BOOK REVIEW Pakistan's proclivity for war The Warrior State: Pakistan in the Contemporary World by T V Paul
Reviewed by Ehsan Ahrari
For the past 15-plus years, Pakistan has been the unenviable focus of a variety of unflattering depictions of its state of affairs in scholarly and journalistic narratives. It appears as if various authors are in competition to select increasingly ominous phrases to describe that country and its cataclysmic state of affairs.
Some called it "the most dangerous place", "a country that is descending into chaos", a county that possesses a "Kalashnikov" culture, a "garrison state", or a "hard country".
As if following the same tradition, T V Paul's book, The Warrior State: Pakistan in the Contemporary World, adds one more
phrase, "warrior state", to portray it as a country where the security state has outgrown all other institutions and activities and where radical Islamization and its attendant obscurantism have been the consequences of state policy.
He describes Pakistan as a place where the chances for the decline of power of the security state are minimal and the prospects of the development of other institutions for the evolution of that country as a politically stable democracy or economically prosperous state are slim.
Regarding the role of Islam, an embarrassingly sad reality for Pakistan is that it has remained insufficient "as a factor in gluing together" its society. The tragic and bloody breakup of East Pakistan into Bangladesh in 1971 will always serve as a reminder of that sad reality.
The very creation of Pakistan was based on the "two-nation theory", and its related belief that the new country would be a place where Muslims would remain safe and free of the tyranny of Hindu dominance. That idea - since it was aimed at dividing British India - created an acute conflict between Mohammad Ali Jinnah and the Congress Party's leadership, which tied its fate to secularism and democracy for an independent India.
Soon after its creation, Pakistan entered into a military conflict with India over the annexation of Kashmir. Given that it was a new and a weak state with very limited military capabilities and resources, Pakistan was forced to accept a ceasefire over that conflict, but only after losing 60% of Kashmir to Indian forces.
Even though the final resolution of that conflict was to take place at a later date and on the basis of an United Nations-sponsored plebiscite, India reneged and never allowed the holding of that referendum for fear of losing it, since a majority of the Kashmiri population was Muslim.
The warrior state got its start in the first Kashmir war, which permanently kept that conflict unresolved. As such, resolving that conflict at all costs also remained at the top of Pakistan's list of aspirations.
The first military coup of 1958, brought about by General Mohammed Ayub Khan, not only established a tradition of the top military officer ousting the top civilian political authority, but it permanently placed the civil-military relations of that country firmly in favor of the military. Consequently, the military showed its disregard for democracy and its contempt for the civilian leaders by frequently ousting democratic governments.
The 1965 Kashmir war with India was started by the Pakistani Army on the basis of several wrong assumptions: that the Kashmiris strongly supported Pakistani intervention; that "India would not escalate the conflict to the vulnerable international border; that Pakistan's qualitative superiority in armaments would compensate for India's quantitative superiority; and that ... China and United States would come to Pakistan's support."
The "perverse effect" of the defeat of the Pakistan Army in the 1965 war "laid the beginnings of a deep slide toward greater militarization, hybrid democracy, and a national morass that has bedeviled Pakistan ever since". The warrior state was determined to bloom at the expense of a democratic civilian rule and commitment to economic development as a way of becoming a "normal" state.
Under Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto - Pakistan's most ambitious politician who could also think big (he was the original conceiver of the idea of Pakistan's nuclear weapons) - the process of Islamization was given the state's blessing, a feature that was only intensified under General Zia ul-Haq.
Bhutto and Zia were an odd couple. Bhutto was the Frankenstein who created Zia into a monster by handpicking him to become the Chief of Army Staff. In that capacity, the monster turned against his creator by arresting him on trumped-up murder charges and then hanging him in 1978. However, Bhutto's grand designs to develop an "Islamic bomb" continued with an unyielding commitment by the "hyper-national security state" under Zia.
Pakistan's successful use of the Mujahideen during the Afghan war of the 1980s against the Soviet Union - with the blessing and support of the United States - gave birth to the development of two highly deleterious features of the warrior state.
The first was the use of asymmetric war to pursue "grand-geopolitical projects". Pakistan was to apply asymmetric warfare against India to resolve the Kashmir dispute in the following years through the use of its own homegrown terrorist groups, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed. The second was Pakistan's involvement in the Afghan war of the 1980s, which encouraged the military ruler in Islamabad to completely dominate the politics of Afghanistan through their pursuit of "strategic depth".
Paul's explanation for Pakistan remaining a warrior state is elaborate and thought-provoking. Pakistan's intense obsession with security has been done at the expense of a long-standing and sustained neglect of its economic and political and economic development. For a number of European countries and developed states of Asia, he writes, "war-making was an engine for national development and consolidation. In Pakistan, however, it was not done so." Excessive "war-making efforts can have perverse effects on a developing country, as limited resources of the economy are siphoned off for military purposes with little, if any, long-term value for the larger society".
Since its very inception, Pakistan has pursued "geopolitically oriented policies at the expense of political and economic reform". These policies "looked successful from a short-term, tactical point of view, but in the long run they have only distorted the country's development and imperiled its national security (not to mention its unity)."
Fortuitously (if not luckily) for Pakistan, either one or more great powers or a rich patron were always there to save its ruling elites from the hardship of "undertaking the painful economic and social reforms necessary for rapid and equitable economic and political development".
Paul goes on to blame the Pakistani elites for pursuing policies that "have resulted in the creation of a violent, insecure, and ideology-driven polity which is neither strong, nor prosperous, nor stably democratic, nor unified". In the Pakistani rulers' thinking, he writes, "an ideologically oriented hyper-realpolitik worldview" created a feeling that their country is "chronically under siege". "In this Hobbesian worldview, war is a natural state of affairs, only the fittest survive in an environment of endemic conflict, and the state should be able to advance its interests through coercive military means when necessary."
An interesting part of Paul's book is his hypothesis that, unlike the European counties of the 19th and 20th centuries and the developed countries of East Asia, Pakistan pursued its security policies at the expense of political and economic development.
The European rulers, when faced with powerful external enemies in the 19th century, "... engaged in economic, technological, and political modernization by penetrating society and centralizing the polity for the efficient extraction of resources". Those governments also ensured that they paid sufficient attention to improving the standard of living of their citizens through economic development.
In Western Europe, state legitimacy came from "democracy and welfare", and in East Asia state legitimacy came from "rapid economic development through trade and investment ... " Eventually, the "liberal-democratic model of governance" that emerged in Europe had "three core principles of Immanuel Kant's model for perpetual peace - democracy, economic interdependence, and international institutions".
That model was applied effectively in that region to render "organized violence among states" as unthinkable. The correctness of this principle is underscored by the fact that excessive focus on security at the expense of economic development also destroyed the Soviet Union.
States like Pakistan, on the contrary, remained weak because they failed to repeat the European experience. That country "... has been extraordinarily obsessed with security and particularly the military balance with its neighbor [India]". It fought four wars with India.
However, war-making came with "strong negatives". Those negatives included "continuous military rule, stunting the growth a healthy civil society". It "destroyed the chances of democracy and civilian institutions taking root, hampered rapid economic growth, and created a garrison state that is bureaucratic and excessively focused on military control over all domains of society".
Another variable that drove Pakistani incessant military preparedness was its "worst-case assumptions about the intention and capabilities" of India.
Pakistan's security obsession involving India has also be understood in terms of what Paul calls, "the geostrategic urge", which he describes as the "quest for strategic parity with its larger neighbor, ... one of the fundamental reasons why Pakistan remains a quintessential warrior state, unable to transform itself into a moderate development-oriented, democratic polity".
Paul uses the phrases "garrison state" and "praetorian state" interchangeably. These phrases describe a country where the ultimate authority rests with the military. "Pakistan is primarily a garrison state, alternating periodically between straight military rule and hybrid democracy." An interesting part of his book is the discussion of conditions under which a garrison state emerges:
1. In "response to external or internal threats";
2. When "a country gives highest salience to national security and it does not possess well-established civil-military rules";
3. When a country extols its military virtues and touts its "efficacy of military solutions to conflict" (p81);
4. When civilian leadership is "inept". (In the case of Pakistan, that is the best way to describe civilian leadership from the beginning. The current government headed by Nawaz Sharif is no exception). As Paul writes, "The Pakistani political system has so far not produced a strong civilian leader who could take on the military and who had the integrity and vision to unite the society behind him or her";
5. When the military dominates the economy "at the expense of the rest of society, crowding out legitimate public- and private-sector enterprise that could serve as alternative constituencies and power bases"; and 6. When there is a small middle class and a civil society. (In the case of Pakistan, "... the middle class has shown an increasing tendency toward radicalism...")
In the Global Competitive Index, Pakistan stands at 124 among 144 countries. That is an alarmingly low score. Thus, Pakistan has to make a dedicated effort to make massive investments in scientific education as well as in research and development, so that it becomes a world-renowned place for training physicists, doctors, engineers, and information technology specialists, and so forth - not jihadists.
If Pakistan is to become a "normal" state, it has to learn from the developmental experiences of some of its fast-growing Asian neighbors, including India. Events, especially in the past four to five years, have proved that the rot of fanaticism and obscurantism is setting in.
What Pakistan needs is what Paul calls "radical transformation" - "in the way the Pakistani elite and civil society think of security and development". Decades of obsession with security and its related mounting militarism have not served Pakistan well; this obsession continues to threaten its survival as a nation-state.
In general, Paul's book is well-researched and well-written. Even though it fails to add a lot of new research on Pakistan, his discussion underlying the spectacular success of European and a number of East Asian countries to transform themselves from warrior states of the past into industrial economies and stable democracies of today is superbly written. Thus, it should definitely be studied, especially by Nawaz Sharif's top advisers, who are desperately struggling to draw up plans to industrialize and modernize their country.
Given Paul's past impressive research on India and his considerable reputation as a political scientist, I wondered why did he not conduct field research on Pakistan for this book and instead relied on considerably dated research of Steven P Cohen and others on the Pakistan Army. One guess is that, because of his Indian background or some related reason, he decided against traveling to Pakistan.
The Warrior State: Pakistan in the Contemporary World by T V Paul. Oxford University Press (February, 2014). ISBN-10: 0199322236. Price: US$17.67; 272 pages.
Ehsan Ahrari, PhD, is an independent defense consultant and a specialist in Great Power relations and transnational security. He has 20 years of experience teaching in various senior military educational institutions, including the US Air War College, Joint Forces Staff College of the National Defense University, and the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (Honolulu, HI). He has consulted with and briefed top officials of USCENTCOM and USPACOM. His latest book on Great Power relations is The Great Powers versus the Hegemon (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2011).