Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Complicated Narrative of the US-Pak relationship

Through the disreputable forum, thanks to Gerard, I chanced upon this book by Abidullah Jan. I would have dismissed it as ISI sponsorred psyops but after watching Khalid Sheikh Mohammed confess to everything short of the Roswell UFO landing, I decided maybe I should read Abidullah Jan's masterpiece.

Needless to say when true lovers talk, there is much for others to hear, so Abidullah Jan is speaking from the heart and as I would listen to Manju or Laila for that matter, here too I am but a humble kafir slave listening to the woes of those lost in the mirrored halls of amour.

Okay enough of the faux firdausi poetic crap!

We are not talking about two teenagers in love, this is the discourse of nations for Allah's sake, and deception and disinformation are the primary means of communication in siyasat. And I state my belief blandly, here trust is built solely to create the necessary grounds to acheive a totally paralysing shock through a complete and utter betrayal. Perhaps that is something that would make most so called Hobbessians piss in their pants, but I never claimed to be a Hobbessian thinker.

Despite the reality of the discourse between nations, we effectively pay our political leaders to keep the overt discussions civil and they in turn pay a good fraction of the psychological operations people in their national security community to develop public narratives that maintain civility and continuity on the surface while keeping things manageable internally.

However when the reality of the bilateral relations turns sour, the narrative becomes complicated.

That is what Abidullah Jan's writings reflect, a complicated narrative, a deliberate suggestion that Pakistan, per itself is incapable of evil, it is merely led along the garden path of sin by an all powerful America.

It is not Pakistan that is guilty of terrible horrors but the CIA which induced the ISI and seduced unscruplous Generals to abandon good sense in favour of a narcotics and terror trade.

The ISI is not guilty of supporting terrorism, the CIA is guilty of entrapment.

This is the overt tone of Abidullah Jan's book. Complicated? yes... Convoluted? oh most definetely... but effective where it matters? I think so. For one it completely matches - fold for fold - twist for twist - the complicated story being put out by the US.

Naturally an American would dismiss this outright and say "what rubbish!" but can they truly ignore the implicit narrative injected here by Abidullah Jan?

Remember you are reading an Asian writing about an Asian perspective, the entire approach in Asian writing is one of a deliberate use of allusion without a direct implication. Think of Firdausi or Hafez, talk about something, but imply something completely different. Don't say what you mean, say something completely different and mean something completely different, reduce plain text to private language of communication between sophisticated minds as Bill Waterson suggests in his epic comic strip.

Just to keep things civil, let me put it in plainly for those unfamiliar with this style of communication.

Abidullah Jan's book makes the implicit suggestion that the ISI is not independently creating problems on a global scale, but rather it is doing so as part of a more coordinated strategy crafted in the US and implemented with the full involvement of various elements of the American national security community.

I do not know if this suggestion is accurate. I will however say that the presence of such a statement greatly complicates the narrative of the US-Pak relationship. I do not know if the relationship can endure such complications.

Let me be absolutely clear about what I am saying.

For those of us in India, this is not an novel narrative, as we have long held that Pakistan and the US had a convergence of sorts when it came to India, but the world as a whole might find the idea of any form of instability - controlled or otherwise - emanating from Pakistan at American direction - unacceptable.

10 Comments:

At 8:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi maverick,
the needle of suspicion pointed to US govt. when suicide bombes hit london on the eve of G-8 meeting if I am not wrong. US govt. if I am not wrong was behind the Irish uprising.
The current US govt is as rogue as the Govt. in pakistan. No wonders two rogues have come together, one dreams of establishing Islamic caliphats and another Pax Americana. In between China is expanding like hell. We are caught between all the three!!! One must pity the MMS govt for having to handle such a painful mess.

 
At 1:55 AM, Anonymous Nitin said...

Maverick,

Who is this Abid Ullah Jan guy? And what axe does he have?

 
At 8:03 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi anonymous,

The Pakistanis via people like Abidullah Jan are holding out the idea that Pakistan only makes trouble where someone in the US specifically asks it to.

At the very least this viewpoint has the potential to damage American relations with the rest of the world.

In a more damaging form this view could severely polarize the American polity, quite possibly even damage it beyond repair.

The aim of this kind of Pakistani action seems to be to remind the US to make absolutely certain that nothing it does in it part of the drama actually damages Pakistani interests.

The simultaneous shutdown of the Kashmir and Afghanistan Jihads and a recession in the highly profitable conflict economies these Jihads sat astride have damaged Pakistan's interests.

There is a growing weariness inside Pakistan of the peculiar script of what is percieved to be an American scripted drama.

Nitin,

Abidullah Jan is a Pakistani Govt. mouthpiece.

 
At 7:07 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi,

I note with considerable interest the references to proponents of the "9/11 staged" theory.

By making references to that, Abidullah Jan is connecting to a wider stream of thought.

Please understand all Americans find it easier to believe that their nation is vastly more capable than any other on this planet. They actually think of themselves as being the "8000 pound gorilla". Even those that know this is not true, those that know the Gorilla has "feet of clay", are easily seduced by the idea that size matters.

So while some Americans might believe that Jihadi Pakistanis somehow decieved Christian America, and thus 8000-pound-gorilla-America must apply all its strength to undermining the Jihadis in Pakistan... other Americans might as easily believe that someone inside America is secretly collaborating with elements of the Pakistani government to created a controlled chaos using the ISI and its secret army of Islam.

Both narratives agree on the fact that America should be much more careful when interacting with Pakistan, and both narratives are equally divisive in American internal politics. Neither narrative opposes the idea of an American engagement with Pakistan.

It is unclear which narrative will prevail.

Unless some clarity is reached here, there is no way to determine how US-Pakistan ties will evolve at a deeper level.

Please understand, it does not matter what happens on the face of it. It really doesn't matter if Pakistan publicly opposes America or supports it. What matters is what lies beneath and that depends in my opinion to a great extent on which narrative wins inside the US.

 
At 8:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi maverick,
1)harder one probes, harder it becomes for some of us to understand the enormity of diplomacy or even international relations between nations.There are more than 180 of them. One needs to look at M.K.Bhadrakumar articles on atimes.com. His narratives runs into several pages.
That's why some of us like to remain mute spectators to what you write on blogspot.
2)Some of us would be labelled as "lunatics"(see my comment before) if one refers to US hand in the London suicide bombings, or even a staged 9/11. But entire western world though publicly talk of cooperation amongst themselves, though in reality spend considerable efforts in tripping each other.That's why MMS recalled the other day that relations between US and others have become very "sophisticated". Welcome to the new Cold War, where Internationalism has been replaced with nationalism, where the clock has turned full circle back to days of 1914 when the First world war was fought leading to the birth of a new International world order.Let us hope that this new world order ushers in all hope for India.

 
At 12:35 PM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Anonymous,

I don't know which narrative will successfully take hold in the US.
I feel it could be either one.

If one looks at American history, every hundred odd years there is a shift towards more conservative, inward looking values. This is in part what makes GWB and his team political geniuses. They recognized the trend after Clinton's overt courtship of liberalism, and rode that into office. They knew the strategy was divisive but I strongly suspect they know more about the conservativism trend than either you or me. If the trend towards conservativism grows, then I imagine that the first narrative which stresses an Islamist Pakistan betraying the Christian US will grow more powerful. If on the other hand, the overt push towards conservative values by the Bush Jr team succeeds in alienating the rest of America, then it is likely the other narrative which suggests that people close to Bush are orchestrating acts of terrorism with Pakistani assistance will become dominant.

Also I am not one hundred percent sure that if either narrative takes hold, public opinion will necessarily shift to an extreme.

If both narratives remain strong despite one technically dominating over the other, then we are likely to see extreme turbulence in the US political system. And this turbulence will cause many political contracts to change.

I also cannot forsee how such turbulence will change the political trajectory of the US. It may be that the US suffers a Soviet style "break" with history or quite possibly they will simply work around it in a more gentle way.

 
At 1:47 PM, Anonymous C',mon Yaar said...

Maverick,
This is typical Pakistani conspiracy theory of blaming the other, however preposterous.
Please tell me that you are not taking this Abdullah Jan character seriously? Are you?

 
At 7:03 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi C'mon Yaar,

It is not about credibility - yet, but it can very easily become about that.

Pakistani conspiracy theories are not necessarily just flights of fancy.

They are often the product of an incredibly astute reading of the psychological status of their percieved adversary.

As an Indian who has seen the effectiveness of Pakistani psyops on indigenous populations in our country, I have come away with a grudging sense respect for their psyops people. They are good at this. And mind you, we in India aren't exactly stupid either as (Rediff would have you believe) and despite that the Pakistanis put us to considerable grief in places like Punjab and Kashmir.

I do not subscribe to the belief that every Pakistani strategist is a complete moron. They have some exceptionally capable people in their ranks and you have to watch out for those guys. I would say the whole point of paying close attention to the Pakistani press is to develop a trained eye to spot one of these guys making a move on the strategic chess board.

You can dismiss Abidullah Jan if you want, but will you reject Ahmad Rashid if he says it tomorrow? what if Hussain Haqqani repeats it? or Aziz Ahmed? what if Barnett Rubin repeats it?

I feel that the Pakistanis know exactly how vulnerable the American grip on the grand narrative is. Underestimate them at your own peril.

 
At 8:47 AM, Anonymous c'mon yaar said...

Maverick,
Pakistani psyops succeeded in Punjab and kashmir only because of readily available "raw material".
now, had they been able to ferment trouble, say in , a tamil nadu or a himachal pradesh...then, i too would be respectful of their skills.

 
At 7:12 AM, Blogger maverick said...

C'mon Yaar,

I suspect the question is more in the opportunity cost. The fact that they could have any kind of accord with the Khalistani Sikhs is a sign that they can do it just about any community of their choosing.

Supplying arms to the Tamils or the NE groups is a low cost option and low risk option, so the opportunity cost is low. From the way they talk about it, it seems that they are currently withholding support to non-kashmiri groups as part of a wider strategy. If the stories of the meeting between Hamid Gul and A. N. Syali are true, then it also appears that India has somehow successfully leveraged its influence with non-Punjabi populations to keep Pakistan's ambitions vis-a-vis non-Kashmiri groups in check.

Perhaps when Pakistan itself has been politically consolidated, then Pakistan will finally push with a complete subversion strategy involving all other anti-govt. groups? It is a matter of some speculation but what I have said is not entirely implausible.

There is plenty of raw material in the US. Their strategists identified irrepairable flaws in the American national narrative ages ago. They will act on those when the opportunity cost is high. Ofcourse I don't expect the ill informed American leadership to recognise that India helped evolve the American national narrative in a way that became more accomodating and positively inclusive, but perhaps someone on their side should at least realise that the Pakistanis are deliberately seeking to apply a divide and rule strategy to the US itself.

For easy reading, I am repeating my post on another thread here.

***
Abidullah Jan is suggesting that Pakistan never does anything bad unless someone in the US tells it to do so.

This view point has already been put out by conspiracy buffs in the US. This idea does not instantly appeal to most Americans who believe in that their government will not do such a thing.

However most Americans generally also have an open mind on things. Most Americans believe that their nation is immensely strong and powerful and they have a very hard time explaining how a lapse such as 9/11 can occur. They are all looking for answers and the 9/11 commission has failed to give any. At the risk of sounding like a Reaganite, it is impossible to read the 9/11 commission report and then come away with a positive feeling and that is what the US needs - positive feeling - a sense of closure. There is simply none - so people are still searching for the answers.

With the growth of the internet and with younger people increasingly turning to the internet for information, the reach of conspiracy theories has grown. Even if people do not believe conspiracy theories in their entireity, suspicions abound and grow; and a dark cloud albeit small presently follows the leaders of the government.

The Pakistanis know this. They are masters of the art of talking out of both ends of their mouth. Notice Abidullah Jan is carefully connecting all the strands of his ideas with established conspiracy genre work on 9/11. They are seeking to expand that dark cloud and contrary to what anyone may believe, perception cannot solely be controlled by twisting the media. There is no knob on the TV or the internet that can be turned to make the cloud go away.

This is a deliberate act on part of the Pakistanis. We are likely to see more of this narrative emerge if people in the US attempt to blame the Pakistan Army for terrorism in the world.

The consequences of that are pretty obvious. There is already a considerable erosion of global confidence in American leadership. If it looks like they are somehow pulling the strings on acts of terror from Pakistan, the residual confidence will evaporate and a global confrontation will develop between the US and the every other nation in the world.

Whether America wants to be feared/loathed or loved by all the other nations of the world, is quite frankly none of India's business but if the global perception of America changes, India should not have to bear the economic costs of that.

You see, at my heart, I am a humble but cunning bania and the mere suspicion of risk makes my dhoti flutter in the wind.
***

 

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