By Dr. Haider Mehdi
The ancient French/German wisdom in political negotiations proclaims that: “The devil is in the details.” A very true, extremely accurate proclamation. Pakistan found out “the devil in the details” in the Kerry-Lugar Bill and the US-brokered National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO). It has discovered “the devil in the details” in its IMF negotiations and its loans conditionalities, and it will most certainly learn the same lesson when the euphoria over the recently concluded “strategic dialogue” with the US diminishes to the realization of its fundamental realities. Some ancient wisdom, such as “the devil is in the details” is reliable for all times. We will discuss this in the context of Indo-US Afghan policy; but first, let me construct a rational bridge linked to the development of consistency in political thought and logical argumentation, by observable phenomenon.
Years ago, in a casual conversation, a friend, a powerful industrialist and an aspiring politician, said the following: “Every person has a price; every one of us can be bought if the bidding is right – and political executions are as much a historical reality as the sun rising every day… how else can we explain powerful leaders and nations committing mass executions of less powerful nations and people… these mass executions are given the name of legitimate wars… wars are the fancy name for diplomacy by brute force…”
Decades ago down memory-lane, I heard the same phenomenon repeated in the epic film “The Godfather”. Michael Corleone, the head of a mafia “family” says to Tom Hagen, the Consigliore: “If anything in life is certain, if history has taught us anything, it’s that you can kill anyone.” Later in the film, Michael sarcastically asks a US SeNATOr to name his price. In another intense moment, Michael tells Moe Greene, his casino partner in Las Vegas, that he wants “buy him out.” Moe Green replies aggressively “No, I buy you out, you don’t buy me out.” Greene’s refusal to “sell himself” results in his execution-style assassination with a bullet straight to his brain through his left eye. (And of course with the Corleone family taking full possession of the casino.)
Many films of our times are the true reflections of the contemporary political culture and its insidious consciousness that has emerged out of the technological civilization and which promotes worldwide socio-political-economic management and the advancement of the multi-national corporate capitalist culture.
A careful review of Obama’s latest Afghan foreign policy doctrine will clearly indicate an intrinsic link to Michael Corleone’s perspective on human history and its fundamental operative dimensions. Obama’s administration has been consistently demanding that the Afghan President work out a split within the ranks of the “Taliban resistance forces” by “buying them out” and simultaneously has unleashed the surge of military force against them. At the same time the US has been asking Pakistan to “do more” for the American interests. Added to the American arsenal of “military force” and “buy out” is the US alliance with India – a strategic and a tactical formula that holistically combines Michael Corleone’s “working methods” into a manifested dogmatic foreign policy doctrine.
Obama, in his recent secretive visit to Afghanistan, has once again asked Hamid Karzai to shelve his plans for peaceful reconciliation efforts with the Taliban.
The Economist recently opined: “Now Karzai seems in demand again. Obama met him at his palace in Kabul, and shared a dinner with his Cabinet. He invited Karzai to the White House in May, as part of the Americans’ efforts to bully and cajole him into playing his part in their high-risk counterinsurgency plan… America also wants to see the Afghan government push plans to win over “low-level” Taliban fighters, deemed susceptible to job creation …and… Some diplomats have also detected a coolness in Obama towards a planned ‘consultative peace jirga,’ essentially a large meeting, to be held in May, of national representatives. The hope is that they will come up with an agreed approach to peace talks with the Taliban”
India, the US alliance partner, is fully entrenched in Afghanistan on similar fundamentals and in for an even larger piece of action in the American-NATO’s long range geo-political objectives in South Asia, Central Asia and the planned future “containment” of China. In the process, Pakistan’s geographical integrity and national sovereignty are deliberately threatened by “the devil in the details” of this Indo-US undertaking.
India, with America’s blessing, has “spies… diplomats…a base of operations to train guerrillas to attack Pakistan… and is arming and training terrorists at war against Pakistan”, wrote Gordon Duff in Opinion Maker recently. Indeed, Indian political-military activities in Afghanistan without the US approval and backing cannot take place or even be imagined as India’s sole political enterprise.
Indeed, India’s legitimate commercial and political interests in Afghanistan cannot be disputed; that is not the issue. The problem lies elsewhere: Fundamentally, the close Indian political-military alliance with the US directly threatens the possibility of an immediate political settlement in Afghanistan and long-lasting peace and political stability in this entire region.
First, peace cannot and will not come to Afghanistan on American terms only. To think in this way is purely a US-NATO political-military illusion. General Aslam Beg, in his recent article “Churchill’s Choice for Afghanistan” published in Opinion Maker has correctly pointed out that the contemporary “Afghan Taliban” are the young generation of the last 30 years who have grown up in a war-ravaged country and want their homeland freed from foreign occupation. US-NATO can have a war going on for another hundred years and even then they will not win.
Second, there is an overall change in political mood in Afghanistan. Even some American commanders are saying that ultimate success will hinge on winning local sympathies. For example, Maj. Gen. Mayville, deputy chief of staff for international forces, said recently: “You’ve got to have the community really wanting in, otherwise things are stalled.”
Third, Hamid Karzai himself is in a defiant state of mind against American demands and dictates. A newspaper reported
that Karzai told a gathering in Kandahar that “There will be no military operation without your cooperation,” while Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, looked on.
Fourth, it is yet another political illusion in the minds of Indo-US alliance “pundits” that Pakistan will simply “wither away” or “disintegrate” under the political-military-destabilization strategy and “terrorist” campaigns. The revolutionary reawakening of Pakistan’s civil society (vis-à-vis its political elite and external actors) and the patriotic nationalist public sentiment is quietly giving birth to a new political renaissance in the country. Pakistan will certainly rise as a more powerful, stable, prosperous and mature nation. It is only a matter of time before its reactionary, right-wing and exclusively America-centric political leadership will face its demise by the dictates of historical synthesis.
Fifth, by all accounts and estimations, Manmohan Singh is a fair man. But the Indian Prime Minister’s trouble is that he is presiding over a political establishment and a nation which, by emotional-psychological default, has prematurely indulged itself in the inaccurate political self-perception of a “great power.” Consequently, the Indian leadership and urban population feel that India has been bestowed with the responsibility of a “Manifest Destiny” to regulate and manage regional and global politics – indeed, in a political alliance with the US.
Admittedly, India’s massive population and its vast market potentials cannot be ignored as important factors to lift it to global importance and to political commercial eminence, both for the Western and Eastern blocs, including China. But by the same token, going by international poverty indicators, India today is still one of the poorest countries in the world. Sooner or later, its present “global-political-military” romance with the US will be politically confronted from within by its own massively deprived masses.
As for India’s role in Afghanistan, it is an expensive political enterprise and a dangerous military engagement (vis-à-vis Pakistan) that India cannot sustain for very long! Poverty at home should be India’s foremost priority.
Each and every war has made America rich! But for India and its masses, another war will eventually cause the bells to toll in its disunity and disintegration as a nation!
The fact of the matter is that poverty cannot sustain the high stakes of power, prestige and global political eminence! The price is too high!
The devil is in the details!
Dr Haider Mehdi, a PhD is a regular contributor to Opinion Maker.