Neither hawk nor dove

Published: September 13, 2012
The writer is an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC and president of Vizier Consulting, LLC. He tweets at @ArifCRafiq

The writer is an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC and president of Vizier Consulting, LLC. He tweets at @ArifCRafiq

There is a certain mindlessness to the discussion in Pakistan of the country’s foreign and national security policy. All too often, nonsensical boilerplate statements are issued at the cost of fresh ideas and rigorous, integrative analysis.

On one side, there is the hawk who will argue for complete disengagement with the US and will shriek at every trade concession made with India. The hawk wrongly dismisses the reality of Pakistan’s dependence on the US for a stable northwest frontier. And the hawk wants Pakistan to become the next Asian tiger, but ignores both ASEAN’s role in southeast Asia’s economic boom and the reality that South Asia is the least integrated region in the world.

On the opposite extreme is the dove, whose incoherence, thank goodness, is generally faced with 140 character count limitations. The dove will tweet against partition from his or her fortress in Defence. And from the same location, the dove will protest any weapons test or exercise conducted by the military. A common refrain, or meaningless truism, is that Pakistan’s possession of nuclear weapons does no good against terrorists, implying that they serve no purpose at all. I have yet to see a dove make the same case for the US, India and the remaining nuclear powers (save for North Korea), all of which face a terrorist threat in some shape or form.

Most, if not all, countries have their hawks and doves. And with declining attention spans and growing mediums for public expression, political discourse these days tends to be quite vapid and segmented in many or most parts of the world. People preach to the converted. Hyperbole wins over measured, informed commentary. But that’s no excuse for fatalism. Those burdened with the responsibility of decision-making tend to seek out sane voices who can offer reality-based solutions. There is an opportunity to meet that demand.

Pakistan needs more voices who take a balanced approach and advocate a coherent middle ground that embraces the strengths and eschews the weaknesses of both hawks and doves. A middle path could be a form of pragmatism that rejects neither deterrence nor engagement, but accepts the reality of needing to deal with both conventional and non-conventional military threats and appreciates the greater efficiency and ethical superiority of non-military solutions to challenges and threats. Indeed, economic engagement with traditionally hostile states can be conceived as a form of deterrence that comes with tangible dividends.

Historical rivals France and Germany, both of whom fought over the Alsace-Lorraine, ended their conflict after the Second World War through the formation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), a precursor to the European Union. Through the ECSC, French Foreign Minister Robert Schumann sought to “make war not only unthinkable but materially impossible”. And so, France and Germany jointly produced coal and steel — necessary raw materials for war — generating a co-dependence that directly made violent conflict between the two countries far less likely and helped pave the way for an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity for the two countries.

Still, France continues to hold on to its nuclear arsenal. I can’t imagine Britain, Germany or Spain invading France in the next 20 years, nor can I imagine China, Russia or even North Korea launching nuclear-armed missiles at Paris. But once nukes are there, they’re there. It’s hard to roll a nuclear programme back. And while we all hope for a non-nuclear future in South Asia, it’s not likely in the foreseeable future as Washington’s civil nuclear deal with New Delhi has freed up India’s indigenous uranium supplies for military use and India pushes forward with plans to nuclearise the Indian Ocean with its INS Arihant submarines.

A nuclear South Asia is a reality that Pakistan’s policymakers have to contend with, but it does not preclude the possibility of a durable and meaningful peace. Responsible military men must think of the contingencies for war. Responsible political leaders must be prepared for conflict, but aim for victory without war. Give them the power and intellectual capital to achieve it.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 13th, 2012.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (12)

  • Nadir
    Sep 13, 2012 - 12:24AM

    Yes but the important thing is that we must be able to look India-USA-Israel IN THE EYE!!


  • John B
    Sep 13, 2012 - 12:45AM

    Yes, give PAK responsible political leaders!


  • BlackJack
    Sep 13, 2012 - 12:50AM

    It may make sense to listen to the doves, their 140 character tweets probably contain the change that Pakistan needs. The hawks still believe that Pakistan will change the world. A few points:
    1. India has a no first use policy, so if Pakistan had no nuclear weapons, that would mean that for all practical purposes, India does not either. Unlike Pakistan, India prides itself as a responsible nation, and would not want to ruin its reputation by breaking this self-imposed restriction.
    2. Currently it makes eminent sense for India to continue ratcheting up the defence spends which will force Pakistan to maintain an ever-increasing defense budget, leading towards bankruptcy. These costs will be paid out of your health and education budgets as long as they are sustainable after which you will end up defaulting on some form of debt. You will always lag India in missile and space technology because although China will give you its dated missiles, they will not share their latest technology or even fund any indigenous program.
    3. The world worries that Pakistan with nuclear missiles will fall prey to the Taliban, and is thus willing to pay to keep the generals in power. I think these fears are over-rated and the bluff needs to be called. The Taliban may over-run a nuclear facility or two but are unlikely to know what to do with the Uranium if they ever got to it. Plus once this happens, all bets are off and India is not the only country that will be worried.
    4. Pakistan is not in the same league as other nuclear powers – its defense costs as a percentage of GDP are far higher than those of even India, and it cannot possibly avert a devastating second strike in case of any nuclear adventurism. Hence money that is spent on nuclear weapons is not productive.
    5. Do not compare South Asia with Europe – we already have a huge Indian union of disparate states that have stayed together against the odds for 65 years – we will prevail. The EU does not include Turkey despite the benefits that a high growth economy could add because of certain reasons – the same reasons a hundred-fold are applicable in the case of a South Asian fiscal/ political union between India-Pakistan-Bangladesh.


  • Mirza
    Sep 13, 2012 - 1:39AM

    A very paradoxical and confusing Op Ed. One cannot understand that a third world country having both nuclear weapons and huge army and contradicting their only justification to develop nuclear weapons. BTW, how rich is Pakistani nations? What is their total budget compared to other nuclear powers or countries with huge armies? How long can we continue to sacrifice the country for war parity with a neighbor having a huge budget and economy?


  • sabi
    Sep 13, 2012 - 2:47AM

    The rising militancy has in reaction given birth a child called dove.Action and reaction are equall but opposit in direction.Shoot the hawk to prevent polarisation.A pendulum needs an external force to stay in the midle.


  • Feroz
    Sep 13, 2012 - 6:47AM

    The faster Nuclear weapons are eliminated from every corner of the globe, the better it will be.


  • Zalim Singh
    Sep 13, 2012 - 7:10AM

    very confusing


  • gp65
    Sep 13, 2012 - 9:47AM

    “Pakistan is not in the same league as other nuclear powers – its defense costs as a percentage of GDP are far higher than those of even India,”
    This is a true statement ofcourse but what is more relevant is defence cost as a percentage of tax revenue. Pakistan’s tax to GDP ratio is approx 9% and defence to GDP ratio is 3%. In other words a 33% defense to tax collection ratio. In India tax to GDP ratio is about 16% and defense to GDP ratio is about 2.5%. Thus defense to tax ratio is much smaller 15.6%


  • Jahaaz
    Sep 13, 2012 - 11:42AM

    Both hawks and doves counter balance their opinions yet creating space for a rational public opinion in almost all countries of the world ( or at least it can be assumed so), so there is nothing wrong with Pak having them both.

    I can’t imagine Britain, Germany or Spain invading France in the next 20 years, nor can I imagine China, Russia or even North Korea launching nuclear-armed missiles at Paris.

    Secondly, as world history teaches us things go their own way even out of our imagination so better don’t bank on that yet I agree with your notion that Pakistan’s policymakers must consider not only a nuclear South Asia but a major part of the whole world.


  • Sep 13, 2012 - 7:07PM

    Nuclear Weapons are not for warfare! They are for power projection!

    Big toys belong to Big boys!

    North Korea and Pakistan are prime examples of what happens to a country after getting the nukes. You become the bad guy. Pakistan was sanctioned before 9/11 and by some grace of God, it was lifted, as US wanted Pakistan supply lines to Afghanistan.

    North Korea remains heavily sanctioned till date.

    The only exception being Israel. It has nukes but people call Israel another state of United States. If, by some chance, the US blessings suddenly disappear Israel will join the ranks of North Korea and Pakistan.

    India was initially sanctioned but due to its growing economy and size, that was no longer an option. Not only were the sanctions lifted, but International nuclear laws were amended!

    I repeat again- Big toys belong to big boys. Pakistan can NEVER be a big boy in our lifetime. Hate will consume it much before that.

    Nuclear weapons are a liability to Pakistan. Not only internationally but domestically also when Taliban want to seize them to gain an unmistakable edge.Recommend

  • Faaltu mein khwam kha
    Sep 13, 2012 - 10:03PM

    bang on,you have hit the nail on the head.path lies in between….


  • anticorruption
    Sep 15, 2012 - 9:02AM

    Thanks for writing a very balanced piece


More in Opinion