Militaries come in several forms, historically speaking. There are military castes like the Samurai, Spartans or the Janissaries; there are armies of citizen volunteers as with ancient Athens, ancient Rome or Washington’s Continental Army; there are armies built by conscription and finally there are professional mercenaries. Each kind of military has a different relationship with the political community from which it emerged and when a political community changes its form of military, this signals a change in the political community.Yet the history Mark summarizes provides no precedent for the situation I discussed in the Conscription post. So while societies with AVFs are historically not as engaged with their militaries as ones where there is conscription, this doesn't explain the relationship between Washington and Pakistan, whereby one government has been in effect paying another to murder its own troops, and doing so on the thinnest rationalizations -- some of which I shot down in yesterday's post; others I've dealt with in several essays going back years.
The Roman legions annihilated at Cannae by Hannibal were of a different character than the Roman legions lost by Emperor Valens under the hooves of Gothic heavy cavalry at Adrianople (note which set of Romans had the systemic capability to recover and win).
Richard Nixon is the father of our AVF [all volunteer force] and he initiated the transformation at the time for shrewd, self-interested, political reasons. One of those reasons was that a republican (small “r”) military composed of conscripts representing the broad population of American citizens was a politically difficult army to employ ruthlessly for reasons of state compared to a military with the ethos of professional soldiers.
Herein lies the root of the much remarked distance between the American public and the small fraction who are soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines fighting wars on our behalf.
There is no viable rationale, and the American public is fast running out of excuses for not knowing the score on Afghanistan, which is that counterinsurgency doctrine never got a fair test in the country because there was never any insurgency to speak of; there was and remains a covert proxy war waged by Pakistan's military -- a war funded in no small part by the U.S. taxpayer. A war that needlessly kills and maims many Americans because even the most basic, common-sense actions have never been taken by the American civilian leaders and military commands to discourage Pakistan's military from waging war on Afghanistan.
And despite all the publicity in the USA since the Abbottabad raid about Pakistan's support for terrorism and the public criticism of Pakistan from members of Congress, a host of media figures and high-ranking officials, there has been no real change in Washington's stance on Pakistan. If that's hard to believe, consider:
The 40 Percent Solution
A December 17 Reuters report (updated on December 19) on the foreign aid section of the U.S. spending bill for fiscal 2012 summarizes the stipulations attached by Congress to U.S. aid to Pakistan:
The legislation allocates $850 million for a fund to help Pakistan's military develop counterinsurgency capabilities to fight Islamist militants within its borders. This is actually a slight increase from last year's $800 million but less than the $1.1 billion President Obama requested for the fund in 2012.So Congress is betting that 40 percent of the aid -- the part that is being given without strings attached -- will not be used by the Pakistani military to help train and supply terrorists who attack U.S. troops and civilian workers in Afghanistan and U.S./NATO supply convoys in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
However, a massive defense bill Congress passed on Thursday freezes 60 percent of this amount, or $510 billion, until the U.S. defense secretary provides lawmakers with assurances that Pakistan is working to counter improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
And as to why the American taxpayer should pay for U.S. forces to further train Pakistan's military in counterinsurgency tactics, which repeated history tells it passes to terrorist groups fighting Americans and other NATO troops, the Reuters report doesn't say. To return to the report:
[...] No number was included for economic aid to Pakistan, leaving the Obama administration to specify the amount in consultation with Congress. This is a comedown for Pakistan; in each of the past three years, about $1 billion or more in economic aid for Pakistan was written into spending bills, in part to meet pledges made under 2009 legislation sponsored by Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar.The large political rally held on December 25, 2011 in Karachi for Imran Khan was Rawalpindi's answer to all the conditions that Washington has attached to its aid, conditions that were telegraphed many weeks prior to the aid bill's passage. Not long before he was murdered the Pakistan bureau chief for Asia Times Online, Saleem Shahzad, reported that the strongly anti-American Khan was being groomed by Pakistani military leaders as Pakistan's next likely (figurehead) civilian leader. As I noted in my April 22. 2011 comments on Shahzad's report:
Economic as well as security aid was made conditional on Pakistan's cooperation in fighting militants such as the Haqqani network.
With some understatement Khan is not U.S.- or NATO-friendly. At the time Shahzad filed his report Khan was leading a two day sit-in outside Peshawar, the capital of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, "planned for Saturday and Sunday to block supply convoys ferrying goods to North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops in Afghanistan."So this is something Washington could see coming: any attempt to tie sticks to U.S. aid to Pakistan would be met with countermoves from Rawalpindi, such as promoting Khan -- whose entire political platform at this time is fighting corruption and standing up to the United States.
The Washington workaround has been a 40 percent solution: no strings on monies always intended to be disbursed to Pakistan, and attach the strings to the phantom 60 percent.
This, despite the fact that even Fareed Zakaria bluntly told Pakistan's foreign minister (in an interview aired on CNN October 2, 2011) that it's been open knowledge for years in American journalistic and diplomatic circles that Pakistan is aiding and abetting the Haqqani Network.
Hina Rabbani Khar didn't bother to keep the contempt out of her voice when she replied to Zakaria's grilling. I'd say she knew she was dealing with people in Washington who make the monsters in her own government look like saints, for even the worst in Pakistan's military wouldn't pay another military to kill its own troops.
On November 13, 2009 The Atlantic Council's New Atlanticist blog published an essay by Donald M. Snow, Professor Emeritus at the University of Alabama and author of over 40 books on foreign policy, international relations and national security, which dealt with the implications of an all-volunteer force in the United States. Little more than a week after the Snow essay appeared at NA I published Why General Stanley McChrystal is going straight to hell, the first of what must be more than a hundred essays by now on the U.S. government's attempts to placate Pakistan even though it knew that Pakistan's military/ISI was complicit in the murder and maiming of U.S. troops.
I've half a mind to republish the Snow essay and mine right here and now, but will content myself with providing the links to the essays and asking you to read (or re-read) both. Then you tell me what you think should be done about a situation that has no precedent in recorded history.
If your answer is that the United States should immediately withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan: if you and I hadn't egged on Pakistan's military to create a monster that was turned loose on Afghanis I'd say it's the right answer. However, that we weren't really aware of how our tax money was being used, or that some of us weren't even born at the time President Ronald Reagan hailed the Taliban as freedom fighters, doesn't let us off the hook.
If you tell me that we don't dare add another shooting war to our list: there is more than one way to stop Pakistan's proxy war and without the U.S. firing a shot at Pakistan. I've detailed such ways on my blog at least twice, but they depend on something Americans have in short supply, which is patience. There is fast way, however:
The Pundita Solution
The U.S. ambassador to every major NATO country should be instructed to convey to his or her counterpart that President Obama wants to call a special session of Congress to recommend that the United States withdraw from NATO, and to kindly pass this along to the country's leadership.
When the American ambassadors are asked why, they should reply that the President finds himself in a real pickle: he can't order that the United States immediately withdraw from Afghanistan but neither can he continue to tolerate that his government and the governments of other NATO countries are encouraging Pakistan to continue its proxy war against NATO troops and Afghanistan's government.
The ambassadors should also convey that President Obama would be all ears if NATO country leaders had suggestions that would allow him to refrain from calling the special session, particularly because he would have to go into considerable detail in front of Congress to explain why he wants to withdraw from NATO.
That would be a better way of accomplishing the objective than Obama snarling into the phone at NATO country leaders that unless every one of their governments immediately suspended all loans and every kind of aid to Pakistan, including technical assistance, the United States would immediately withdraw from NATO.
There are other tactics along similar lines that can be launched, but it all starts with the U.S. halting every kind of loan, aid and TA to Pakistan, and bringing pressure on the World Bank to the same and nudging Brussels to do the same at the IMF.
The halting should be done without a word of explanation, criticism or threat to Pakistan's leaders. As I've explained before the Pakistanis in charge are adults; they don't need to be told what they already know. They've just been waiting to see whether Washington will ever get serious about having them stop their proxy war. So far, they've had every indication that the answer is no.
A fast withdrawal from NATO would be a drastic step for the United States but there is no use bringing any lessor threat to bear. These other NATO countries want to do business with Pakistan just as the United States does, so Pakistan would continue to play one country off another if there wasn't a coordinated approach.
A coordinated approach would also be helpful in persuading China to hear its phone ringing when Pakistan began whining that the USA was being really mean this time. China has a big interest in seeing peace in Afghanistan. Ditto for Iran. Sooner there is peace, the sooner U.S. combat forces can withdraw.
As to whether Obama would go for the plan -- I think he would, but if he is up against a powerful faction in Washington that does not want peace in Afghanistan on the theory that peace would mean a speedy exit for U.S. combat troops, he would have his work cut out for him.
I honestly don't know whether such a faction exists, although surely there are some in Washington who would like to keep combat troops near Russia and Iran and possibly Pakistan. But when you weigh that desire against what Pakistan's proxy war is doing to Americans, only those Americans with no conscience whatsoever -- real fiends -- would consider the maiming and murder of Americans to be justifiable collateral damage. Such people should have no place in the United States; they shouldn't deserve citizenship here.
In any event the only way such a crime against humanity can happen is in the shadows of the American public's inattention and in the silence of the Pentagon and the U.S. Department of State. So it's time for everyone to step up.
I'll close with a quote from Professor Snow's essay on the AVF:
Veterans’ Day reminds us that military commitment and sacrifice has historically been a national burden, not one borne by those we hire to perform our duty for us (we have, of course, also done that, as in the provision for draftees to hire replacements on the Union side of the Civil War).
Philosophically, the danger is that we become so disconnected from the military obligation that we forget that sacrifice is a national, not a minority, responsibility. I do not want to saddle the military with an unruly force, but I would like a force that is more representative of us all and which cannot be activated without a conscious recognition that we and those we all hold dear may be very personally affected.