Dr Ali Ahmad
James Stavridis’ recent article entitied ‘Pakistan Is the Crisis Flying Under the Radar’ in the Washington Post was misinterpreted by TV anchor Dr Shahid Masood on 25 January 2017. Dr Shahid Masood says that the article hints at a disaster of very high magnitude looming over Pakistan.
Stavridis is a retired United States Navy admiral and the current dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He is also chairman of the board of the U.S. Naval Institute.
The writer mentions first several foreign-policy challenges being faced by the Trump administratio: the Islamic State and the associated tragedy of Syria; a bubbling North Korea led by an unpredictable dictator with nuclear weapons; an angry China hypersensitive about Taiwan and the South China Sea; and Russian cyber-activity roiling domestic political waters alongside Moscow’s ongoing occupation of Crimea and destruction of Syria. But, the writer says, flying under the radar is a dangerous problem not receiving a great deal of attention: Pakistan.
Stavridis then describes some of the big problems Pakistan is having at present such as weak democracy, corruption, terrorism, and the unresolved issue of Kashmir.
Stavridis says that given the tableau of political instability, terrorism, and nuclear weapons, the United States should be thinking hard about how to help create a more stable situation in Pakistan, a nation that is a friend and partner, but with whom America has had significant differences over the past decades. Stavridis then puts forward some suggestions before the Trump administration:
Firstly, the Trump administration should recognize that the USA levers to influence Pakistan are limited — but not entirely impotent. While the USA can and should be working to strengthen national ties with India, this must be done in a way that is not threatening to Pakistan. Thus, the first best option to help achieve stability in South Asia is to do all the USA can to encourage India to try to resolve differences with its neighbour. Washington’s role could include top-level official visits to both capitals; offering unofficial “Track 2” negotiating programs; and explicitly making peace and stability in South Asia a U.S. strategic interest, identified in our national strategic planning documents.
Second, the Trump administration should increase military assistance to Pakistan in the counterterrorism fight on the Afghan-Pakistani border. A long source of frustration for U.S. military planners has been Pakistani support for the Afghan Taliban. Developing a package of counterterrorism incentives for Pakistan that requires a quid pro quo of their reducing and eventually dropping support for insurgents within Afghanistan is key. Such incentives could include more robust intelligence sharing; better surveillance and strike technology; and joint operations. Washington’s efforts to sell weapons, surveillance, and intelligence systems to Islamabad have been uneven to say the least. Setting out a coherent, reliable pipeline of military assistance and sales would be very helpful.
A third idea would be to increase soft-power support in Pakistan. When the United States and NATO led relief efforts following the massive earthquake in Pakistan in 2005, it had a significant and positive impact on America’s image in the country. Providing more financial aid tied to education, medicine, and humanitarian projects could help. This is an area where much suspicion lingers following medical programs that are perceived to have been tied to intelligence gathering. We need effective strategic communications alongside the aid to help recover.
A question that arises in the context of soft power is whether to impose conditions on Pakistan in return for the aid it receives. While Republicans in Congress have pushed a more conservative approach to use aid as a tactic to pressure Pakistan, it is unclear how the new administration will approach this. In general, it would be wise to consider both our short- and long-term priorities in the region: Too often, a focus on eradicating terrorism today fails to address the circumstances that drive people to extremism in the first place. Using aid to strengthen democratic stability, create opportunities for citizens, and increase investments to grow the economy will translate into long-term benefits that help minimize incentives to turn to extremism.
Fourth and finally, it would make sense to internationalize our efforts. Working with other nations — Britain or Germany, for example — could leverage the impact of our efforts. There are also international organizations, such as the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, that exercise considerable influence in Pakistan. Strategizing jointly with international partners can help.
For the Trump administration, according to the writer, the first set of challenges will come fast and furious, and responses will tend to be tactical. Spending some strategic time analyzing the possibility of a classic Black Swan event (low probability, high impact) like the destabilization of Pakistan would make sense. Investing time and effort early with this huge and important nation, while working closely with India, could pay significant dividends in global stability during the next few years.
It is highly clear that Stavridis offers advice on how the USA should approach foreign policy challenges with Pakistan.
The black swan event is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a great surprise, has a dramatic effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. The term is based on an ancient saying which presumed black swans did not exit.”Black swan theory” refers only to unexpected events of large magnitude and consequence and their dominant role in history.
Having completely misinterpreted the article, Dr Shahid Masood has intentionally or unintententionally caused considerable confusion amongst Pakistani people. It is therefore advisable that Dr Shahid go through the article and re-interpret it on the screen.