To defend the homeland

Published: January 18, 2012
The writer is editor of business and economic policy for Express News. He can be found on Twitter

The writer is editor of business and economic policy for Express News. He can be found on Twitter @khurramhusain [email protected]

On the eve of America’s massive escalation of its war in Vietnam, Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979, German philosopher, known as the father of the “New Left”) warned it about submitting to “a defence that deforms the defenders and that which they defend”. Marcuse’s polemic focused on a growing militarisation of society and individual consciousness. He saw a peculiar danger facing American modernity from the potent mix of prosperity and militarisation, from consumerism at home and imperialism abroad.

The words were written in 1964, and were neither the first nor the last warning that America’s commitment to underwrite global order had produced a dangerously overdeveloped military apparatus. In fact, America’s stint as a superpower with global commitments has been accompanied by a steady drumbeat of dissident voices that have warned about the growing danger from the militarisation of America’s state and society.

The most famous early warning came from Dwight Eisenhower, three days before the end of his Presidency, when in a remarkable speech he warned of the “grave implications” of the “conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry”.

“We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence… by the military industrial complex,” he said, explaining that the “very structure of our society” was at stake.

Nor is America the only country that holds out lessons of the damage that an overdeveloped military apparatus can inflict upon its host society. The rapid bursts of industrialisation that Germany and Japan saw in the decades before and after World War I were also spearheaded by a military establishment. In both cases, the industrialisation was accompanied by a growing belligerence towards their neighbors, by the emergence of a political will to subordinate all social institutions and human consciousness to the needs and demands of the military. Eventually, the growth trajectories of both these countries carried them into disastrous wars the scars of which are visible on their faces to this day.

I don’t know whether the advance of German and Japanese industry was accompanied by any dissident voices warning about the disastrous stakes involved in subordinating all of society to martial virtues. Common sense says there must have been voices of reason trying to calm the turbocharged march into great power rivalry. And hindsight tells us they were eventually proved right.

Examples of overdeveloped military institutions are not hard to find in our time. And in every such case — and I challenge you dear reader to find me an exception — such overdeveloped military ambitions have taken their own society down a path of extreme destruction, of extreme degradation of human consciousness, of complicity in great crimes, of a public culture commanded by paranoia and deluded symbols and false arrogance, of the virtual enslavement of the populace in the clutches of poverty, disease and ignorance, towards “a community of dreadful fear and hate” as Eisenhower warned.

In short, every such defence has “deformed the defenders and that which they defend”.

But great power rivalries are not the only crucible where such militarised monstrosities are forged. Regional rivalries can get the job done just as well. Nor does one have to be a great industrialised power to harbour such ambitions of arms and glory. Poor countries have their own peculiar strengths in such endeavours.

Pakistan has had an overdeveloped military establishment for many decades now, but an important turning point marks the evolution of its growing dominance over state and society. In the sixties, our concept of any ‘strategic defence’ could be summed up in two phrases: “the defence of the East lies in the West” and “waiting for the Seventh Fleet”.

The thinking at the time was that any attack on the Eastern wing would be countered by opening a front on the West, forcing the enemy to fight on two fronts. Secondly, the thinking took as an article of faith that being an ally of the superpower meant that its armed might would always come to our defense.

Of course the 1971 war proved that both these elements of our defence were deluded, to say the least, and the country paid the price through a disastrous and blood-soaked dismemberment, a humiliating defeat that saw the post-war world’s first successful separatist movement and the first ever “humanitarian military intervention” by any country.

The security establishment that dragged the country into this disaster spent the next decade licking its wounds and nursing its pride back to health until the 1980s, when geography and history conspired to bequeath unto it a new set of implements with which to resurrect its search for a ‘strategic defence’. The nuclear weapons programme made its most meaningful advances under the cover provided by the Afghan war, and the machine of covert war that plies its deadly craft with the use of irregular militias was assembled during this time.

Today, more than three decades later, both these tools of our ‘defence’ hang like a millstone around our necks. Today we remain stubbornly stuck in a ‘defence’ that we embraced decades ago, and that “defence” is deforming us and the homeland we seek to defend. Thanks to the military’s misguided stewardship, Jinnah’s Pakistan has already been cut into two. Today it is a breeding ground for dreadful fear and hate, an isolated pariah that happily gives safe harbor to the world’s deadliest criminals and ideologies while flaunting the will of the world community.

A degradation of mind and body has accompanied our growing reliance on this ‘defence’. Our school textbooks have been injected with hate and apocryphal tales to sustain the requirements of this ‘defence’, and the memory of our founding fathers — Jinnah and Iqbal — has been desecrated to make it fit the mould of militarised nationalism. Our hospitals are starved of resources, our public schools turned into grazing grounds for herds while fiscal resources are ploughed in unknown quantities into an opaque and unaccountable military budget. From our politics to our economy, to the minds of our children and the classrooms in which they are taught — no area of our society has escaped the footprint of this defence, which has deformed us and that which we defend.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 19th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (27)

  • Ali Tanoli
    Jan 18, 2012 - 11:28PM

    we are not failed the world is failed sir take my words.


  • John B
    Jan 18, 2012 - 11:41PM

    In America, Japan, and Germany the war changed the fabric of the society, society was integrated, voices of common men was heard, political elites and political parties redefined their manifesto, and youth rebelled against their parents twisted ideology, liberated their minds from the century old codes of the society, and went on to do great things that defines the twenty-first century. In fact, throughout history the war changed the society for better, both for the victor and the victim.

    In PAK it should have been the case, as it is with Bangladesh. Not sure where it went wrong. The flight, silence, and complacency of the educated middle class and their imprisoned mind out of fear and superior clan attitude led them voluntarily to submit to the very forces that tore the PAK apart. The change should have happened when Musharaff walked into Islamabad. Instead, the society was with him.

    Until there is an another major destructive event in PAK, the submission to the beat of drums will likely persists.


  • Sher Khan
    Jan 18, 2012 - 11:46PM

    I wont agree with your judgement. 71 war was a mix of both army and poltiicans fault. Dont just blame the army.


  • SM
    Jan 18, 2012 - 11:54PM

    So does the author absolve the invompetent and greedy politicians of any blame?

    Yes perhaps according to this logic, the military is to blame for the ills of loadshedding, no gas or CNG and shortage of water and food. Recommend

  • John
    Jan 19, 2012 - 12:23AM

    If you were planning the defence needs of the country 30 years ago the plans would have forecasted a growth of say 10 percent per year in military expenditure. 30 years ago for assumptions sake the budget was just 15 % of the entire country’s budget. However, all the revenue sources of the country have been mismanaged. From the power sector, railways, PIA, the tax base, etc all have not kept pace with the continued growth of the defence needs. Corruption, ineffienciency, mismanagement and a rapidly burgeoning population have eaten away the countries sources of income resulting in a disproportionate defence budget which is now a huge percentage of the overall resources of the country. Accountability is certainly required. However, with the current state of our economy the military is simply unable to keep even bare minimum deterence level in terms of conventional training and military weapons both in quality and in number. Do we want to remain as a viable independent country which can hopefully live peacefully with its neighbors?


  • DB
    Jan 19, 2012 - 12:44AM

    The author is benefiting from the corrupt liberal secular politicians who have been imposed on the oppressed nation. Par for the course for our English language newspapers who want to maintain the status quo and keep the masses poor.

    They fear the upward movement of the neglected classes, which is why they take turns in supporting feudals, generals and industrialists as and when it suits them. It’s all a powerplay among the elite with no benefit for the poor. And then these liberals have the audacity to ask, why the jihadis are bombing them!


  • Babloo
    Jan 19, 2012 - 12:48AM

    A nation usurped and the people who are ruled by the establsihment have bought the p ropoganda sold to them by the establsihment, as the entity lies in ruins and tatters.


  • Super Pak
    Jan 19, 2012 - 2:02AM

    Disgusting, absolutely no respect for those that have fought and died protecting this country. Pakistan is perhaps the only country that hates its own military more than anything else. If this is your idea of liberalism then stay away from us, because your brand of liberalism will surely destroy the country. You are not worth the lives of the sons of the poor. Recommend

  • Asad Sayeed
    Jan 19, 2012 - 2:11AM

    spot on Khurram. You said what should be said over and over again…alas very few voices that say as it should be said. One can only rue the fact that one was born in a security state and most of us are condemned to live in it.


  • David
    Jan 19, 2012 - 3:16AM

    Regarding a dissident voice in Germany. you can quote Otto Von Bismarck – in face of militaristic attitude of the german empire:

    “Jena came twenty years after the death of Frederick the Great; the crash will come twenty years after my departure if things go on like this” ― a prophecy fulfilled almost to the month.
    “One day the great European War will come out of some damned foolish thing in the Balkans”

    how true it turned out to be!!!


  • Mir
    Jan 19, 2012 - 3:40AM

    Security establishment is left with limited time and resources to choose between
    people or nukes
    national security or national welfare and development
    military empire or private public enterprises
    defence budget or development budget
    martial race or developed nation


  • You Said It
    Jan 19, 2012 - 4:25AM

    The Pakistan Army has convinced itself that it is the saviour of the country. It looks at civilians failures and beleives it can do better. The problem though is that this belief is not rooted in fact. Both on the battlefield and in running the country, it’s failures are numerous and successes pitifully few. After each battering — 1971 being the prime one, but Kargil, GHQ attack, May 2, PNS Mehran being other recent examples — it battens down the hatches and shore up its defences to prevent further failures. More money is siphoned from the development funds to buy better toys for the boys. Unfortunately the real problem is ability not the toys — and ability can only be built up with development, which continues to lag. Don’t expect a turnaround anytime soon.


  • numbersnumbers
    Jan 19, 2012 - 5:20AM

    @Ali Tanoli:
    SO, you say that “we are not failed the world is failed sir take my words”!

    If WE are not Failed, then why must Pakistanis leave home to find work and success in other countries (which are not FAILED by any definition)!

    Please give us examples of how the world is failed but PAKISTAN IS A SUCCESS!!! (By the way, hiding Osama bin Laden for 6 years doesn’t count)!


  • numbersnumbers
    Jan 19, 2012 - 5:24AM

    Since the ARMY takes the lions share of the countries resources, leaving little for infrastructure improvements (when was the last electric generating plant built in Pakistan), then yes, the ARMY is responsible for all, since the ARMY has ALWAYS been in charge in Pakistan!


  • Umer
    Jan 19, 2012 - 6:02AM

    Author has completely absolved the POLITICIANS from all the ills of Pakistan. yes Army also did not do any good to the country but being an economist author must analyze the GDP growth of military and political regimes…… things will be quite clear. moreover what happens in the last four years of Political Rule……. No electricity, No gas rather more destruction of national assets… media should also come out of the biases…


  • vasan
    Jan 19, 2012 - 10:16AM

    Ali Tanoli : Cat in the well ? If the world has perceived and substantiated with a lot of facts, statistics and surveys, that you have failed, then you have failed. Please open your eyes and come out of your delusion.


  • SM
    Jan 19, 2012 - 10:28AM

    The politicians forced and conspired with the armed forces to impose martial law in 58. In addition I want to know what the politicians have done for Pakistan other than loot the impoverished lot. Forget what the army does, let focus more on what the civilian governments ever did that has been worthwhile for the people of Pakistan.


  • Jat
    Jan 19, 2012 - 11:19AM

    Excellent article !!


  • asad
    Jan 19, 2012 - 11:22AM

    a defence that deforms the defenders and that which they defend

    khurram sb , you have just given a whole new dimension on the way we look at the military bonapartism of Pakistan Army.

    your voice should be heard.


  • Aqib Mehboob
    Jan 19, 2012 - 11:46AM

    Kudos Khurram!


  • wonderer
    Jan 19, 2012 - 1:47PM

    An excellent article!

    Rare courage and honesty!

    This should be made compulsory reading for all army officers, civil service officers and all politicians in office. Will be of benefit to the whole Nation, and could be the sorely needed turning point.

    It is very reassuring, particularly for the thinking people in India, to know that people such as the author are speaking up in Pakistan.


  • KH
    Jan 19, 2012 - 4:40PM

    @Super Pak: Many people have laid down their lives for this country. Not all of them were in the military.


  • Ali Tanoli
    Jan 19, 2012 - 6:01PM

    @vasan & numbers numb,
    why i said failling of the world if u guys travel then may u know the fact but sitting home not gonna tell u any way its start it from russian invassion of afghanistan therty years ago the count turn of the good world and big ships take time to sink so now its happening and former
    heros now became zeros it happend pakistan problem lies with the world powers illegal occupations of afghanistan so phanga is little longer????


  • Jan 19, 2012 - 6:06PM

    Dear Khurram Hussain, Any one listening in Pakistan? The wise words by you and other people like you are not even appreciated by majority of literate folks. Sir,The night of Pakistan is long and dark and none of sane words can cut through the fog of army surrounding the nation. We feel sad what else?


  • Ahsan Ikram
    Jan 19, 2012 - 8:41PM

    Very Well written Piece of Work, keep it up and say what you have to say!


  • Cynical
    Jan 20, 2012 - 10:06PM

    1971.Bad dream.Mathematical problem, theoretical malfunction.
    Can’t say more.Blasphemy stares at the face.Read between the lines.


  • Majid
    Jan 21, 2012 - 4:32AM

    John B, you have said it all. If our middle class were representation of an educated mind, they should have stood up when Musharraf toppled the elected, progressive democratic govt. Rather they supported a dictator. Worst thing is that the same middle class is now supporting Imran Khan.
    The disaster which will turn the fate for Pakistan in my point of view will be something like that this stupid middle class will help Imran get elected but since he is bound to fail in politics and real leadership, he will throw Pakistan into new depths of disaster. At that stage, the same middle class will stand up and will hang Imran Khan at regal chowk just like Mussolini. This will be a turning point. May we have a good leader until then, otherwise I do not know how will we get out of that chaos since after Nawaz Sharif I don’t see any real leader in next 500 years!


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