Let us begin with the recently raised question by some American intellectuals and writers viz whether America is merely a powerful nation-state or an empirical power. According to this theory, since the fall of Berlin Wall and of the collapse of the USSR in 1991, there has been a shift from the past, and wittingly or unwittingly, the US has emerged as an empire like the past empires of Rome, Ottoman or the British Empire. I tend to agree with the broad proposition that unintentionally, the US has become and behaves as an empire.
Due to its military, economic and hard or soft power, America and its policymakers view the world as if it is an empirical power having jurisdiction over a vast territory/states of the world; albeit with the difference that the empires of the past had to occupy and show their physical presence within the colonies under their domain which were run by an administration headed by a viceroy/governor nominated by such power. Modern empires like the US, due to the technological developments in the last century, can achieve the same impact and result due to its capacity for global outreach, air and military power, control of oceans, rapid development forces, surveillance drones and drones carrying lethal missiles and its frightening capacity of surveillance. Instead of a nominated viceroy/governor, the empire now relies on regime change and this has been perfected by the CIA, Pentagon and White House. America has achieved expertise in this field over the years (despite the Founding Fathers warning against any temptation in this regard). It has effectively and obtrusively replaced unwanted regimes with a more favourable one — be it small states in Latin America, Mohammad Mosadiq of Iran/Persia, a democratic government in Algeria or removal of Muhammad Mursi in Egypt. Even the change of some governments in Pakistan can be traced to the same Machiavellian manoeuvres by US governments. According to Noam Chomsky, though regime change is a new term in the lexicon, the US is an old hand at it.
Instead of occupying a territory, informal empire maintains bases close to and around the territory it controls. The US has various air force, army and navy bases in addition to the mysterious communication centres or spying bases all over the world. By official estimates, the number of such bases runs into the hundreds. Since the US empire is based on an informal structure no one state can feel sure of itself, other than maybe Russia or China, if it is not a part of the US empire, watched and controlled by White House.
Yet, there is potential advantage for Pakistan in this new setting. As the interest of every nation-state demands that we must first see the true picture of the world and plan our strategy to advance our interest sans any feelings of comfort or otherwise or even ethics/morality. This calls for deep analysis and study of how the empires behave. History is witness to the habit of an empire whereby to maintain a balance of power, it ensures that no other power/state dominates the other. An empire hates challenges by its ‘colonies’.
In that background, our region consists of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Recently, the US wrongly started considering and dealing Afghanistan and Pakistan as if they are one country on account of ethnic affinity between significant portions of the two countries’ communities and also due to their relaxed shared border and named its policy “AfPak”.
However, now that it is trying to leave Afghanistan, though after destabilising it and being aware that it has not been able to replace a force which can control the reemergence of al Qaeda and its affiliates, it has revised — and rightly so — its thinking and is now convinced that stability within Afghanistan is dependant on a stable and strong Pakistan. Many influential US policymakers, civil and military, have expressed the same sentiment. The US administration has realised that if Pakistan is destabilised due to its internal weakness or because of the US pressure to fight al Qaeda while also supporting US forces, the result would be that no number of US troops would be able to control the 200 million combined population of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Furthermore, a truly significant balance of power in the region has to be between Pakistan and India, both of whom are obsessed with each other and are nuclear states. If a destabilised Pakistan disintegrates, India would be tempted to use its resources to dominate the Indian Ocean by increasing its navy. Minus a stable Pakistan, a triumphant India would destroy the balance of power in the region. This is why the primary American strategy, for the coming years, in the region should be to help create a strong viable Pakistan. A strong Pakistan with its professional army will be more successful than the US presence in Afghanistan in controlling (though not eliminating) the Taliban in the area. This is as much a geopolitical reality as the presence of an informal empire which in its interest will be forced by events briefly mentioned above to strengthen Pakistan and its army, boost its economy and support the democratic process.
This brings to my mind the events of the birth of Pakistan. We achieved our independence on August 14, 1947 and Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was sworn in as Governor General on August 15. Amongst the first countries to recognise Pakistan on August 15 was America, when President Harry S Truman sent a congratulatory message to Mohammad Ali Jinnah, “on its emergence among the family of nations”. The Quaid was courteous enough and with an eye for the future, reproduced the contents of this message later in his speech. It is also reported by some reliable historians that the Quaid in the difficult times of financial crises faced by Pakistan in its initial stages, did ask the US to play a constructive role to ease the country’s financial crisis. At that time, it was not really interested in a new country emerging on the map of the world. Today’s US is strategically involved with Pakistan. The strategy on the part of Pakistani governments should be to fully avail of the new mindset that is present in Washington and to tell it that strengthening Pakistan is key to any forward solution.
To cooperate with a country that you may not like is a patriotic duty if that cooperation results in your own country being strengthened. I hope our leaders have the will and skill to hammer a strategy, which builds up to Pakistan’s advantage. I believe the history of the moment is on the side of Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2013.
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