Anatol Lieven: how to end the US dust-up with Pakistan

Anatol Lieven, author of the excellent Pakistan: A Hard Country, on Christopher Lydon’s indispensable Radio Open Source, discussing the recent dust up between Pakistan and the US.

Anatol Lieven is explaining how the so-called allies in the so-called War on Terror have come to pot-shotting each other on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan. In the Financial Times last May (“How American folly could destroy Pakistan“) Lieven was warning of the perverse logic of confrontation in US policy. The killing last weekend of 24 Pakistani soldiersin a NATO air strike for which President Obama is refusing to apologize can be taken as confirmation of the hazard. Ever since the US Navy swoop on OBL early in May, the risk in Lieven’s eyes was that the US would overplay its hand with demands on the thoroughly alienated Pakistani Army. The American demand-too-far (Lieven is saying emphatically today) is that the Pakistani Army go to war on the Taliban home bases in the Pashtun tribal wilderness. That demand cannot, will not, be met: (a) because the Taliban is a big part of the network that Pakistan counts on to protect and project its interest in Afghanistan when the US forces shrivel, then leave; and (b) because the big majority of Pakistanis — army, elite and masses — see the Taliban in Afghanistan as a legitimate resistance force fighting foreign occupation, like the mujahedeen who fought the Soviets, or Communist guerillas who fought Nazis in Europe. When Pakistan under Pres / Gen Musharraf undertook a half-way offensive against the Taliban in the border wilderness, “they set off an Islamist rebellion inside Pakistan which continues to this day… The Pakistanis do have a case: thanks to the U.S., they have a civil war inside Pakistan which has claimed far more Pakistani lives than Americans killed on 9.11. … We keep talking about wanting to support democracy. Well, the democratic majority in Pakistan wants us to go to hell.”

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Between a Rock and a Hard Country

My review of Anatol Lieven’s must-read book, originally published at IPS.

It is almost obligatory these days to subtitle books on Pakistan with some conjunction of ‘failed’, ‘dangerous’, ‘lawless’, ‘deadly’, ‘frightening’ or ‘tumultuous’. Pakistan is a ‘tinderbox’, forever on the brink, in the eye of the storm, or descending into chaos. It is an ‘Insh’allah nation’ where people passively wait for Allah. In the narrow space ‘between the mosque and the military’, there is much ‘crisis’, ‘terrorism’, ‘militancy’ and ‘global jihad.’

British author and policy analyst Anatol Lieven’s refreshingly understated title Pakistan: A Hard Country eschews emotion for description, which is fitting because the book is a 519-page myth- busting exercise.

Lieven, currently a fellow at the New America Foundation, argues that some of the alarmist claims about Pakistan are indeed true – it is a corrupt, chaotic, violent, oppressive and unjust country. But it is also a remarkably resilient one. It is not nearly as unequal as India or Nigeria, or for that matter the United States. Its security is beset by multiple insurgencies but they affect a smaller proportion of its territory than the ones India faces. Its cities are violent, but no more so than those of comparable size in Latin or even North America. It has an abysmally low rate of tax collection, but, at five percent of the GDP, it also has one of the world’s highest rates of charitable donations. It is no doubt corrupt, but this is due less to the absence of values than to the enduring grip of the old ones of loyalty to family and clan.

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Pakistan- A Hard Challenge for International Governance

Anatol Lieven discusses Pakistan’s surprising degree of stability; International governance challenges; the role of the army and ISI; the drug trade; and Pakistan’s relationship with the U.S., Afghanistan, and other countries, including India, China, and Russia.

Anatol Lieven is chair of International Relations and Terrorism Studies at King’s College London, and a senior fellow at the New America Foundation. His next book, “Pakistan: A Hard Country,” will appear in April 2011.

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Conversations with History: Anatol Lieven on Pakistan

Anatol Lieven is the author of the excellent America Right or Wrong. In the following interview he discusses his new book Paksitan: A Hard Country, which I shall review here shortly.

Conversations host Harry Kreisler welcomes Anatol Lieven for a discussion of his new book Pakistan: A Hard Country. Lieven emphasizes the important role of kinship in understanding society and the state in Pakistan. Discussing the military’s unique position as the preeminent national institution, he explains the sources of its power and prestige. Focusing on Pakistani national security thinking, he traces the perceived strategic threat posed by India, the role of Afghanistan in Pakistani strategy, the distinction between the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, and the importance of Kashmir. He then proceeds to an analysis of the complex relationship between the United States and Pakistan. Lieven concludes with a discussion of the threat posed by Pakistan’s geographical location in the Indus valley and the long term implications of climate change for its future.

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