Sunday, 13 October 2013

book, review eating grass and afghan endgames

Games Nations Play
Ali Ahmed
http://www.thebookreviewindia.org/articles/archives-1380/2013/october/10/games-nations-play.html

Games Nations Play


Ali Ahmed 

AFGHAN ENDGAMES: STRATEGY AND POLICY CHOICES FOR AMERICA’S LONGEST WAR 
Edited by Hy Rothstein and John Arquilla 
Cambridge University Press, New Delhi, 2013, pp. 229, price not stated.

EATING GRASS: THE MAKING OF THE PAKISTANI BOMB 
By Feroz Hassan Khan 
Foundation Books, Delhi, 2013, pp. 520, price not stated.

VOLUME XXXVII NUMBER 10 October 2013

The editors of Afghan Endgames are at the Department of Defence Analysis at the US Naval Postgraduate School at Monterey, California. In their words, they have assembled an ‘all star cast of experts across a range of fields relevant to solving the strategic riddles of Afghanistan’. Given that Obama’s deadline of draw down and pull out of 2014 is nearing, the book is a timely one to inform thinking on American policies in ‘Afpak’ and consequences for the wider region that includes India. That it is the outcome of a research project funded by the Defence Department in around 2011 indicates that it was part of the input into the policy choices adopted in Afghanistan that finds the US finally talking to the Taliban.   Curiously there is no discussion in the book on this vital issue. This is perhaps the fundamental flaw in the book; perhaps testimony of the nature of the defence ‘establishment’ that in the US includes intellectual hangers on who build the rationale, legitimacy and strategic communication details cloaking US pursuit of its strategic interests through violence and the threat of violence over much of the globe.   Synthesizing the expert opinion in the concluding chapter, the editors suggest that ‘much less is more’. They want the US to ‘go local, go small, go long’. This entails closing most bases and downsizing others, stopping expensive development and infrastructure projects, displacing the ‘old guard’ with ‘young Afghan leaders’, downsizing the Afghan National Army, maintaining a very small anti- terrorist presence for high value counter terrorism missions, drastically reduce funding of Pakistan and persuade India to sharply reduce its footprint in Afghanistan. If the book has helped to arrive at this prescription for US policy, its credibility would depend on (a) whether the US is indeed embarked down this road, and (b) if such a policy makes strategic sense.   A negative answer to (a) is evident from the US initiating direct talks with the Taliban who have opened an embassy in the UAE for the purpose. The US adoption of this route of attempting to co-opt the Taliban, thereby making continuing counter insurgency redundant in Afghanistan dispenses with the book’s suggestions—the verdict on (b). It is clear to the US that it cannot do with a minimal force strength in support of ...

...
Feroze Hassan Khan is not necessarily the
one to write the definitive book on Pakistan’s
nuclear project as he has been a longstanding
insider in the Pakistani nuclear establishment.
The fact that he has been allowed to draw on
his earlier official work to write the book by
Pakistani authorities themselves indicates that
while there is much that he has covered, there
is also much that may have been left under
wraps. Pakistan has reasons to have its nuclear
capability dwelt on, not least for reasons of
deterrence and transparency. The author’s
project was probably welcomed by the authorities
to the advantage of the author, since
it also helps him record his critical contribution
to the development of the doctrinal aspect
of the programme.
Given this happy symbiosis, Eating
Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb,
while welcome and timely, must be read with
a pinch of salt as to its claims of Pakistani
prowess, contribution to national and regional
security and Pakistan’s ability to keep
their nuclear capability under control. The
book is important not only for what it says
of the bomb, but what it refrains from saying
out loud, though one discerns from the
narrative that the author has more to say but
does not do so.
The book does for the Pakistani bomb
what George Perkovich’s book did for India’s...

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