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Saturday, December 31

Is Pakistan on the verge of a coup? Plus, do Bruce Riedel and State Department know which side they're on in the Afghan War?

From U.K. Telegraph report, US senators urge 'full review' of Pakistan funding, December 6, 2011:
Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer who led an inter-agency review of US policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan in early 2009, on Monday said the United States should give greater weight to containing the Pakistani army.

Speaking at a panel discussion in the US capital, he said that for now, Washington was "not doing enough on the containment part. We're slipping and sliding into it, but I think without a coherent framework."

According to Riedel, the Pakistani army is gradually installing a new military dictatorship, without even needing to resort to a coup.

"The new military dictatorship that is emerging in Pakistan will be very different from its predecessors," he said.

"The facade of civilian government is likely to continue to go on ... with very little real power. The media will continue to be very active and alive, except when they criticise the military."
From B. Raman's analysis, Pakistan Army: Back from the Barracks -- Need for alert in India, December 24, 2011:
1. Gen.Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, Pakistan’s Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), who had taken the Army back into the barracks after succeeding Gen.Pervez Musharraf as the COAS and announced that the Army would no longer dabble in politics, has reversed his past stand and re-asserted the role of the Army as one among equals -- along with the Executive, legislature and the judiciary -- in matters concerning national security.
12. What we are seeing in Pakistan is not a de jure military coup that would require ex-post facto validation by the court, but a de facto coup that would not require any such validation.
There is a great deal of background between paragraphs 1 and 12, including information on "Memogate," which raised the latest round of questions in Washington about the coup issue, but I wanted to highlight just the conclusion because it jibes with Riedel's.

So here we have two very different people with different credentials, sources and levels of experience with analyzing Pakistan and both coming to pretty much the same conclusion.

If Messrs. Raman and Riedel are correct it means that the vast majority of Pakistan watchers in Washington have once again missed the boat. They've had their eyes peeled for a classic coup and believe this scenario is very unlikely. Righto, but there are coups and de facto coups.

Some thoughts about Bruce Riedel and the U.S. Department of State's way of promoting democracy before I close. Over the years I've quoted Riedel's views on Pakistan very sparingly because in my view he has the irritating habit of ignoring the implications of the data he pulls together on Pakistan's military/ISI when he arrives at drawing a conclusion.

And he can be naive; specifically, no matter how many correct observations he makes about the Pakistani military, he seems to draw a thick line between the military and Pakistan's civil society whereas none actually exists.

As with Egypt's military (and Iran's IRGC and several other militaries around the world), Pakistani's officers have extensive land and business holdings in the country, which employ a great many Pakistanis.

I think Riedel is reflecting the view of the U.S. Department of State/USAID, which has bought into the approach that through aid and technical assistance to a country's private industry and civil institutions it can weaken a military's hold on the country. (State has sold the White House on the approach for Pakistan.) Here's a sample of Riedel's reasoning in that regard, from an analyis he wrote for the Washington-based think tank Brookings Institution in June of this year ( Three Ways to Help Pakistan):
For decades these [democracy-supporting] Pakistanis have asked America to do one thing: open our markets to trade from their country. Every Pakistani ambassador to Washington since 1991 has told me the same thing; trade not aid will help us build a modern civil society, empower women, strengthen the entrepreneurs who want to build Pakistan, and encourage peace not terror.

Instead, Washington places tariffs on Pakistani textiles that are three times the rate applied to most countries. A level playing field for Pakistani products is a national security imperative for America, even if our own textile industry hates it.
I hasten to add that Riedel is not the only opinion expert pushing the "trade not aid" approach to Pakistan; there's a coterie of 'em in Think-tankistan and the ones who belong tend to sound the same. From a September 2011 op-ed for the Los Angeles Times by Carnegie Endowment's George Perkovich (Changing the direction of U.S.-Pakistan relations):
Washington could foster Pakistan's economic development, self-regard and confidence in American intentions by removing barriers to Pakistani textile and apparel exports to the United States. Americans often profess that trade is better than aid. But to protect the tiny and unviable remaining textile and apparel sector in the United States, Congress blocks efforts to lower tariffs on Pakistani imports of these goods. By removing these protectionist tariffs, Washington would help spur Pakistan's economic growth without the psychological baggage often attached to aid when it is perceived as charity.
The State Department approach of buttressing the civilian sector hasn't worked out well in Egypt so far, despite all the aid and technical assistance it's channeled to building up the country's civil institutions. But sidestepping the argument about the merits of the approach, applying it to Pakistan is counterproductive. That's because the United States is up against a covert proxy war being fought by Pakistan's military in Afghanistan.

Aside from business holdings Pakistan's military has myriad ways to siphon the lion's share of aid/loan money for private sector/civilian government projects and is notorious for doing so. And what is not controlled by the military is controlled by the powerful 'landed' class, which works hand in glove with the military.

Thus, the only way the U.S. government can be assured that the military doesn't channel aid into helping terrorist outfits that attack American troops is to suspend all aid, all loans -- everything, including trade concessions. Sad but necessary until Pakistan's military shuts down its covert war in Afghanistan.


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