Foreign Policy Blogs

The Pakistani Prophecy

As I followed the news over the past several days, I was struck by a fairly distressing thought. Is the current violence and upheaval in Pakistan the best-case scenario for Iraq?

Let's examine what has happened over the past several days in Pakistan: A (presumed) suicide attack at an Islamabad counter-terrorism center, a roadside bombing in the northwest that left at least 10 dead, five civilians were killed when a shell exploded in a residential neighborhood in Swat, the Pakistani military killed at least 20 Taliban fighters near a tribal village in the north, and at least six others were killed in a separate roadside bombing in the Dir region. Do I need to mention the Marriott?

This trend in violence, the inability or unwillingness for the Pakistani establishment to suppress it, and the ripe opportunities for terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism are, unfortunately, like gazing in to a crystal ball. Current day Pakistan is a projection for the future of Iraq.

Both countries are plagued by a difficult relationship with the United States, separatist elements, jihadist movements, an ineffective civilian government, a military with varying allegiances, an inability to pacify specific regions within their borders, and a severe crisis of legitimacy within their own population. Add to all this the reality of American military personnel operating inside Pakistan, and the similarities are most disheartening.

Is the not-quite-failed yet not-quite-operational Pakistani scenario a likely result for Iraq post-American occupation? I hope not but would estimate so. I hate to lob Musharraf and Hussein in to the same category, but they both served an equally valuable purpose. Hussein, while certainly a tyrant, knew how to establish control and calm over a volatile population. Likewise, Musharraf was able to maintain a tentative peace over a society ready to implode. For all the complaints about his inability to combat terror or the Taliban, it is becoming increasingly apparent that he tried the best he could given the complexities of the situation.

In each man's absence, underlying tensions have raced to the surface. The major factor suppressing violence in Iraq is the United States and coalition forces. Pakistan does not (yet) have that luxury. The larger question is, what will happen to Iraq when said forces leave? All things being equal, I do not project a complete collapse of the Iraqi government, but some form of Pakistani situation. Severe unrest for some time to come, competing elements within their civil society, an ineffective democratic government, and an American presence just over the horizon should the situation call for intervention.



Josh Hammer

Josh Hammer is an International Relations theorist, with expertise in terrorist ideology, American foreign policy, and war / conflict resolution. He currently holds a Master's of Science degree in International Politics from the University of Edinburgh, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations from the George Washington University. Josh's most recent work, his M.Sc. thesis, is a comparative analysis between Marxist / Leninist ideology and Osama bin Laden's global jihadi movement. He currently resides in New York.

Areas of Focus:
Terrorist Idealogy; American Foreign Policy; Conflict Resolution;


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