuclear weapons, a nuclear proliferator, the Taliban’s chief patron, and a sponsor of jihadis in Kashmir.

Why, then, did the US not target Pakistan?

Six years later, this question is not less pertinent: and for two reasons. After being stalled by the Iraqi resistance, US plans for war against Iran are again gathering steam. If Iran is such a tempting target, why not take a few potshots at Pakistan also?

In addition, since their rout in Afghanistan, bands of Muslim ‘ex-tremists’ have found safe havens in Pakistan’s northern districts, as well as Quetta and Karachi. More ominously, last July, the Taliban challenged the authority of the state in Pakistan’s capital.

Yet, there has been little talk in Washington or Tel Aviv about adding Pakistan to the ‘axis of evil.’ This is the Pakistani paradox.

This paradox has a simple explanation. In Pakistan, the US had effected regime change without a change of regime. Almost overnight, following the attacks of 9-11, the US had drafted the Pakistani military to wage war against Muslim extremists. The US had gained an army: and Pakistan’s military dictators had gained longevity.

Yet, could the Pakistani military deliver on its promise to fight the Taliban and Al-Qaida? At first, it appeared that it was succeeding. General Musharraf boasted that Pakistan had collected $50 million in exchange for extremists handed over to the US.

These losses, however, did not deter the extremists from regrouping; and before long they were attacking NATO forces in Afghanistan from bases inside Pakistan. As NATO casualties rose, the US ratcheted its pressure on Pakistan. And by August 2004, the Pakistan had deployed 100,000 troops to guard its frontier with Afghanistan.

The extremists now began targeting Pakistani troops. In September 2006, in the face of rising losses, Pakistan pulled out its troops from Waziristan in return for a Taliban promise not to mount attacks from bases in Pakistan. It was an improbable truce.

In reality, the Taliban had ‘liberated’ Waziristan.

The US was unhappy about the truce. And with good reason: Taliban attacks in Afghanistan began to rise after the truce. Since then, US has been ratcheting its pressures on Pakistan to hunt down the extremists operating out of bases along its northern frontier.

According to the Newsweek of Oct. 8, the Pentagon is now demanding that General Musharraf “turn much of Pakistan’s military into a counterinsurgency force, trained and equipped to combat Al-Qaeda and its extremist supporters along the Afghan border.”

This Latin American approach to counter-insurgency is not likely to work in Pakistan. Their military juntas were firmly rooted in the elites and middle classes, set apart from the leftist insurgents–mostly Amerindians or Mestizos–by both class and race. The boundary between the adversaries in Latin America was firmly drawn.

In Pakistan, the insurgents are Muslim nationalists. They are drawn mainly from Pashtun peasants, but they enjoy broad support among the peasants as well as the middle classes all over Pakistan.

On the other side, about a fourth of Pakistan army consists of Pashtuns; and mid- and low-ranking officers are middle-class in their origin and orientation. Only the top military brass identify firmly with the elites.

In Pakistan, the boundary between the opposite camps is not as firmly drawn as in Latin America. As a result, as Pakistan army escalates the war against its own people, this boundary has been shifting, shrinking the support base of the military elite.

If this is the irreversible dynamic behind the US-inspired counterinsurgency, it is unlikely that Pakistani elites can long sustain their decision to fight America’s war against Muslim nationalists.

Recent events support this prognosis. As the military has escalated its offensive, its reputation has plummeted. Hundreds of soldiers have surrendered or, more likely, defected. General Musharraf has rescinded corruption cases against Benazir Bhutto to court her party; but this has eroded the standing of her party.

How is this ‘civil war’ likely to end? In one scenario, at some point, an alliance of Muslim nationalists–the fighters and their allies in the army and civil society–will enforce their own regime change, and create an Islamist Pakistan.

This will end the civil war, but not Pakistan’s troubles. Instantly, US and Israel will clamor for a regime change of the hard variety: through covert operations, air strikes, invasions, and civil wars.

As these events unfold, the US may well decide to start a war against Iran. This can only advance the timetable for an Islamist take-over in Pakistan. When that happens, the US and Israel will be engaged in a major war along an Islamic arc stretching from Lebanon to Pakistan ­and perhaps beyond, to the north and the east.

Is this the ‘clash of civilizations’ that the Neocons had advocated–and have worked so hard to advance? Over the past century, the nations that initiated the two major wars eventually came to regret them. Is it likely that this history may repeat itself?

Once begun, the course of wars cannot always be foretold. Germany, Japan and Italy learned this lesson the hard way. With some wisdom, the US and Israel could learn this lesson the easy way–from the mistakes of belligerent nations before. Even now, it may not be too late to take this lesson to heart, and avoid a major war that promises to be catastrophic for all sides.

Shahid Alam is professor of economics at Northeastern University, and author of Challenging the New Orientalism: Dissenting Essays on America’s ‘War Against Islam’ (IPI Publications: 2007). He may be reached at alqalam02760@yahoo.com.

© M. SHAHID ALAM

 

M. SHAHID ALAM is professor of economics at Northeastern University. This is an excerpt from his forthcoming book, Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilizing Logic of Zionism (Macmillan, November 2009). Contact me at alqalam02760@yahoo.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
May 26, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Swamp Politics, Trump Style: “Russiagate” Diverts From the Real White House Scandals
Paul Street
It’s Not Gonna Be Okay: the Nauseating Nothingness of Neoliberal Capitalist and Professional Class Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
The ICEmen Cometh
Ron Jacobs
The Deep State is the State
Pete Dolack
Why Pence Might be Even Worse Than Trump
Patrick Cockburn
We Know What Inspired the Manchester Attack, We Just Won’t Admit It
Thomas Powell
The Dirty Secret of the Korean War
Mark Ashwill
The Fat Lady Finally Sings: Bob Kerrey Quietly Resigns from Fulbright University Vietnam Leadership Position
John Davis
Beyond Hope
Uri Avnery
The Visitation: Trump in Israel
Ralph Nader
The Left/Right Challenge to the Failed “War on Drugs”
Traci Yoder
Free Speech on Campus: a Critical Analysis
Dave Lindorff
Beware the Supporter Scorned: Upstate New York Trump Voters Hit Hard in President’s Proposed 2018 Budget
Daniel Read
“Sickening Cowardice”: Now More Than Ever, Britain’s Theresa May Must be Held to Account on the Plight of Yemen’s Children
Ana Portnoy
Before the Gates: Puerto Rico’s First Bankruptcy Trial
M. Reza Behnam
Rethinking Iran’s Terrorism Designation
Brian Cloughley
Ukraine and the NATO Military Alliance
Josh Hoxie
Pain as a Policy Choice
David Macaray
Stephen Hawking Needs to Keep His Mouth Shut
Ramzy Baroud
Fear as an Obstacle to Peace: Why Are Israelis So Afraid?
Kathleen Wallace
The Bilious Incongruity of Trump’s Toilet
Seth Sandronsky
Temping Now
Alan Barber – Dean Baker
Blue Collar Blues: Manufacturing Falls in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania in April
Jill Richardson
Saving America’s Great Places
Richard Lawless
Are Credit Rating Agencies America’s Secret Fifth Column?
Louis Proyect
Venezuela Reconsidered
Murray Dobbin
The NDP’s Singh and Ashton: Flash Versus Vision
Ron Leighton
Endarkenment: Postmodernism, Identity Politics, and the Attack on Free Speech
Anthony Papa
Drug War Victim: Oklahoma’s Larry Yarbrough to be Freed after 23 Years in Prison
Rev. John Dear
A Call to Mobilize the Nation Over the Next 18 Months
Yves Engler
Why Anti-Zionism and Anti-Jewish Prejudice Have to Do With Each Other
Ish Mishra
Political Underworld and Adventure Journalism
Binoy Kampmark
Roger Moore in Bondage
Rob Seimetz
Measuring Manhoods
Edward Curtin
Sorry, You’re Not Invited
Vern Loomis
Winning the Lottery is a State of Mind
Charles R. Larson
Review: Mary V. Dearborn’s “Ernest Hemingway”
David Yearsley
The Ethos of Mayfest
May 25, 2017
Jennifer Matsui
The Rise of the Alt-Center
Michael Hudson
Another Housing Bubble?
Robert Fisk
Trump Meets the New Leader of the Secular World, Pope Francis
John Laforge
Draft Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Unveiled
Benjamin Dangl
Trump’s Budget Expands War on the Backs of America’s Poor
Alice Donovan
US-Led Air Strikes Killed Record Number of Civilians in Syria
Andrew Moss
The Meaning of Trump’s Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail