‘US war with Pakistan would be too messy, too dangerous, too awful’

Published: December 9, 2013
Daniel Markey talks on 
US-Pakistan relations and how the two must find a way to work together .

Daniel Markey talks on US-Pakistan relations and how the two must find a way to work together .

LOS ANGELES: “Both countries are marked by a sense of mutual vulnerability and are vulnerable to what the other does,” said Daniel Markey, He added that the world now is too small to escape from the reality of a country on the other side of the world. He also mentioned that Pakistan was of great geo-strategic importance to the US.

There is a sense of frustration with regards to US-Pakistan relations, said Daniel Markey. Five years ago as President Obama came into office and Pakistan had a civilian leadership after General Pervez Musharraf had been swept out of power, there had been enthusiasm in Washington for future relations between the two countries.

Markey, a senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, was speaking at The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) at a talk organised by the UCLA’s Burkle Centre for International Relations. He was speaking about his recently published book, No Exit from Pakistan: America’s Tortured Relationship with Islamabad.

The title of his book, he said, referenced Jean Paul Sartre’s play No Exit and this was a meaningful choice. The relationship between the United States and Pakistan has a very specific comparison with the play that consists of three characters that are pitted against one another in a living room. Markey said that these aspects of the play worked as a useful analogy for US-Pakistan relations.

He quoted US Congressman Gary Ackerman as saying that Pakistan was a black hole for American aid out of which nothing good comes out. But he insisted there seemed to be no alternative than to work through this relationship. “War against Pakistan would be too messy, too dangerous and too awful.”

The author recounted his time in Pakistan a week after the US raid on Bin Laden’s compound and the sense of humiliation among Pakistanis. He said that some Pakistanis he had spoken with had wondered if they really needed the US and that China was always present as an ally. He remembered responding that his sources in Beijing had told him that they were not interested in being Pakistan’s protectors.

Markey said that since then, the sense in Pakistan has been that the country has to work with the US as it wields a large amount of influence in the region, in the global economy, with financial institutions and with Pakistan’s neighbours. Nawaz Sharif’s government, he added, had decided on a narrower cooperation with the US as opposed to distancing themselves from it.

Markey turned to the oft-asked question of why Pakistanis hate the US. He divided the population into three strands. The liberals who are left-of-centre and are angry with the US for supporting military leaders. These people, he said, are highly educated and globally aware who sense the hypocrisy in the US’s actions.

The second group, he said, were the nationalists who were politically in the centre. These people viewed themselves as patriots and were angry at the US for leaving Pakistan in its time of need. Markey said broken alliances with Pakistan were not just fickle mindedness on the part of the US but much more complicated. And last, he added, were the jihadis who were anti-American in a manner similar to Al-Qaeda. They, he pointed out, were a minority, albeit a vocal, armed one that many fear.

Markey then moved on to listing the three options he thought the US had in terms of dealing with Pakistan and also de-bunked all of them.

First on his list was defensive insulation whereby Pakistan could be quarantined. This, he said, meant the country could be walled off and alliances developed with its neighbours while drones were increased to manage the threat from a distance. He said such a strategy would be costly and further push Pakistan from the status of ‘frenemy’ to adversary.

Markey’s second option was military-to-military relations. He said this would be a narrow transactional relationship. The US had done this in the past and it had not worked out well. “The Pakistani military will also suffer as it will lose respect.”

Comprehensive cooperation was Markey’s third option. This meant some of the above two options and more of helping the population by institution building. He said the Obama administration had tried and failed at this strategy. “It is challenging to cultivate relationships and fight terrorists at the same time.”

He said that the US would have to pick and choose as no one strategy seemed effective.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 9th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (36)

  • Last Word
    Dec 9, 2013 - 8:51AM

    A country which chews the hands that feeds it needs no sympathy but left alone to learn a bitter lesson.


  • Feroz
    Dec 9, 2013 - 9:19AM

    Daniel Markey seems as confused as are the US and Pakistani governments on the kind of relationship they want. The blind wanting to lead the deaf is the right analogy.


  • Indian Wisdom
    Dec 9, 2013 - 11:17AM

    @Feroz: “The blind wanting to lead the deaf is the right analogy.”
    or perhaps “The Blind leading the blind…………” :)


  • Khi2Khy
    Dec 9, 2013 - 11:42AM

    A lecture or series of it at UCLA is what is.
    Something few political can tell in a meeting to each other or their opponent has to be stretched over hours, days, weeks or a whole semester to get paid the due salary or may be to sell a book. Its business!

    For the same reason true statesmen rarely read books or papers or attend lectures but only until they are retired or working at a job in an institution.


  • Kafka
    Dec 9, 2013 - 11:42AM

    The US is forcing and/or bribing some quarters in Pakistan to serve its interests. The result of coercion and corruption is always bad.


  • objective observer
    Dec 9, 2013 - 2:39PM

    Seems like the U.S. has tried everything but containment.


  • Bakhtiyar Ghazi Khan
    Dec 9, 2013 - 3:54PM

    Article is too simplistic. The only solution is respecting Pakistan’s sovereignty. The issue can be resolved easily, even in a few days. Some issues which the US can use to repair its ties to Pakistan include:
    1. Withdrawal from Afghanistan and a multi-ethnic government including Pakhtuns
    2. Final resolution on the Kashmir issue through elections held in Kashmir by the UN
    3. Supporting the formation of a Palestinian state
    4. Cutting military aid to Israel and India
    5. No more military adventurism in the Muslim world

    We don’t need US Aid, we only need the US to respect our sovereignty and not support our enemies. I think all Pakistanis will agree on that.


  • Salman
    Dec 9, 2013 - 3:57PM

    @Last Word:
    “bites” the hand that feeds is its how is used in proper idiomatic sense. “Chew” is wrong.


  • Ali S
    Dec 9, 2013 - 4:26PM

    Actually I wouldn’t mind if Pakistan became a completely submissive ‘slave state’ of the US like UAE, Qatar, Kuwait etc are. We’d probably have better security, greater economic access and inflation would sink.


  • Last Word
    Dec 9, 2013 - 6:20PM

    Agreed, realised the mistake after posting my comment.


  • Common Sense
    Dec 9, 2013 - 7:16PM

    So basically his book about stuff, the ordinary Pakistan already knows. NEXT!


  • unbelievable
    Dec 9, 2013 - 7:50PM

    One should note that of the three options given by the author – two have already been tried and failed. That leaves isolation/insulation – which doesn’t have to be expensive as the author believes. Cutting off trade and placing restrictions on travel doesn’t cost anything. Eliminating direct/indirect financial support doesn’t cost anything. Using diplomatic clout at UN and in the region to curtail export of Pakistan extremism isn’t expensive. And if necessary a naval embargo can always be employed – navy’s already paid for so why not use it.


  • jiyala
    Dec 9, 2013 - 8:10PM

    What if I told you US doesn’t want any relation with Pakistan other than using and manipulating it for its own interests?

    Yes, welcome to the reality Mr. Daniel Markey.


  • S Shastri
    Dec 10, 2013 - 6:03AM

    @Salman and Last Word

    Actually I think the word “chew” is more appropriate in this context regardless of the correct idiomatic usage being “bite”. After all, “bite” is a one time occurrence, and could conceivably be accidental. On the other hand, chewing is a deliberate and repetitive process. No?


  • Maestro
    Dec 10, 2013 - 6:25AM

    One and only option, contain Pakistan and Pakistanis within it’s boundary. Serves purpose of all. All the Pakistan loving Pakistanis will not get to migrate outside Pakistan thereby blessing them the life in their holy land. And no western influence , business and money will flow in Pakistan , thus rendering them independent of “outside influences”. No diplomacy, no talks, just leave them to their “happy” fate.


  • Munir
    Dec 10, 2013 - 9:59AM

    It was a great historic mistake on part of Pakistan to choose America instead of Russia. If Pakistan had not helped America to contain Russia, I think, by now, America would have been effectively ‘contained’ by Russia. If you want to see the hypocrisy of America, look at the smiling poses of her past presidents with Jihadi leaders of Afghanistan in Afghan War in 80s.


    Dec 10, 2013 - 12:29PM

    @Bakhtiyar Ghazi Khan:
    1 Withdrawal from Afghanistan and a multi-ethnic government including Pakhtuns
    VALID point Mr khan we too agree on that
    1. Final resolution on the Kashmir issue through elections held in Kashmir by the UN
    Dude cant be done why do need US in our Internal Matters??? how hypocrite ur
    2. Supporting the formation of a Palestinian state
    US in support please read newspapers and even india is
    4. Cutting military aid to Israel and India
    there no military AID to israel and india infact AID is given to PAKISTAN Please check your newspapers
    5. No more military adventurism in the Muslim world
    That i agree


  • Alann
    Dec 10, 2013 - 1:03PM

    @Bakhtiyar Ghazi Khan

    For someone living in this failed nation which betrays trust of every country around the world, you sure do have alot of demands – 80% of which are not even related to Pakistan.
    It is not hard to see why Pakistan is getting worser by the day.


  • Zhang
    Dec 10, 2013 - 5:10PM

    The US is in a situation where it will start losing money on most of its international investments. And they’re just going to keep accepting bad performance…because they don’t know what the alternative is. Why are we even still discussing America?


  • Sexton Blake
    Dec 10, 2013 - 6:02PM

    It would appear to any rational person that the shoe is on the other foot. The US has tortured relationships with so many other countries that one loses count. However, we could start with China, Korea, Vietnam, most of the African countries, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, practically all of Latin America, Russia, all Arab and Middle-Eastern countries. Basically, America has become the rogue state of the world, and if anyone can fully understand what US mendacity is all about they have my fullest admiration. I certainly understand why Pakistan is perplexed. However, if it were possible to explain what the US is about in a few words a casual reflection would indicate, greed, brutality, mendacity, complete lack of consideration for anybody else, and military terrorism.


  • SayWhat?
    Dec 10, 2013 - 6:49PM

    @Maestro: All Indian papers have your opinion printed out manytimes over, what can we do? It’s the wealth, luxury and the “persuit of happiness” at the cost of others that’s what the core of the problem is. Delegation of authority to incompetent or corrupt persons plus inefficient beureucratic system adds to the confusion.

    People are as happy as their leaders are honest. Isolating a nation only becomes dangerous for neighbors in the long run. Instead inclusion and acceptance of existance of another can relueve longterm headaches and troubles.
    Monopoly of one only breed hatred and general hopelessness that results in frustration and then violence or terrorism…the overused terminology.


  • Usman Masood
    Dec 10, 2013 - 6:53PM


    Aid is given to Israel(Military in nature) Get your facts straight.


  • Zaid Bhai
    Dec 10, 2013 - 7:38PM

    @Bakhtiyar Ghazi Khan, Jis ke haath me lati usikhe bains. So it is very simple. From the Day one Pakistan became independent your Leaders went and sit on the lap of American Leaders and asked for AID for every small and big thing to happen in Pakistan. If you guys developed the nuclear bombs by cheating the Americans then don’t blame your master if they show little angry face to you. As one of the commentor has mentioned above Please clean your house first before you go and become a role model Muslim country to world. The country like Malaysia who got the independence after you have more say in IOC than your leaders.


  • Dec 10, 2013 - 8:04PM

    Pakistan tried to blackmail India for almost three decades by befriending America and joining NATO, CENTO etc and opposing the non aligned world. This arm twisting came to an end with moving of American 7th. fleet against India in 1972. And the Final nail on the coffin with America realizing that Pakistan is double crossing them in war against terror. So now Pakistan changed the track and continues his policy of black mail by attempting arm twisting of America in the name of China and lobbying against America in America itself and around the world. To imagine that there can be a war between America and Pakistan is laughable and the war getting messy is more laughable.Recommend

  • Dec 10, 2013 - 8:23PM

    Don’t we get hung up on books that are opinion of an individual? Do you not agree that most authors have vested interests when they write non-fiction? Furthermore, controversies with juicy headlines sell, and thus make money for the publisher and the writer. The fact of the matter is that we cannot deny the challenges in our relationship, and we cannot also deny the fact that we have been able to overcome many challenges and obstacles in our many decade long partnerships. We have always recognized Pakistani sacrifices and contributions in regards to our universal war against terrorism. Pakistan is a strategically important country in the region, and it is important for the world to have a stable and peaceful Pakistan. We are not at war with Pakistan! In fact, it is simply imperative for us to be on the same page for the sake of negating the threat of terrorism that is in our faces every day.

    Abdul Quddus
    DET- United States Central CommandRecommend

  • Murali
    Dec 10, 2013 - 8:55PM

    You really are funny.
    More comments from you at every topic will reduce friction.Recommend

  • Guru
    Dec 10, 2013 - 10:24PM

    @Bakhtiyar Ghazi Khan:
    Why don’t you demand one more like ‘planet mars should be handed over to pakistan’ !


  • LuvDat!
    Dec 11, 2013 - 2:05AM

    @Guru: Isn’t India shooting for Mars for the same reason. I bet it’s easy to occupy than God forsaken valley of Kashmir, no?


  • Nobody
    Dec 11, 2013 - 6:24AM

    @Bakhtiyar Ghazi Khan:
    How long will Pakistanis hold on to the notion that India is the enemy? When was the last time India started a serious conflict without being provoked? I am not dismissing the animosity between the nations but it’s high time the obsession ends. India is moving on; why is Pakistan still stuck? The ‘India is our enemy’ argument is the same used by our army when they want the defense budget to go up as it has been for decades now.
    While US aid would be much needed help if the funds were put to good use (Pakistan can do a lot with billions), I understand the sentiment of Pakistanis who do not want it. If so, focus on become self sustaining and progress as a competitive developing nation, not on obsess over sour relationship with India or make Israel Pakistan’s problem. Pakistan cannot afford this at this point in time given its current circumstances.


  • SayWhat?
    Dec 11, 2013 - 4:19PM

    @Nobody; India is here next to us forever and is going nowhere. It has domestic problems that will make ours miniscule. Arctic or Mars expeditions are just that…expeditions. India…is spending most of its resources not on its 3/4 poor people but on its world image and next election winning points. Sadly the short burst of economic prosperity it experienced last years is going away due to changing world needs and demands. It will be back to stealing our water and trying to break or leg in world competetion by conspiring and negative propaganda. We defenitely are not helping our progress but holding on to extremists’ mentality and sermons to “hate America”. Pak ex-patriots send more than a billion a month that’s four times the world aid or assistance, by the way. Only that it not a loan with interest. We must sort out our goals n direction for progress soon.


  • Dec 11, 2013 - 5:59PM

    @Guru: “@Bakhtiyar Ghazi Khan:
    Why don’t you demand one more like ‘planet mars should be handed over to pakistan’ “

    Dear Friend, Just wait they will at least demand half the mars very soon. Their legal department and intelligence are keeping close watch. Every thing in the world whichever side of equator it may be belongs to Pakistan and if not given? REMEMBER they are a nuclear nation ready to destroy the world. ha ha ha


  • LuvDat!
    Dec 11, 2013 - 6:36PM

    @VINOD: ha ha ha!? I thought…First we finish school then have real job, see and judge the environment from our own eyes…not papers or tv’s, then we come to comment here. Not from middle school. Lol!


  • Dec 12, 2013 - 6:10PM

    @LuvDat!: Lol when you say “First we finish school then have real job, see and judge the environment from our own eyes…”
    I wonder when have you finished school and what have you seen from your eyes. What ever you have seen you hardly know what are you talking about. DO You seriously believe that US war with Pakistan would be too messy, too dangerous,too awful. The proposition is just laughable repeat laughable. Remember the warning conveyed to Pakistan by America of turning it into stone age. You wont know what has hit.
    So stop believing; what you were taught in a Pakistan’s school; brace the reality.


  • Sexton Blake
    Dec 12, 2013 - 6:50PM

    Dear VINOD,
    It appears quite obvious that you misunderstood what LuvDat was actually saying. However, it would be interesting to listen to a full briefing in regard to your version of reality.


  • Dec 12, 2013 - 8:13PM

    @Sexton Blake: Reality is friend do not bite the hand that feeds you


  • Sexton Blake
    Dec 13, 2013 - 7:44AM

    You seem to persist with vague nomenclature. Which friend or friends are you referring to?


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