May 08, 2011

You realize they've never actually won a war, right?

If you've been following the reaction of Pakistanis to the killing of Osama bin Laden over the past week, it has been very difficult to not be impressed by folks like Mosharraf Zaidi and the blunt-talking way in which he and other intellectuals and journalists have challenged the institutions of their state in the wake of the U.S. raid and discovery of Osama bin Laden. Which makes the official response of Pakistan's leaders all the more depressing. How much does it say about Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari, for example, that he had yet to address his own nation about the killing of Osama bin Laden but made the time to write an op-ed in the Washington Post? And how distressing is it that other civilian leaders in Pakistan, rather than seizing an opportunity to challenge and discipline the military and the security services, are choosing instead to vent their frustration at U.S. violations of Pakistani sovereignty. I, for one, fail to see why the Pakistani military and security services continue to enjoy such a privileged position in Pakistan. Has it escaped the notice of Pakistan's 180+ million people that their proud, pampered army has never actually won a war? Or that it committed horrific war crimes in Bangladesh (en route to defeat, naturally)? Or that its support for Lashkar-e Taiba has endangered the security of every Pakistani man, woman and child by risking a massive Indian counterstrike?

UPDATE: I just watched Yusuf Raza Gilani's speech and the reaction to it on al-Jazeera. Eight days passed, remember, before any senior civilian leader in Pakistan addressed the nation. Gilani clearly cares more about the pride of the military and the security services than in investigating how Osama bin Laden had managed to live unmolested in Pakistan. Again, this concern about the morale of the military above all other concerns just strikes me as ridiculous. I understand why Pakistanis would be upset and embarrassed by a U.S. special operations raid into Pakistani territory, but now is not the time to worry about feelings getting hurt in the Pakistani military. In the aftermath of their numerous defeats, Pakistani leaders have often been more worried about restoring the morale of the military than in creating effective fighting organizations capable of realizing the policy and strategic objectives of the state. The latter -- not any kind of hand-holding or excuse-making -- is what would be best for the Pakistani state and its military. But it seems clear Pakistan's civilian leaders are going to instead circle the wagons of the state and thereby fumble any opportunity to push back against the deep state institutions that have served Pakistan so poorly. As an American, I find that disappointing, but if I were Pakistani, I would be livid.