“Jaja of Opobo? The stubborn king?” Obiora asked. “Defiant,” Ifeoma said. “He was a defiant king…when the British came, he refused to let them control all the trade. He did not sell his soul for a bit of gunpowder like the other kings did, so the British exiled him to the West Indies. He never returned to Opobo.” “That’s sad. Maybe he should not have been defiant,” Chima said.
“Being defiant can be a good thing sometimes,” Ofeoma said.(Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in Purple Hibiscus)
The above extract points to the historical link of the political conduct of Western powers towards Third World nations and its peoples during the colonial era, and onwards to the post-Second World War era, to the end of the physical occupation of colonialism, and beyond.
The important point here is that whereas the world has politically changed over a period of the last several decades, the political behavior of Western powers led by the United States has not, in pure substance, undergone the required and absolute change needed for an absolutely changed world. And having not understood this fundamental and seemingly generic condition of the West’s geopolitical behavior, the Third World has, time and again, erred in not being able to conduct perceptive and discerning diplomacy with the West in general.
In this respect, Pakistan stands uniquely unprepared and repeatedly flawed in its foreign policy planning and diplomatic discourse with the US.
To gain some in-depth understanding of American foreign policy-making, let us start at the rudimentary factors. There are several constants and some variables in its operational fundamentals. The most important factor in the post-Second World War era is that America must stay the most dominant political, economic and military power in the world; the majority of Americans, irrespective of their political party affiliation, steadfastly adhere to this fundamental notion.
The second constant is that the US has for decades believed that it has the will and the military power to subdue any of its adversaries in a conflict situation — it should use this military edge over others at its discretion whenever it feels the need to do so.
The third fundamental element in the American foreign policy doctrine is the concept of national security. It is a broad-based notion that does not only deal with the military or physical threats to territorial safety. If an American multi-national corporation or a US business enterprise fails to get a preferred business deal in another country (especially a weak nation), the American political-military establishment also considers this to be a threat to its national security. Hence, operationally, the American foreign policy doctrine is a blanket cover to promote US business enterprises globally.
Coming back to US relations with Pakistan and the Afghan problem, a complete US military withdrawal from Afghanistan is daydreaming by Pakistan’s foreign policy managers or anyone else. The US is in Afghanistan to stay until they have established formidable control over Afghanistan’s trillion-dollar national resources and assets — notwithstanding Russian and Chinese diplomacy and skillful interventions to outmaneuver the US.
In the variables of the American foreign policy doctrine, the most important element is that of “style,” which undergoes slight changes from one administration to another. For example, President Obama continued to expand American military involvement worldwide in a quieter style, while rhetorically emphasizing diplomacy as a tool of conflict-resolution.
Donald Trump, on the other hand, is blatantly vocal in advancing American military threats and is openly espousing the use of military force against North Korea, Afghanistan, and every other nation considered an adversary.
When Russian President Putin was interviewed by filmmaker Oliver Stone, he made the point about US policy in Afghanistan: “Presidents come and go, and even the parties in power change, but the main political direction does not change.” Remember that American intervention in Afghanistan started 38 years ago when on July 3rd, 1979, President Jimmy Carter signed the first directive in an operation meant to destabilize the Soviet-controlled government of Afghanistan.
The US will not compromise on its empire-building geopolitical goals come what may. That, in essence, is the core of the American foreign policy doctrine.
Historically, Pakistan’s political leadership and foreign policy establishment have never been fully cognisant of the US modus operandi. Hence, Pakistan’s responses to American strategic challenges have always been ad hoc. This is because the political leadership of the country has always failed in developing a strategic foreign policy doctrine to conduct diplomatic relations with the US.
Pakistan’s foreign policy bureaucracy is ill-trained and unquestionably serves the interests of their vested interest-based leadership under constant duress. The top foreign policy managers are appointed at the behest of the top political managers; they lack the expertise needed to deal with the superpower’s strategic paradigms. In reality, they are unable to articulate Pakistan’s national interests — and Pakistan’s political leadership has consistently behaved as subservient partners of the US policymakers. Time and again, Pakistani leadership has given in when they should have fought for national interests without the slightest compromise.
For the nation’s sake, the fundamental nature of the US-Pakistan relationship must undergo a truly inherent transformation. But this will not happen until Pakistan’s political managers at the top become diplomatically confident and determined nationalists.
Pakistan needs a revolutionary attitudinal change to constructively deal with the superpower’s dogmatic ideologues. Nothing else will work. Here the idea is not to promote a confrontational discourse — in fact, instead, a knowledgeable and enlightened realism on which the modern-day diplomatic science and its application are based: know your adversary and deal with it shrewdly and wisely.
Pakistan has to put its act together in its foreign policy strategic posture — and fast. The geopolitical situation in its region is dangerously volatile. Afghanistan is in turmoil. Trump is pushing for a greater role for India in a fresh initiative of US-India-Afghan nexus. Chinese-Russian counter-diplomacy is to be understood and exploited with skillful expertise. The task is momentously difficult, but it can be accomplished with a tactical and strategic approach.
What is in Pakistan’s favor is that peace in Afghanistan is impossible without Pakistan. Pakistan is to play a pivotal role in the resolution of the 16-year Afghan-US conflict. Pakistan has a golden opportunity; it needs to maneuver and profit from this situation.
First of all, we need to tell Trump that a military solution to the Afghan quagmire is out of the question; the US must withdraw all military personnel from Afghanistan. Immediately, diplomatic efforts must be directed towards reconciliation of all Afghan political factions, including the Taliban, to form a unity government to take up national reconstruction tasks. The US has to be told that Pakistan will have a leading independent role in this process of Afghan national reconciliation.
Second, Pakistan needs to redefine the terms of engagement with Trump’s America. Pakistan’s foreign policy managers should tell the American president in no ambiguous terms that from now on, Pakistan will no longer place a premium on the military or economic power of the US, nor will its relations be based on traditional aid. Future Pak-US relations will be exclusively based on relationships, partnerships, pragmatism and a deep, flexible and appropriate understanding of the foreign context of each other with specific emphasis on Pakistan’s national interests.
It would be advisable to Pakistan’s foreign policy top managers to start living in a new age of “national defiance” consistent with the needs of a changing geopolitical order.