War and Politics

By Feroz Khan

The face of war, in the first decade of the twenty-first century, has undergone a significant change. The continuing evolution of war, as the most complex, the least understood, and extremely unpredictable of all human endeavors, has been influenced by a paradigm change in the politics of international relations. The study of international relations, and within it the hierarchy of sovereign power, has been steadily shifting, though scarcely noticed, from the confrontational assumptions of the Cold War to the euphoria of globalization to the dystopian nature of trans-internationalism. In all of this, the nuanced definition of sovereign political power has also gradually changed within a traditionalist view of political power itself. The traditional definition of political power has been understood as the ability to make others accept what they normally would not accept, but this definition differs from the idea of sovereign power, which has been historically defined as the complete authority of a state to regulate and control its affairs within its own territorial jurisdiction.

The end result of these differing understandings of political power and sovereign power, in international relations, is an implicit sense of conflict as the ideas of political power and sovereign power actually exist as an anti-thesis to each other. The hallmark of political power, in the international relations, is aggressive and the overarching aim of political power is to create a situation that continually favors and increases the options of a particular state. Whereas, the idea of sovereign power is to maintain a status-quo that ensures that a state has the option to resist unreasonable demands that might limit its own abilities to exercise authority within its own territory. It is this reality of the international relations, with its constant proclivity towards an inherent conflict that gives it the enduring image of a Hobbesian state of nature. However, despite its Hobbesian nature and the idea of every state against every state, there is a caveat, which limits this conflict and tries to manage it effectively and this caveat is known as war and diplomacy which not only regulates the dynamics of international relations but also influences it.

The role of diplomacy is crucial in understanding international relations, because without the limitations of diplomacy, there would be perpetual conflict in the world. Realistically speaking, no nation-state has the ability to wage infinite war and the main idea behind a nation’s diplomacy is to attain its political aims without the recourse to war. It is only when diplomacy fails to achieve a political aim; of advancing a nation-state’s interests that war becomes a necessity to force one nation’s political demands on another nation and to make it stop resisting the demands being forced upon it. Therefore, wars are fought, and should be only fought, in pursuant to clearly defined and achievable political aims. The most important consideration in the execution of successful wars is the political reason for which a war is being fought and once that political reason or aim is attained, the war should be ended and diplomacy should be used in formalizing the political status-quo that was created as a result of a war.

Therefore, the logic of a war is rooted in the political reasons for which it is being fought and furthermore, the nature of war will always be determined by the political clarity, which frames the parameters of a particular conflict, but more importantly establishes the political criteria which ends a particular war. It is in this realm that the nature of warfare has changed because the international system has moved away from the traditional ideas of conflict between nation-states to the idea of conflict influenced by the politics of non-state groups, such as the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and their non-state political aims. The future wars will not be determined by the politics of the state but rather by the inability of the state to effectively exercise its sovereign power over the non-state actors that use its territory as a geographic base to proliferate their political and military designs. This is where the most fundamental change has occurred in the nature of wars, because the politics which have guided origins of wars for the last five hundred years have changed.

The traditional politics of war were based on the Westphalia model that saw the nation-state as the most important factor in international relations, but in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, wars have been increasingly dominated by the trans-internationalism of non-state actors and their politics. This is not to suggest that the traditional conflicts between the states, such as between Russia and Georgia, will end, because those conflicts will remain but they will be shadowed by the conflicts between the state and the non-state actors. In this sense, non-state actors can be judged and defined as all those centers of political power that effectively challenge the sovereign power of the state and they can be, thus, identified as the Pakistani Taliban, Al-Qaeda, militant sectarian groups and even citizen political advocacy groups such as the Red Shirts in Thailand.

The potential problem, in all of this, will be the murky nature of wars and the inability of such wars to have clearly defined political aims for their effective conduct. The lack of political clarity, to a large part, stems from the inability of the international law to define the act of aggressive culpability and in the process, to legitimately sanction an armed response against it. The most interesting question in all of this is the threshold of the state’s guilt itself and whether a state can be politically held responsible for the actions of non-state actors that operate from within its territory. As mentioned earlier, wars are determined by their political origins and it is the politics, which articulate the military response and in this instance, the politics of trans-internationalism will increasingly see the politics of non-state actors as a threat to global peace. In such a case, the new evolving doctrine of military response is based on the idea of first using (political and economic) diplomacy to convince a nation not to allow its territory to be used by non-state actors and if that nation fails to control the non-state actors within its borders, then an unilateral military response will deemed justified.

The defining litmus-test of such a military response will be whether a nation has the political will or the political capacity to ensure that its territory is not used by non-state actors against the neighboring countries or allow the use of its territory to plan and launch an attack globally against any nation. In simple terms, any nation that seems incapable of acting conclusively against the spread of cross-border terrorism or tacitly and overtly promotes terrorism will be considered to have forfeited its right to sovereignty and any subsequent military actions undertaken on its territory will be considered as a legitimate military response.

Therefore, for nations to protect their sovereign power from being intruded upon, as in the example of Pakistan, it will have to make sure that it fulfills the requirements of sovereign power and has complete authority and control over its territory and does not allow its power to be challenged or undermined in any tangible way or form.

Hence, the origins of future wars will determined by the politics of a nation-state, within its own territorial limits and not in any extra-territorial terms. The failure of a nation-state to exercise sovereign power would imply that non-state actors or groups will influence its options and may well decide whether such nation-state goes to war or not. Again, Pakistan is a very instructive case in this sense, because it has been the political failure of Pakistan to effectively maintain its sovereign power that has seen its sovereignty being ignored in the form of continuous United States drone attacks on its territory.

For Pakistan to re-establish any notions of sovereign power, it will have to deal effectively and divisively against all non-state actors/groups, which challenge its sovereign power. More importantly, Pakistan must understand and realize the failure to control, disband and destroy all the non-state groups that operate from within its territory will rob it of the prime consideration of sovereignty; the right to make war and peace. As the example of Mumbai attacks of November 26, 2008 showed, India and Pakistan nearly went to war over the actions of a militant group based in Pakistan which the Pakistani government failed to control and which used Pakistani territory to attack India and if Pakistan cannot even control the decision to go war, then in terms of international law it ceases to exist as a sovereign power.

Therefore, the future wars will be determined by the politics of how effectively a nation-state controls its own territory and prevents that territory from being used against other nations and not necessarily by the political intentions of a nation-state towards its neighbors. In such a scenario, the greatest threat to international peace is not the size of the armies and national hostilities, but weak and failing governments and nations that have abdicated their sovereign power to the political power of non-state groups, which seek to create a new hierarchy of power, within the international relations, but are not accountable to the principles of international law.

Consequently, the future politics and diplomacy of the future wars will be guided by the notions of a collective international security and any nation that undermines such a collective security will find itself as a pariah in international relations and risk its own national sovereign power.


Filed under Pakistan

59 responses to “War and Politics

  1. ikhlaq bukhari

    PTH’S facebook page is not working.your articles don’t appear in your fans’ newsfeed at all.This should be rectified.

  2. our politicians do nothing for pakistan….plzzz thinks in the favour of pakistan

  3. Maryanne Khan

    Feroz Khan

    a brilliant, lucid article.

    I think, however, that there exists another element that muddies the waters in the existence of such non-state groups and that is the connections of mainstream political groups (ostensibly organs of the nation-state or the military) who are overtly or covertly aligned with them. It is not in the ‘interests’ of such ‘mainstream’ groups to exert any regulatory control over groups who in some way serve their interests, albeit with a destabilising agenda. In the case of a nation state in which non-state groups are deliberately used or empowered to further certain partisan interests, the relationship of adversity does not apply. In such circumstances, the non-state groups you mention are not external to and in conflict with the nation state, but function as an internal apparatus of certain organs of state power.

  4. hayyer

    “…. India and Pakistan nearly went to war over the actions of a militant group based in Pakistan which the Pakistani government failed to control and which used Pakistani territory to attack India and if Pakistan cannot even control the decision to go war, then in terms of international law it ceases to exist as a sovereign power.”

    Can the above be paraphrased to say that Pakistan is either not able, or not willing to exercise full sovereignty?

    It is a dangerous to propose such a concept. What if another sovereign, not necessarily India, proposes filling the sovereignty gap in the interest of peace or law and order.

  5. @Hayyer

    In a different direction from the one that you have indicated, this has already happened in the Northern Territories. I cannot sufficiently deplore the terrible act of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice who heads the military at this juncture. We will all pay a very heavy price in the future for this seemingly innocous act.

  6. Majumdar


    What “innocous act” are you referring to? Chinese presence in Gilgit-Baltistan? Or am I misreading you?


  7. Hola

    Err .. Chinese 10,000 soldier-coolies are just “building roads” . You see, natives are above such lowly construction jobs .

    How nonchalantly Pakistan Army allows their country to be used as a condom for other powers, is simply amazing. First by US to screw the Afghans/Russians, and now this.

  8. Hola

    “As the example of Mumbai attacks of November 26, 2008 showed, India and Pakistan nearly went to war over the actions of a militant group based in Pakistan which the Pakistani government failed to control and which used Pakistani territory to attack India”

    Oh .. Is ISI a non-state actor ? Or only so-called “rogue elements” within the hallowed institution ?

  9. @Majumdar

    I have read accounts that Chinese troops present are there for protection of their workers. This seems to be a flimsy subterfuge. Only VERY BAD things can result from this. The future of the J&K dispute henceforth gets further complicated.

  10. Majumdar


    Only VERY BAD things can result from this.

    The question is bad for whom. Only Indians, and I dont know why the Chinese or the Pakistanis shud be bothered about what is bad for India.


  11. Feroz Khan

    @ Maryanne Khan

    Thank you for your comments! You have raised some very good points, which deserve an answer.

    The relationship of adversity does apply to non-state groups and others in the sense of potential interests. Once a group matures, politically, and develops a means of self-sustaining itself; it will develop its own political ideology, which may be different and may clash, with the views of its orgininally support group.

    In this sense, main stream political parties or individual politicans, may arrive at a policy issue, where their mutal interests diverge and at such issues, a difficulty to compromise might lead to a re-evaluation of policy options and even a reversal of the policy itself. All political groups, and this includes non-state actors, operate on the assumption of realism; aims that can be achieved within the tangible restraints (which can be identified as political, economic, financial, and social factors).

    Non-state actors, like any other groups, have their own power matrix to consider and their own set of institutional metrics, which need to be secured from outside interventions. Within this, the most sacred principle is the idea of political self-preservation and continued existence of the non-state actors as a potent group and as a political idea.

    Given the pragmatic nature of policy and the fluidity of politics itself, changes in strategic outlook of the groups and their policies and even tactical adjustments and possible re-alignments between such groups and their one time main stream political supporters or political parties, can not be discounted.

    As mentioned, non-state actors or groups will function as an internal, and not an external source, till they share a similarity of interests, with the state. The internal and external definations are, then, based on political interests of the state itself and how it sees the politics of such groups and whether they present a threat to the interests of the state itself.

    This perception is open to change. In either case, non-state actors do influence the policy of the state and in this sense, they excert a dynamic, whose consequences can not be easily quanitfied under the present system of international relations and hence, pose a new challenge in our understanding of the international theory of conflict and resolution.

    The theoretical approach to this problem, is now emerging in the guise of “critical theory” of international relations and this theory argues that the state, itself as a main fulcrum of international relations, is incapable of dealing with such issues. This theory argues that the state’s role in this emerging international context, will be replaced by institutions (such as NATO, ISAF etc.), which will manage international security and future responses to such crisis, will be institutional based and led rather than by the nation-state itself and even if it is; it will be under umbrella of an institutional group – in another words, a coalition of nations pursuing a political goal under the frame work of an international mechanism, i.e. the United Nations.

    I apologise for this exceedingly tedious post, but the theory is fascination and if you or any one on PTH is intrested, I will be more than happy to engage in this debate.


  12. Feroz Khan

    @ hayyer

    “It is a dangerous to propose such a concept. What if another sovereign, not necessarily India, proposes filling the sovereignty gap in the interest of peace or law and order.”

    Brilliant observation!

    This is exactly what the situational reality of the international system has been, and is, since September 11, 2001 attacks and the United States’ arguments for military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq. This will cause a major irrepairble harm to the corpus of international law, which is designed to prevent conflict between states. It undermines the precepts of peace, diplomacy and questions on the nature of wars and their political legitimacy as understood for the last 500 years.

    However, given the recent trends in international political activism, from armed conflict to citizen-group responses; from implementation of environmental regulations to the disbursement of international development aid, the idea of trans-nationalism – the development of a body of rules and regulations that covers the entire gamut of international affairs on a global level – will slowly eclipse the practice of bi-lateralism in international relations, which governed relations between states and governments.

    The only issue to be ironed out is to create the effective mechanisms for such a system and as long such a system is not created; the world will suffer endemic instability due to a lack of a credible enforcing mechanism, which can only be created once the issues of traditional sovereingty are answered in terms of how much sovereign power the nations are willing to give up for the sake of a new world order.

    Till, such a system is attained; your observation stands vindicated – the world will be a very dangerous place.


  13. @Majumdar

    Feroz Khan has put it in his typical balanced way. Please look at his response to Hayyer.

  14. Feroz Khan

    @ Hola

    Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) is not a non-state actor.

    Its role as a non-state actor has been created in the media through the debate questioning its role in the formulation and execution of the state’s policy. It is considered as a non-state actor, because its conduct seems to be at a variance from the policies of the state and this creates the impression that it is acting in an unauthorized manner.


  15. Maryanne Khan


    Far from being a ‘tedious post’, your insight was most enlightening and informative. I found myself having to think differently about formulaic constructions of human institutions, which, as you point out, are constantly in flux.

    Furthermore, your posts are extremely important in contemplating and understanding a new context of the theory of international conflict and resolution. Critical theory? Fascinating! “the idea of trans-nationalism – the development of a body of rules and regulations that covers the entire gamut of international affairs on a global level – will slowly eclipse the practice of bi-lateralism in international relations, which governed relations between states and governments.”

    Perhaps the only possible way to manage the affairs of the world.

  16. Amna Zaman

    A relation that should be understood in great depth, our nation requires stability and smooth politics and that can only be done once the war against Taliban is won.

  17. Hira Mir

    War against the Taliban is directly influencing the politics of the country. The political leaders have been made target my Taliban on numerous occasions and this is condemned by people of Pakistan.

  18. Feroz Khan

    @ Amna Zaman (September 22, 2010 at 2:40 pm)

    The war against the Taliban can only be won in a political sense and never militarily. In over 200 years, no modern army has ever defeated an insurgency. The root causes of an insurgency is generally understood as being of a political nature, where armed militancy is used as a means to advance political goals.

    The only way in which war against the Taliban will be won is if the state of Pakistan agrees to their political demands, which is the establishment of an Islamic emirate; a state where sharia will be the law.

    The only way such a war will end is if the government of Pakistan is willing to cede vast tracts of its territory (North/South Waziristan; FATA areas) to the Taliban and the Taliban accept this offer.

    All wars have political origins and every peace at the end of every war has been secured politically.

    This war will go for a very long time; perhaps a generation or two, because the space for a political compromise does not exist.


  19. Feroz Khan

    @ Maryanne Khan
    (September 22, 2010 at 8:31 am)

    Hopefully, perhaps, a global system of government will be a better means to manage the affairs of the world.

    Herein, lies the rub. Any such process has to be a political process based on a series of agreed compromises. The question is how devise a way to enforce those agreements? How to deter a nation, still harboring elements of sovereign interests, from breaking such a covenant and acting independently?

    Nations are a polyglot creation of their historic experiences, cultural traits, sense of nationalism, self-interested goals and living memories. How will all these experiences be erased, or can they be erased, under a rubic of a global system?

    Even in such a system, the potential for a conflict remains. The only effective conflict resolution seems to be to remove politics from the issue, but how do you achieve this?

    Questions in international relations, like the windmills of our minds turning endlessly like a wheel within a wheel, are simply addicative.


  20. Maryanne Khan

    I think it would be worthwhile to examine the history of the League of Nations, which failed, and of the UN, which certain voices were claiming was ‘irrelevant’ not so very long ago. Discovering the reasons for which these organisations fall or fell short of their goals might be instructive in determining where agreement was actually reached and on what basis.

    Sadly, in both cases, an actual global conflict initiated their foundation. A stickler in both cases is that these organisations do not have their own means of enforcement, relying instead on member nations to contribute. As in the case of the invasion of Iraq, intervention was heavily influenced by the US’s panic after 9/11. Removing the politics will be extremely difficult, for, as you say, nations are the idea, the ‘picture’ each has of what it stands for and for whom and what it is willing to sacrifice or defend.

    If one takes the threat of global warming and related climate events associated with it, in time, the survival of all groups will depend more on the distribution and availability of resources than on the need to defend a ‘principle’ – we will have to work out a way for the entire planet to survive and maybe when we reach that juncture, national differences will be to some degree subsumed by the need to survive at all. Either that or some groups or nations will face ‘failure’ altogether. And who will decide?

    I might be naiive, but as time passes and populations increase, the balance of power might reside not so much in who has the outright arms superiority, but who can adapt better to more difficult conditions.

    Of course (and here go the windmills) those with superior firepower can do what they will.

    There is also the problem that individual governments (as in Presidencies or parliaments etc) exist within a time frame that is limited and changeable with the advent of a new regime with different constituencies, issues and different priorities.

    Tough times ahead, but embarking on a path along the lines you suggest is more pragmatic and more sustainable, even though it will require a completely different, more wholistic view of the world.

  21. Maryanne Khan


    How will the eventual withdrawal of the (US) UN forces in Afghanistan affect the Pak Taliban’s struggle as you posit above? If they succeed in ‘retaking’ Afghanistan, (assuming that, for the first time in history a foreign intervention there is ‘successful’) how will a Taliban-held Afghanistan impact on similar groups in Pakistan?

  22. Feroz Khan

    @ Maryanne Khan
    (September 23, 2010 at 6:33 am)

    To answer the points you raised, the League of Nations did fail due to a lack of an enforcing mechanism, but its failure was more political. One, United States never joined it and secondly, Great Britain and France started to pursue their sovereign interests over the principles of collective security and lastly, nations of Europe lost faith in it. The league did not fail as much as the nations, belonging to it failed.

    The United Nations was held hostage to the Cold War and then, the power of the veto basically allowed permanent members of the United Nations to ruin the very idea it was created for in the first place. Another point to consider in the failure of such organization is the aspect of financial support. They have to rely on the member states for financial contributions and United Nations was politically blackmailed by the United States to follow a pro-US logic through the withholding of US monies.

    This is a problem with no easy answers on how stop countries seeking a quid pro quo for their financial contributions and whether a policy is based on the common good or on the basis of being bought by the most prolific contributor?

    Another thing to remember, is major global re-alignments of political power usually happen as a result of coalition wars. United States benefitted from its participation in World War I and World War II placed it as a global hegemon and its end came as a result of another coalition war: the war on terror. The longevity of global power, as you correctly identified, is predicated on the idea of financial means to sustain a political role, because the projection of a global power is directly proportional to the nation’s economic power, which then is translated into military power (the ability to pay for military forces), which is the final projecter of the nation’s political influence.

    Your insight is correct. What will eventually sustain a nation’s global reach is not the weapons it has, but rather if it has money (economic resources) to pay for those weapons.

    I agree with you in the sense that though politics might be hard to remove, but whether a nation has the capacity to pay for its political interests might lend itself to idea of cooperation. International cooperation then will be determined not by the scale of the problems, but costs which the solutions will demand.

    Please consider the fact that US superior fire power is subsidized by Chinese willingness to buy US debt and if you take away Chinese financing of American wars, will the US have the capability to fund its wars regardless of its superior fire power?

    The biggest fault of the critical theory of international relations is that though it has identified the problems, it is still struggling to articulate a credible solution. The world is definately moving towards a holistic approach, but it still suffers from a hang-over individualism – national interest.


  23. Maryanne Khan


    “What will eventually sustain a nation’s global reach is not the weapons it has, but rather if it has money (economic resources) to pay for those weapons.”

    That’s the bare bones of it indeed.

    Another factor (here I have the Marshall Plan in mind) that weighs in when discussing economies, is whether or not the dominant hegemony (in that case, the US post WWII) sees the collapse of several economies in strategic sectors (in that case, Europe) as a destabilisation of its own interests and worth bolstering financially in its own self-interest in a broader sense.

    I don’t forget that the emergence of the United States came swiftly upon the demise of the British Empire (due to is financial collapse and relinquishment of an Empire it was no longer in its interests to maintain postbellum.)

    Have we yet seen any signs that the Global financial crisis (which impacted drastically on the US domestic economy in terms of housing and unemployment) will promote a shift in how much money America sees fit to throw around the world? I might guess that the speedy withdrawal from Iraq was not only in response to increasing domestic unpopularity, a policy that had become no longer sustainable at home, but perceived as a waste of resources by the constituents of the US government, independently of the policy of US power-brokers regarding Iraq.

    The precariousness of international relations with Pakistan and the willingness or non of other nations to ‘tolerate’ its potential ‘collapse’ is worrisome and manifest in the unwillingness to come to its aid after the floods.

    Time will tell whether or not the Pakistani economy can survive the massive damage to crops, infrastructure etc and the displacement of so many people who have lost everything. From where I sit (and it’s not in Pakistan so I might be very well wrong) it looks like a rather similar situation to post War Europe. Will the rest of the world think it’s worth ‘saving’ Pakistan for whatever reason?

    Yes, as you say, critical theory has identified the problems, and they are economic and experienced in terms of national interest, which translates into political will. I think you got it right earlier in the discussion when you mentioned that finances are used either to coerce desired outcomes or as a form of blackmail and he who holds the purse strings and the desire to influence the comportment of other nations, always wins whilst that nation pursues these objectives.

    “International cooperation then will be determined not by the scale of the problems, but costs which the solutions will demand.” Exactly.

  24. Feroz Khan

    @ Maryanne Khan
    (September 23, 2010 at 6:39 am)

    First of all, an eventual withdrawal of the US forces will be dependent on the political reality that exists within Afghanistan and where the balance of power lies and with whom. US will not leave Afghanistan unless it has secured its political interests in the country and still has influence there. US cannot afford to let the Taliban back into power, because that would be a negation of the last nine years worth of military effort and not to mention a massive political defeat.

    It is a real interesting question how the situation in Afghanistan might impact Pakistan. We are assuming that Afghan and Pakistani Taliban share a common political philsophy. What if they do not share a common goal other than being together for reasons of expediency?

    This is a fascinating question. The overall impact of Taliban dominated Afghanistan on Pakistan, will be chaotic. The Afghan Taliban will hold a grudge against Pakistan for its actions in the aftermath of 9/11 in helping US and though they may be favorable towards Pakistan; Pakistan will not enjoy the unfettered access to power in Kabul as it did before and that means, its western border will remain insecure and with it, the notions of strategic depth will die a prolonged and painful death.

    The overall impact of a Taliban dominated Afghanistan will have limited impact on Pakistani Taliban. The political aims of Pakistani Taliban are different than those of the Afghan Taliban and other than sharing an ethnic identity, there is not much in common.

    The main issue here is the funding of the Taliban on both sides of the border and this funding is coming from Saudi Arabia, which sees the Taliban as a hedge against shia power dominated Tajiks and Uzbeks and likewise in Pakistan, funds the Taliban activities to promote Whabbism.

    Saudi intelligence is very active on both sides of the border and if there is a political understanding in Afghanistan that allows the US to leave, the question then is; is Pakistan willing to enter to a political agreement with its own Taliban and in the process give the the defacto control of the FATA?

    I think that the Pakistani army has learned its lessons of entering into political agreements with the Taliban as the example of Sufi Muhammad and Swat proved and if does, it will do so from a position of strenght and that means it will have to degrade the capabilities of the Pakistani Taliban to such an extent that they agree to peace terms that are favorable to Pakistan. By this, I am suggesting that the compromise might be the territorial intergrity of Pakistan over the sharia based emirate of Pakistani Taliban.

    If you suggesting what the impact might be in terms of ceassation of hostilities and an end of terrorist attacks inside Pakistan, the answer to that depends on nature of the peace terms and whether they are acceptable to the Pakistani Taliban or not. The other option is to fight the Pakistani Taliban till they stop fighting, but such an eventuality risks massive popular dissatisfaction and questions of popular support for such an action.

    In the end, I think there will be a political settlement, but on what grounds – that will be million dollar question.


  25. Feroz Khan

    Maryanne Khan
    (September 23, 2010 at 8:01 am)

    The dominant hegemon always has to bear the costs of the system it creates, which is always in its own interests. Global hegemony is never an alturistic act, but a selfish desire to prolong the benefits of a balance of power arrangment and the reason why a hegemon supports the creation of the markets, as the United States did, is to create the credit which pay for the cost of the hegemony itself.

    The global financial crisis will nudge a re-allignment of international power but not in the traditional sense. The international order, also known as the Brettonwood system, cannot be allowed to collapse and along with take the United States down. China, which controls about 25 percent of the American debt, is more interested in leveraging influence through re-finance of the American debt and in assuming the burdens of a global policeman, but if you notice; despite lacking a political power equal to the United States and lacking militarily, China is slowly taking the lead as the international center for global finance.

    Controlling United States’ debt allows China to influence American policy without paying for the extra burdens of armaments expenditure and allows its to amass foreign exchange reserves. The world, which will emerge in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis, will be a world ruled by the laws of a political ecomomy and governed by international fiancial institutions, which will look towards China, rather than the United States, because it is the Chinese market that carry the global economy on its shoulders.

    As to the impending collapse of Pakistan, the realist within me is of the opinion that Pakistan will be kept “afloat”. As mentioned in an earlier post, the costs of dealing with an international problems will bring nations together and it will economically cheaper to keep Pakistan on the hook of political supportibility rather than to pay the costs, both political and ecomomic, that would be required to clean up the mess in the wake of its collapse.

    Pakistani economy has good fundlementals and it will survive and the revivial of agriculture and post-flood recovery are issues of good goverance more than anything else and here you have a valid point and there is concern on this issue.


    P.S.: I guessed from your post’s time stamp that you are were out of country and since it is late on my end also, I have to call it a day! 🙂

  26. Maryanne Khan

    “The main issue here is the funding of the Taliban on both sides of the border and this funding is coming from Saudi Arabia, which sees the Taliban as a hedge against shia power dominated Tajiks and Uzbeks and likewise in Pakistan, funds the Taliban activities to promote Whabbism.”

    Oh right! I came across the roots of that during the 1980’s in researching my novel.

    (Which is why I am so interested in these discussions. What started out as a simple telling of my husband’s rather extraordinary life story, ended up taking five years to write, plus travel to Pakistan because I needed to get as much background info as possible – especially now that the roots of so many problems now affecting Pakistan go back to the Ul Haq years. When it’s published, I will need to be as informed as possible . . . .)

    Thank you for pointing out that the ends of the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban cannot be assumed as identical, they get rather conflated over here.

    If it’s a question of ‘fighting’ the Pak Taliban till they stop, good luck! Their methods are insidious and potentially inexhaustible due to the religious aspect of ‘martyrdom’ and its rewards. I think your assumption that a negotiated solution will be the only answer, and yes, on what terms is the question. If the Taliban have the goal of establishing what you call a separate emirate in FATA, how will the Federal Government be able to accommodate a separate sharia legal system or will the FATA become autonomous? And what will that mean for other regions perhaps aspiring to autonomy (if indeed they are)?

    Something else that nibbles at the edges of dealings with the Afghan Taliban (but not, I would think, with the Pakistani Taliban) is the issue of the drug trade. I came across certain documents that registered the destabilising effect clamping down on heroin exports (by whatever means) and that caused the International Banks and Pharmaceutical industries to intervene. Is this still a factor?

  27. Maryanne Khan


    thanks for all that.

    I’ve kept you busy eh? Sorry and good night.

  28. @Feroz Khan

    It seems almost churlish to differ from your lucid review of the strategic situation as it unfolds, but there are historical reasons for raising a word of caution.

    While it seems on the face of it apparent that the hyperpower will not retreat, hyperpowers have been known to retreat, and to retreat in a precipitous, undignified manner at that. One need not evoke images of helicopters leaving with desperate asylum-seekers clinging to their runners; one need not remind oneself of the great power abandoning the jewel in its crown to beat a precipitate retreat; one might cite earlier empires, the Spanish for instance, and its sorry fate in the Low Countries, or the Austrians, the French…….a dozen examples, going back to the Alexandrine successors and the Romans come to mind.

    There is no evidence to believe that the US propensity to prevail through victory on the battlefield will not suddenly succumb to the unseen ravages of time, which have hollowed out US will to dominate. There is far more reason to believe that the helicopters will leave embassy compounds once again, with asylum seekers, Afghan this time, clinging to its runners. This is because the US is tired of war, tired of deaths and bodybags. It has become a culture, like Britain before it, like every other imperial society before it, where the will of the citizen to conquer and to hold through conquest has simply dried up.

    It is difficult to see any historical precedent for the Taliban on either side of the Durand Line taking different positions, simply because it is difficult to see the Durand Line making any difference to the positions of the tribes. This is a historical precedent, that the tribes consider only themselves, not intervening political structures that may have been born out of the imaginary lines drawn by aliens. It was true when the Persians sought to impose order on the Afghans, it was true when the British sought to impose order, and it is true when the Americans seek to impose order. In this scenario, far from splitting along ‘national’ lines, it is likely that the Taliban will see common cause irrespective of their location. If so, let all beware.

    If the Americans make a precipitate retreat, as they may be likely to do, if the Taliban at a deeper layer of mutual loyalty and trust, a tribal and ethnic layer, decide to collaborate while remaining apart in organisation terms, then what of the Army?

    Nothing good emerges from the tea leaves. The Army will need to do a sorcerer’s apprentice, and deal with the powers that it has nurtured and unleashed. It is not a brilliant prospect, rather one of increasing loss of control of its creatures, of increasing tendencies of its own personnel to see a greater calling among the sectarian savages who have been created. It may receive succour from its all-weather ally, but whether that, as is true of much of the Army’s initiatives, will be good for Pakistan as it is good for the Army, remains to be seen.

    Will it be possible to degrade the power of the Pakistani Taliban and bring it to heel? Perhaps to a position of domination in FATA, against a pledge to stay out of the rest of the country? How is it possible, unless the two sections of the Taliban are at odds? This is unlikely, and they are likely to unite against any external threat. That means, US presence in Afghanistan or not, the Taliban wings will stay together, the bombings will continue, with increasing lack of effectiveness against them, and the other sectarians and jihadis will also continue.

    With each faction pulling the blanket towards itself, liberal Pakistan has to align itself carefully and wisely. Democracy is a tender shoot today, and has to be carefully tended. How is it all going to turn out? Favourably; this is not South East Asia. But who will stand for democracy, and how will they prevent violent elements in the country from dominating a planned retreat is not clear.

  29. Amna Zaman

    @feroz. There is no way that Pakistan will agree to the terrorist political demands. We want a secular nation that is not isolated from rest of the world and with time we can achieve this.

  30. due

    vajra writes:

    “Democracy is a tender shoot today, and has to be carefully tended.”

    It is a hollow plastic look-alike of a tender shoot.
    The kind of plastic apples, banannas and oranges (amazing look-alikes) that you get in the toy store.

    A nation based on a religion that is incompatible with democracy, a nation that voluntarily got rid of its sovereignty by becoming an underdog of an old arab book and an old arab ideology, a nation that sold its soul early to arab, turkish, US-american and chinese imperialist goals – how long can you talk around that?

  31. Feroz Khan

    @ Amna Zaman (September 23, 2010 at 1:18 pm)

    Pakistan will agree to the terrorist political demands, when those demands match its own interests. Pakistan’s ability and willingness to fight the terrorists is hinged on its capabilty to pay for this war and it does not have resources to fight an endless war.


  32. Feroz Khan

    @ Vajra (September 23, 2010 at 9:33 am)

    As concerns historic reasons and their tales of caution, I have my doubts. Historic examples do not account for, and cannot offer a prescribition to understanding a conflict, because no two historic examples/conflicts will or can be the same. The reasons for each conflict will always be different and though there might be similarities and coincidences, the politics behind a conflict will always be unique and will never remain constant.

    Conflicts, wars, insurgencies, acts of terrorism, militancy and armed response are expressions of political aims. As politics of the conflict will continue to change, to adapt to the changing scenerio, so will means used to wage a particular conflict. Whether, the protagonist is the United States or Pakistan or India or any other country, the option to leave the conflict and end it, will be decided by the balance between political costs of the conflict and the costs of war to attain a political aim, for which the conflict is being waged.

    In Vietnam, the United States was facing the risk of losing its political influence in the pursuit of a war that seemed to have no end and once it had admitted that it could not militarily achieve its political goal, it sounded the clarion call of retreat and the helicopters left Saigon. In the case of Iraq and Afghanistan, it will leave as soon as it realizes that it cannot hope to reach its political goals through a military effort.

    The politics of a war is much like gambling; one enters a war with a reasonable expectation of winning it and stays in as long as there is a reasonable chance of winning it, which then justifies the expenditures in blood and money.

    However, like a good gambler, one must also know when to leave the table. Wars are ended, when nations fighting them come to the conclusion that they risk losing more by continuing to fight and therefore, make peace to preserve what they already have. Again, the reasons to go war and the reason to end, will always be determined by a political rationale.

    Fighting a war to the verge of a political bankruptcy is a self-defeating proposition and yes; I agree with you. The minute the United States realizes that costs of war out weigh its benefits, it will end the conflict and leave.

    As to the Durand Line and the tribes, they might share an ethnic background, but the nature of tribal politics on either side of the Durand Line is very different and historically, the only issue that has united the Afghans has been foreign occuption of their land. Between foreign occupations, the Afghans are busy in their blood feuds, smuggling and remain in a constant state of a civil war.

    Speaking hypothetically, if the United States withdraws from Afghanistan and the Afghan politics enters a period of instability as the different Afghan factions jockey for power, what will be the role and purpose of the Pakistani tribes?

    The only possible Pakistani tribal role inside Afghanistan is feasible with the consent of the Afghans and if the Afghans reach a power sharing arrangement, which excludes Pakistani Pushtuns; there is not much the Pakistani Pushtuns can do and if they intervene, they will be resented and resisted. Hence, the politics and the political rationales of two tribes will diverge and there is no iron-clad assurity that they will continue to see eye to eye in matters of politics. The only issue, which unites Pakistani and Afghan Taliban is the external occupation and take that away, they will soon be back to their usual antics and their unity, will lose the glue that had been holding them.

    The only way to degrade the power of the Pakistani Taliban is to convince them their political demands are unacceptable and make them realize the futility of continuing a military struggle against the Pakistani army.

    In this sense, I completely share your concern about the Taliban honoring their political committments with Pakistan and given the example of Swat, the army will not enter into any arrangement that weakens its institutional interests in Pakistan, which incidently is why it is fighting the insurgency in the FATA.


  33. Feroz Khan

    @ Maryanne Khan

    Another thing to ponder, because it really makes one wonder is, who are the Taliban?

    The Taliban are not like the Borg of the Star Trek fame, where resistence to them will be futile and we all will be assimilated into a sharia based system. There are the Pakistani Taliban, who are fighting for a very different set of political benchmarks than the Afghan Taliban, and between them, we have all shades of extermism; from rabid Taliban to the so-called moderate or “good Taliban”.

    Their sense of a common purpose of action is defined by the confluence of their immediate goals and similar threat perceptions, which can change, and their political alliances are like shifting sands on a beach; always changing to allow them the maximum advantage.

    Pakistan’s best bet to fight the Taliban is not to fight them on their own turf, but to employ a different approach than what the Americans are doing in Afghanistan. All wars and their tactics are determined by the terrain in which fighting takes place and to wage a classic counter-insurgency campaign in FATA is a perfect recipe for a military suicide. Taliban’s methods might insidious and they have the comfort of a religious faith, but they also need to eat!

    Consider the terrain of FATA as a sea, where the mountain peaks are like islands. This is just what the Pakistani army is doing; it is controlling the peaks and the valleys, but not chasing the Taliban up the mountains, but rather straving them out. Most Pakistani military operations, if you have noticed, were undertaken in winter months and never during the summer. Why? In winter, the snow line creeps down and the Taliban cannot forge for food and have to leave their tunnels to come down to get food and that is when you engage them.

    Insurgency and insurgents may have support in the location population but they also need terra firma to operate and if you deny them the terrain, you can isolate them into pockets. The key is to deny them popular support and physical space to maneuver and at the same time, wean the population away from them.

    It will be a gruelling campaign, but it can be done given if there is a political will in the population to support a military action, in which the results seem elusive.

    FATA has to be included in Pakistan proper and it can no longer be allowed to exist as an autonomous body and there is no question of accepting multiple legal systems. Pakistan learned this lesson from the bitter experience of allowing sharia in Swat.

    As to the drug money, the Taliban do finance their operations through the sale of drugs, and also through kidnappings for ransom and bank robberies. The Afghan Taliban might be using drug money but the Pakistani Taliban rely on bank robberies, kidnappings and external funding from UAE and Saudi Arabia to keep fighting.

    This is another issue. The Taliban activity can be stopped if the Saudis and the UAE princes stop funding them, but the Pakistani government is too afraid to raise the point. Like I said, it is afterall a question of the political will and the Pakistani government does not have the political will to fight this war to the point of its logical terminality.


  34. Maryanne Khan


    Again, thank you for an exhaustive and lucid reply.

    Do you mean ‘the Pakistani government’ in absolute or the current government?

    A difficult question, but where can one look for the required leadership? What needs to change in the governance of Pakistan, meaning what’s broken and how does it get ‘fixed’?

    Sorry to keep asking you questions, but the media here in Australia mostly glosses over things and has no engagement whatsoever with the events that are shaping not only world history but the stability of our region.

  35. Feroz Khan


    “Pakistan Government” means the entity in charge of the administrative functioning of such institutions as responsible for the implementation of laws and regulations, as they may be formulated, for the futherance of the state’s (read Pakistan’s) interests and responsible for safe quarding its domestic and foreign aims and privileges.

    Leadership is a nuance and it really does not exist in any sense except as a perceptional quality and leadership is alway organic to the society from which it emerges and will always remain rooted to the ethos of that society. To fully answer the question of where to search for leadership in Pakistan, we need to pry away the popular mask of leadership and ask what sort of a leader are the Pakistanis looking for?

    Leadership, in the democratic traditions, means the respect for the popular opinion, but what if leadership is measured in the words of Edmund Burke? According to Burke, leader is one, who knows that he was elected to represent the will of the electorate, but acts contary to that, because he understands that the popular will is wrong and will cause a greater harm to the public good if carried out.

    Leadership is also a quality best summerized by the Latin phrase “carpe diem”; meaning, it is the circumtances, which defines a leader.

    The fact remains, and this is very true of Pakistan and your question, leadership in Pakistan will remain illusionary until the people of Pakistan decide what they want from their leaders. First of all, a people must believe in their own potential and then choose the person; the leader who is best able to articulate, and can realize, that potential.

    This, then, seamlessly answers your second question of discovering the problems and solving them. The only way to answer “what’s broken” in Pakistan is find to the courage to accept the answers and the courage must come from a leadership that can convince the people, once it is elected, to listen to the bitter realities but take hope from adversity. Leadership is not about leading people, but rather inspiring the people to be led towards a particular purpose even if that purpose is at odds with the popular opinion.

    In Pakistan, our tragedy has been that we had leaders, who have been led; we had captains, who were not courageous and worst quality of a leadership in Pakistan has not been marked by bad decisions, but rather by no decisions at all.

    Experience is a harsh crucible of talent and it is from this harsh crucible that a new generation of leadership will emerge tempered by the cruel circumtances of the Pakistani reality.

    The problems in Pakistan can be solved and the solutions to the problems are not a concern. The real problem, why nothing happens for the better is an ingrained mind-set, which has accepted the fatalism of its misery and has confused the extra-ordinary with the envitable and doubts the possibility of a change.

    Please, feel free, to ask all the questions you wish and besides, it keeps me focused and engaged in a topic, which is a rare indulgence in these days. Australia is not the only black-hole of sanity as far as the modern corporate media is; Canada too suffers from a similar malady.


  36. Maryanne Khan

    ‘The real problem, why nothing happens for the better is an ingrained mind-set, which has accepted the fatalism of its misery and has confused the extra-ordinary with the inenvitable and doubts the possibility of a change.’

    I am very familiar with this way of thinking as I encountered it in Italy, where this same fatalistic mindset predominates. I was there back in the late 70’s and there was an upsurge in militant Socialism (le Brigate Rosse, the Red Brigades) which was quashed over time and that rose and fell leaving a largely apathetic people. As is happening now with the floods in Pakistan, the earthquake in Sicily saw people huddled in tents expecting ‘the government’ (that they usually ignored and derided) to do everything for them.

    I would say that part of this mentality in Pakistan goes way back to the days of the East India Company and the Raj. I recently read a 700 page book, ‘Raj, The Making of Modern India’ by Lawrence James. One of the most salient points for me was the willingness to ‘hand’ issues of security to the British military. I know it’s much more complicated than that, but it was quite remarkable to see this as a trend throughout then India.

    You are perfectly correct in describing the nature of leadership also in terms of leading towards an unpopular goal. (Without being flippant, this is crucial in parenting; one can’t let a child decide what’s good and otherwise.) But what has to happen in Pakistan for the actual apathetic people to abandon the mindset you describe above. I had hoped that ‘globalisation’ would remove control over the limitation of availability of information, such as I saw in the children’s textbooks in our village, which were laughable. I hoped that a new generation of thinkers like yourself would emerge and articulate better solutions to problems, as you say, to indeed make decisions instead of avoiding them. I subscribe to this journal because I’m looking to connect with people who are forward-thinking . . . not for any personal benefit, but I seem to have become an adoptive Pakistani!

    From the brief analysis I have seen of Bob Woodward’s new book, ‘Obama’s War’ (released here next week) he is struggling with pressure from the military and pressure from his Democratic Party regarding the Afghan War. I am mindful of what you said yesterday, that this war will only continue as long as it’s ‘affordable’ in terms of cost and benefit. And also what you said about loss of face in basically having blown billions of dollars in materiel and exiting without a victory or an objective achieved. at the popular level, there is now an unacceptable number of deaths and the objective is not clear. It will be interesting to read this book.

    Speaking of the media, I also saw an opinion piece somewhere today stating that 9/11 and Saddam Hussain became conflated and a sizable proportion of Americans believe he personally instigated the attacks.

    Have you written any books?

  37. Feroz Khan

    @ Maryanne

    As to books, that is a work in progress and has been progressing for the last decade! 🙂

    The apathy of the people goes even further back than the British East India Company. It has to do with the nature of rule and that rule never allowed the people to wish an alternative than what was mandated by the ruler. Sociologically, the people of the region, of what was India and then became Pakistan, never experienced freedom and never participated in a decision of importance.

    Consequently, the people are used to paternalistic styles of rule and they simply accept this reality. This is what I meant by confusing the extra-ordinary with the envitable. Another aspect to this mentality is the structure of feudalism, which creates political inquities based on structured serfdoms and where, the social infrastructures are tailored for the cartelization of power and influence based on the provision of life support; agriculture and right to agriculture on the basis of political obedience to the heirarchies of power.

    Globalization is a chimera. Globalization is actually harmful to socities like Pakistan, which are transition socities moving from the underdeveloped to the developing phase. Transition societies are moving into the modern global vortex of a global economy and dealing with it, but still have not developed the standards by which, and through which, globalization interacts. These socities are being challenged to fuse their traditional ways into the context of a modern society, and are in fact being asked to give up their traditional anchors (ritualisms of life) in life exchange for a life in which participation is marginalized by their access to the resources of globalization.

    In fact, the very opposite is true of globalization. The idea that we are living in a global village is outdated, because given the pace at which knowledge is being generated and dissiminated and the availability of access to that knowledge, we are actually living in a Global Hut. Living in a Global Hut has blurred our ethnic, sociological, cultural, political and sadly, religous comfort zones and as we jostle with each other, trying not to step on other’s toes, we are coming to terms with each other’s view points and the problems; the crisis of the world in today’s parlance comes our exposures to new ideas, beliefs and value systems and our abilities to accomodate ourselves to the loss of our traditional comfort zones.

    Rest assured. New thinkers will emerge in Pakistan, but if you ask me to personally put forward a hypothesis; I would suggest that Pakistan’s biggest liabity and its greatest intellectual challenge is the poverty of social scientists. Pakistani society is in a transition and such it needs people, who can explain the social, political, economic and cultural ramifications of change and offer explanations of the change itself, so that the politicans are able to understand the process, which is underway and make the right policies accordingly, which successfully resonate with the people and meet their needs.

    Unfortunately, Pakistani educational experience is based on a caste system of Brahminical professions such as medicine, engineering and business and everyone has to belong to this trinty of social acceptance to be deemed successful in Pakistan. This taboo has to be broken and it is being challenged and newer generations of Pakistan are asking the questions and as I said earlier; sometimes circumtances create the leaders, who can voice what the people are thinking.

    Another aspect of globalization and articulation of a new generation is that Pakistani politicans have yet to grasp the changed realities of Pakistan, where the social awareness of the people has moved away from the passive to the pro-active stage. People are no longer interested in reasons, which justify inaction, but are intrested in solutions that work and in many ways, this is a process of secularization of the thought process itself.

    The pre-destination based logic of a religious fatalism is gradually yeilding to the willingness to question and when questions are asked demanding explanations, the mind moves away from the idea of preparing the soul for the thereafter and starts to think about how to live in the herein and that is the germinating seed of a secular society; concerns of this world.

    Pakistan and Pakistanis have an incredible amount of resilience, but they have always been denied the forum to express their talents and thoughts unfettered. Expression of a new idea is a testimonial rebuttal to the conventional wisdom and intellectualism can only express itself, when the guilds of conventional thoughts have crumbled. This is why we need sociologists, political scientists and anthropolgists and others trained in social sciences and an emphasis on a liberal education, whereby this transitional intellectual evolution of the Pakistani thought; between the old ways of thinking and the questions of the future can be answered, but more significantly, placed into theoretical metrics, which can explain the confusing patterns of a societial reality caught in the shoals of globalization.

    Change in Pakistan is envitable and the ancien regime will end.


    P.S.: Obama deserves another post on its own 🙂

  38. Feroz Khan

    @ Maryanne

    I have read bits and pieces from Bob Woodward’s new book and I am also waiting for its release so I can read it. It will be interesting.

    The most unverving aspect of Woodward’s book, from what I have read, is the loss of the civilian control over military policies in the United States. The fact that Obama has been having acrimonious debates with his military over the scope and the direction of the war, with the military resisting a political frame work for the war and admanant on a war with no-end policy hints of a potential schadenfruede of unbelievable proportions.

    Another confirmation, which the book seems to offer is the idea that Obama presidency is starting to resemble the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1968). Obama will likely be a one-term president, because he was elected on the promise of ending the wars of the Bush presidency (2001-2008) and his failure to do so, implies that that he will, in his own words as attributed to him in Woodward’s book, does not want to “lose the democratic party”.

    In other words, he may not get the Democratic nomination in 2012 for president.

    Obama’s mandate, from the November 2008 elections, was to end wars, but instead he has expanded them and he has continued with the Bush era policies.

    The problem is, and it will be soon present itself, that the political rationales are demanding the end of the wars, because now the United States is starting to suffer from the political laws of diminishing returns in these conflicts, but the Pentagon is still committed to the idea of a full-spectrum war and is resisting political limitations on the conduct of the war. The war on terror is a political term coined during the Bush presidency, but if you read the blogs associated with Pentagon and dealing with this war, the offical Pentagon term for this war is “the long war”.

    Obama wants to end the war and he wants a deadline when this war will end, hopefully before 2012 elections, but the Pentagon is arguing for a war that might last till 2020 or for atleast another generation.

    The implications are too scary to contemplate, because what is at stake is nothing less than political system of the United States. If Obama cannot reassert the civilian control on the United States military and end its appetite for endless wars, the end result will a world in a state of a perpetual war.

    As to CIA, I really admire the actions of George Washington. Washington had the best intelligence service during the American Revolutionary Wars (1776-1783) and when the war eneded; he disbanded it because he said its existence was a threat to civil liberities. 🙂


  39. due

    to feroz khan

    A war started by Bush cannot be ended by Obama using the “escape” button on his computer. It is not that easy. Even the disengagement of a force involves a careful long-drawn procedure. Obama is trying just that. It is unfair on your part to ridicule or vilify him. It is also a fact that no politician can actually exactly keep all the promises that he makes. If you insist that all your politicians are saints then you will have all the saintly persons avoiding politics and you will end up getting rogues only. That is what Ralph Nader (the “I am better than everyone else” type) effected in USA in 2000 AD elections. Don’t be a ralphnader.

  40. Feroz Khan

    @ Due

    Please read what I wrote. I am not blaming Obama.

    My point is that Obama is having problems with the conduct of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and he would like to finsh them before 2012.

    His plans to withdraw the American forces are meeting resistence from the Pentagon and there are issues of who controls the direction of the American strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq? The civilians or the military? This tussle has been confirmed by Bob Woodward in his new book and was also visible in dismissal of General Stanley McCrystal (sp?) by Obama.

    Obama was elected in 2008 to end the wars started under Bush, junior. I understand the logistical reasons why such withdrawals are time consuming and not easy to end. I am not denying this fact.

    The fact is there is disappointment in the Democratic Party and within democrats that he has not lived up to the expectations, which had elected him.

    Also, can you please show where I have vilified Obama or this is another mythical interpretation of my post?


  41. Feroz Khan

    @ Due

    If you treat your Muslims as Quislings, then do not expect feelings of endearment from them for you. If you treat and continue to threat your citizens like second class and third class citizens, then you are the cause of your own insecurities. If you think you are surrounded by enemies, you will will be ready to justify any amount of injustice in return for some security, but will only become more insecure.

    Insurgencies are borne on the wings of injustice.

    As to Obama and the generals and their guilt, that is a plausible argument and not entirely without merit.

    As to the Mayan calender and the end of the world, I have seen the movie, but I don’t think the end of the world will be that dramatic. Maybe, we meet something in 2013, and talk about it?


  42. Feroz Khan

    @ Due

    There were typos in the last paragraph of my last post to you, dated September 26, 2010 at 2:16 am.

    Please ignore it. The corrected paragraph is listed below.

    “As to the Mayan calender and the end of the world, I have seen the movie, but I don’t think the end of the world will be that dramatic. Maybe, we can meet some time in 2013, and talk about it?”



  43. Maryanne Khan


    The parallel between the Johnson and Obama presidencies is perfectly valid. At the moment, it is perfectly feasible that he will serve but one term.

    Woodward’s book, I hope, will delve into the war that Obama vowed to end and the rationale the military are using to argue for its prolongation. Interestingly, the NY Times held an informal poll on ‘What was most shocking’ in the scraps released to the public pre-publication. The most shocking revelation, as 40% of respondents thought, was that Obama envisioned winding up hostilities without an actual ‘victory.’

    But perhaps this book does not set out to engage in policy analysis, but rather on the personalities involved in the tussle between the Commander in Chief and the Pentagon. I refer again to the NY Times and the impressions of the book of reviewer Michiko Kakutani was this:

    ‘Like all Woodward books, “Obama’s Wars” plows relentlessly forward like a shark. It is all about narrative and scenes and relationships among its principal subjects, not policy assessments or evaluations of conditions on the ground. Readers looking for historical perspective on the long walk-up to Sept. 11 will find Steve Coll’s “Ghost Wars” and Lawrence Wright’s “Looming Tower” more useful; for those seeking analysis of what went wrong in Afghanistan after America’s routing of the Taliban in late 2001, Seth Jones’s “In the Graveyard of Empires” is the book to look at.’

    Must check on those.

  44. due

    to feroz khan

    I don’t treat muslims as quislings – they behave like that. It has nothing to do with how we hindus treat them. They will be never happy in India unless they have reduced the hindus to a frightend minority on its knees (as in the land of the purest). In fact one reason why some muslim leaders did not want Pakistan was just this. They could not accept a part instead of the whole.

    We know when muslims in India come out on the streets to protest. It tells us what has priority for them.

  45. Feroz Khan

    @ Maryanne

    Hopefully, Woodward’s book will shed light on the debates that are happening between Pentagon and the White House over the conduct of the wars. As to the rationales for the prolongation of the war, read Pepe Escobar. He may seem fixiated on the idea of Pipelineistan, but his insights are different from the mainstream media’s.

    The pentagon is already voicing its concerns about the 2011 withdrawal date. Obama needs to wrap up these wars before he heads into the 2012 election campaign to meet the next republican candidate for the White House – General David Petraeus or Jeb Bush?

    There are predictions that the democrats might lose their senate majority and if the balance also shifts in the favor of the republicans in the House of Represenatives, then it would be interesting to which members of Team Obama leave him.

    Hiliary Clinton? She is eyeing 2016 as the year of running for the presidency and if the republicans cannot come up with a winning candidate for 2012, she might start to edge away from Obama in order to position herself for 2012.

    Lets see what happens in November.


  46. Maryanne Khan


    Pipelineistan is an avenue I have been trying to explore, but didn’t have a reference for it other than certain little sideways references (as I said, there is a dearth of inquiry over here, at least in the media channels to which I am exposed.) Will check out Escobar.

    Well five minutes later, there you have Escobar naming it:

    “Meanwhile, in Washington, Team B-style outfits such as the Afghanistan study group – which releases its report on Wednesday – multiply their efforts in trying to find a way out of the Afghan quagmire. But for all their intellectual firepower, there is not a word about one of the absolutely key reasons for the US to be in Afghanistan: Pipelineistan (the other key reason is of course the Pentagon’s crush on maintaining bases to monitor/survey both “strategic competitors” China and Russia).

    We’re back once again to the TAPI vs IPI Pipelineistan “war”; TAPI as the natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan crossing Afghanistan to Islamabad and then India, and IPI as the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline.’

    He even supplies a map, which speaks for itself.

    Interesting that he also mentions a heroin epidemic in Russia as motivation for Russia’s seeking to position itself in Afghanistan. Just this morning, ABC24 reported the emerging incidence of mainstream pharmaceutical opiates becoming the drug of choice over here . . .

    What I suspected from the research I did for my novel. It’s about energy and drugs. (Good lord! Last time I was in Pakistan they were operating under a power-shedding – “downshedding” – emergency.) Obama can’t come out and say as much but has to hide behind post 9/11 heroics to explain the position he is in. Here a parallel again with Johnson, who retained all the ex-Kennedy advisors and found himself in a similar position vis-a-vis the Vietnam War.

    Thanks for the mention of Escobar. Much reading to be done!


  47. Maryanne Khan

    PS. long weekend over here and weekends are ‘our’ time for me and my husband. But so much to look into from tomorrow on! Quite excited.

  48. Feroz Khan


    How right you are! Thanks for reminding me that Camelot existed under the Great Society and even the best and brightest could not hide the bright shining lie of Vietnam. Wars by numbers is as easy as one, two, three but the arthemetic of consequences is strangely a formula that still is overlooked.

    Pipelineistan is an interesting name to the rubik’s cube of inter-locking energy conduits, which will snake across the region. I some times wonder if Escobar has a wry sense of humor or just a touch of morbidity?

    Drugs have always been on the outskirts of the conflicts in Afghanistan since the Soviet Union’s invasion and a major source of funding to the point, it would be appropiate to call it the “blood heroin” ala the blood diamonds of another conflict. Your comment on the drug of the choice was was unsettling and with due respect to Karl Marx, what about the opiates of the news, which have numbed us; not by the lethality of their content but rather through the proliferation of their inanities.

    There are times, and the frequencies of those times, is ever increasing, when I think of Simon & Garfunkle’s song Mrs. Robinson and think of it in a paraphrased way, asking Ed Murrow where have you gone?

    I will certainly follow up on the books you recommended, but if you are interested in the news; real news, it exists in the blogosphere. There are excellent situational analysis there and I would, I also recommend Declan Welsh and Jane Parlez and their articles and the TomDispatch blogsite.

    If you get a chance, please watch HBO’s movie “The Path to War”. It is about the Vietnam War, and it really shows how policy is made on the assumption of good faith and how seductive is the fear of failure that it propels you to even greater efforts of committments to failed policies.

    It is very much applicable to the Obama presidency.


  49. Maryanne Khan

    Thanks for the newsfeeds!

    Two things. One: I did a degree at a US military base in Brussels in American Government, specialising in the US Presidency. Had a zillion books on the subject that were sadly held ‘hostage’ after a divorce and I no longer have them. A nuisance. Plus that was over 20 years ago and the memory can be rusty. But with the net I have access to much more.

    Two: My interest in the geopolitics of all this is because of my book that touches on all we are speaking of, and I need to be really, but really well-informed before it is published and have an informed opinion.

    There’s another thing, I have had the decision on my book delayed for an odd set of circumstances and am going up the wall waiting! Plenty to think about now thanks to you, rather than watching the grains of sand pass each day.

    I love Escobar’s playfulness with language, ‘Pipelineistan’ is just one of his clever coinages.

  50. hayyer

    Is it necessary to answer everyone of these serial Hindu paranoids on PTH-serial because they appear in series, cast and milled evidently in the same production line in the environs of Pune.

  51. Maryanne Khan

    They are simply a waste of time, Hayer. Feroz was being polite in answering, but the issues raised by those posts are not productive to the discussion, not dealing with the topic and tring to resuscitate the argument that history is served by similar paranoia. These posts don’t derail the vigorous discussion under way on PTH for that reason. A saying I particularly like personally is “When you see crazy coming, cross the road.”

  52. Feroz Khan


    Can I ask, what is theme of your book – the story?
    Brussels? NATO headquarters, wow! That would have been an interesting experience. Twenty years ago, it must have been a “happening place” with the Cold War still there and the Gipper in the White House.

    I still remember, when the Berlin Wall fell – November 9, 1989; 71 years to the date, when Kaiser Welhelm II of Germany abdicated and two days later, World War One ended – armistice. I was in college, and was returning from the bar, when I heard the news. 🙂


  53. Maryanne Khan

    Escoban again:

    “For all his infinite shenanigans, Karzai has – correctly – concluded that US and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) firepower and General David Petraeus’ COIN-drenched operations will never defeat the resistance-to-foreigners fighting umbrella commonly described as “Taliban”. ”

    Indeed this is what I drew from the James book, ‘Raj’ that I mentioned. He has some wonderful anecdotes about Afghanis interacting with the Brits, going back most notably to 1839 when in Kabul they tried to forcibly install Shah Shuja in place of Dost Muhammed, whose brother said the following to British General Nott:

    “these proposals [offer of exile in India and a stipend of Stg10,000 per annum] that I will not even mention them to my brother, for what less could have been offered had you already vanquished him in the field? We have hitherto heard that the English were a just and equitable nation; but on what plea can you found the right of dethroning a monarch and placing on the throne yonder deposed puppet whom I spit on [Shah Shuja was standing nearby.] . . .” Plus ca change . . .

    And also after a precarious puppet state had been established in Kabul in the 1840’s, Akbar Khan had the British architect of that state, Mcnaughten, murdered, saying to a captured British officer: “YOU’LL seize my country, will you? YOU’LL seize my country?” By 1842, the Brits were routed and left.

    This, foreigners-as-invaders stuff is something that runs through Escobar’s entire argument and the Americans ignore it at their peril. Fascinating stuff.

  54. Maryanne Khan

    Sorry, the quote was ‘These proposals are so insulting that I will not even mention them to my brother. . . Jubba Khan.”

  55. Maryanne Khan

    You’ve really unleashed the hounds now. (me.)

    Much talk about the IPI pipeline in our home village which basically sits on the Silk Road. (A typical bit of anecdotal gossip was that the last earthquake was caused by the accidental/intentional explosion of Chinese stores of dynamite/ weapons in the Karakorum mountains.)

    On the Iran, Pakistan-China pipeline following the Silk Road, Escobar notes:

    “China may also count on a South Asia option. China spent $200 million on the first phase of construction of the deepwater port of Gwadar in Balochistan. It wanted – and it got from Islamabad – “sovereign guarantees to the port’s facilities”. Gwadar is only 400km from Hormuz. From Gwadar, China can easily monitor traffic in the strait.

    But Gwadar is infinitely more crucial as the pivot of the virtual Pipelineistan war between TAPI and IPI. TAPI is the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline, which will never be built as long as a US/NATO foreign occupation is fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. IPI is the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline, also known as the “peace pipeline” (TAPI would be the “war pipeline” then?). Iran and Pakistan have already agreed to build it, much to Washington’s distress.

    In this case, Gwadar will be a key node. And if India pulls out, China already has made it clear it wants in; China would build another Pipelineistan node from Gwadar across the Karakoram highway toward Xinjiang. That would be a classic case of close energy cooperation among Iran, Pakistan and China – and a major strategic Pentagon defeat in the New Great Game in Eurasia. ”

    Of course, Australia supplies China with one hell of a lot of coal. 96% of China’s current energy reserves are coal, a large part of which kept our economy afloat during the global crisis. Escobar notes that they will gradually switch away from coal and will be, world wide, the main consumer of energy (oil both from Africa and Saudi Arabia.) One would expect Australia to have some sort of position on the future of its coal exports to China, but again, if there is, it’s not audible over here.

    Something else that has dropped off the radar is the discovery of enormous deposits of lithium on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. (Not news to an engineer I sometimes write to in Pakistan.) Escobar mentions,”A Shenzhen company is the world leader in lithium-ion battery technology. ” One would think that they would be moving in on that also and the US won’t want that! That could be another card the wily Karzai is playing.

    In sum, this whole war, as I think you pointed out is less a traditional strategic battle like Vietnam, designed to contain and halt the perceived advance of a rival political power than one fighting over access to the energy resources not only of Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the various Turkmenistans etc but also of Africa and South America. If a US goal is to halt China’s emergence as financial ‘capital’ of the world, thanks to its manufacturing juggernaut, the the US has quite a job on its hands.

  56. Maryanne Khan


    I was in Brussells due to my ex husband’s career (Managemnt and Banking) that took me to Milan (at age19, just married) and for the following 25 years to Chicago, Brussels, Rome, Washington DC then back to the Can (as it’s fondly known.)

    The Washington years were the most interesting, watching the Gulf War 24 hours live. . . . the years in Italy most culturally fulfilling (I learned Italian by studying Dante.)

    The book? It’s based on the life of my husband, born younger son of the Sahib of Behali village in Mansehra district NWFP. Backstory: Father was Colonel in British Army, POW of Japs in Singapore (much research yet to be done on that.)
    Father is basically abandoned after being shipped to Brisbane and back to Singapore where he languished for about 10 years. Short story, eventually returns to village has two boys then dies when the younger adoring son was 8 and child is inconsolable and angry. 4 maternal uncles move in to displace/disinherit him, he hates them, conflict etc (a very stubborn child is emerging!) ups and leaves village at 16 for Peshawar, is seduced by Auntie who triesand almost succeeds in getting nephew to kill her husband (who’s bisexual), forms own construction co, works on the Tarbela Dam, then Jalozai, pipewells in Multan etc, goes to Dera Iamil Khan to work on the bridge, ruined by uncle and wife, returns to Peshawar and takes over a motel.

    Story includes all the family intrigue and rivalry, against the background of the Bhutto years (another uncle worked in the Bhutto govt) and then the Ul Haq coup, the US-backed sponsorship of the Afghan Taliban, the riots and Bhutto’s hanging. The political intrigues etc. Childhood best friend falls in with Pakistani jihadists and gets slapped in jail. Hero has to bribe the Karachi police (as one does) to have him released. Some very funny characters amongst the uncles (I narrowed them down to 4) and the Afghani motel owner is hilarious, pompous and I miss him now it’s finished! Such a joy to write.

    Basically it’s the story of a man whose overarching goal is to be the kind of man his father was, and succeeds. I wrote it from the point of view of an ordinary Pakistani, life as it is, ‘take it or leave it’ kind of thing, not as an outside ‘commentator’ looking in (and finding certain things quite remarkable.) I stuck in an Australian tourist/impossible love interest to ask questions that he answers in order to not have the narrator explaining things.

  57. Maryanne Khan

    It’s the story of my husband of now. Before this, I was married to an Italian and I was Maryanne Del Gigante for 25 years. Quite a mix eh? If you like, I am khan.maryanne at the usual gmail thing.

  58. Feroz Khan


    The story seems very interesting. Any idea, when your book will be out?

    Gulf War I was a mind numbing experience and CNN cured me of the news addication that I had developed in college. Some people say it was actually Gulf War II; Gulf War I being the Iraq-Iran war. Dante wrote his most famous work for Beatrice and I wonder, who are we writing our magum opus for? Corporations?

    China will be a major stake holder in South Asia and it is already establishing itself as a major economic power in this century. Last year or the year before that, China made an unprecedented investment in Africa in return for first access to African natural resources.

    Gwadar was just taken away from a Singaporean company and given to China. Gwadar, as a trade transit route, is closer to western China than western China is from eastern China and hence, the Chinese interests to develop the access to western China. As Pakistan starts to develop itself after the 2010 floods, China will move in aggressively and the first hints from Beijing are in the sector of power generation and China’s willingness to sell nuclear reactors to Pakistan.

    The worth of the deal is not to be measured in monetary terms or whether it goes through or not, but in the terms of intentions, which China is suggesting through this sale.

    The more one tries to discern the fog within the crystal balls, the more one is convinced that the economic interests of nations will over ride their political interests. IPI or TAPI are fertile grounds for a new great game, which is being play in the region. With the Afghan elections still inconclusive and the war there still bogged down, overtures towards a political settlement will gain a more pronounced fluency.

    At the battle of Yorktown, as the defeated British army marched off the field, its band was playing a song titled “a world turned upside down”. Americans will talk with the Taliban and there will be a reverting to the ante-bellum status quo in Afghanistan. The United States talked with the North Koreans in the middle of the Korean War and with the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War.

    Karzai (sp) is already looking towards post-American Afghanistan, but then again; one can never really predict about the plans of mice and men.

    Also, unlike the predictions of the future, a major shift in the global balance of power will come at the end of the present coalition wars, which started on September 2001 and the real pivot of this crisis is not an outright military victory, but future choices of a world reserve currency, which might dethrone the US dollar as the international currency of choice.

    As the old statement says, “amteurs discuss strategy and the professionals discuss logistics”, realists discuss methods of financing wars. American military power is sorely dependent on the ability of the US to finance its wars and not so much on the access to Saudi or Middle Eastern crude.

    Debt financing is the touchstone of our present world and its quests for power.


  59. Maryanne Khan

    “Last year or the year before that, China made an unprecedented investment in Africa in return for first access to African natural resources.”

    simply put, China was after ‘sweet’ oil. Still is. But you know that. This is for the benefit of anyone still hanging around this discussion.