Tuesday, May 05, 2015

South Asian Delusions

Truman had pursued a rather hands-off policy towards the new state of Pakistan, but that changed under Eisenhower. Secretary of State Dulles was preoccupied with building a ring of containment against Communism, and India's determination to stay out of big power alliances annoyed and frustrated him. Vice President Nixon was also firmly on board. They imagined that arming Pakistan would induce it to provide the US with bases and make it a bulwark against Communism.

Meanwhile, the Russians were deeply uninterested in Pakistan and Pakistani leaders cared mainly about protecting their elite status and controlling their diverse population by vague Islamist rhetoric and fulminating against India.

Some in the US had a clearer view:

Hans J. Morgenthau, the well-regarded scholar of international relations, raised similar doubts. “Pakistan is not a nation and hardly a state,” wrote Morgenthau in an article in the New Republic titled “Military Illusions.” “It has no justification in history, ethnic origin, language, civilization, or the consciousness of those who make up its population. They have no interest in common, save one: fear of Hindu domination. It is to that fear, and to nothing else, that Pakistan owes its existence, and thus far its survival, as an independent state.” He also derided the geographic and political distance between East and West Pakistan: “It is as if after the Civil War Louisiana and Maryland had decided to form a state of their own with the capital in Baton Rouge. In fact, it is worse than that.”

Haqqani, Husain (2013-11-05). Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding (p. 79). PublicAffairs. Kindle Edition.

Those running the show, led by Dulles, were less clear eyed. He was ignorant enough to say the US needed Pakistan's famous Gurkha warriors (they are actually Hindus from Nepal - neither Muslim nor Pakistani).

Haqqani's book, like the book I just read on the origins of World War I by Macmillan, is further evidence of the enormous role of ignorance, self-delusion, and folly in international affairs.