Waris Husain: Terrorist Global Warming: Melting the Cold War Mentality,Printed: Pakistan Post, June 18

Terrorist Global Warming:  Melting the Cold War Mentality 

Waris Husain

            The days of the Cold War, where super-powers fought for domination via proxy wars in other nations, are over. Modern terrorism has melted this Cold War mentality because, unlike the Soviets, the threats now emanate from non-state actors who lack a single leadership or ideology. Obama’s new security strategy exhibits a realization that fighting terrorism with the same approach as defeating the USSR leads to long-term insecurity. Pakistan’s relationship with India mirrors that of the U.S.- Soviet, however, with non-state actors challenging the writ of the state, Pakistan must also shake its India-focused Cold War mentality.

Obama’s 2010 Security Strategy states, “we must rebalance our long-term priorities so that we successfully move beyond today’s wars, and focus our attention and resources on a broader set of countries and challenges.” This indirectly acknowledges that the U.S. policy under Bush focused on short-term military tactics in Iraq and Afghanistan rather than composing a holistic politic to battle extremist ideologies worldwide. However, Obama fails to recognize that this threat was originally created and fostered by the U.S. government working in tandem to General Zia Ul-Haq in the 1980’s.

In order to limit the Soviet’s access to Central Asia through Afghanistan, the U.S. and General Zia utilized a militant Islamic rhetoric to encourage fighters from madrassas and tribal groups to band together and expel the “God-less” Soviets. By only encouraging this violent religious narrative, the U.S. allowed Pakistan and Afghanistan to fragment without a national narrative by which to limit the prominence of non-state actors. As the U.S. engages itself in two wars, with rising threat level from Pakistan, it has come to the realization that it must pursue long-term goals outside the mentality of the Cold War.

Pakistan’s establishment, however, still suffers from the crippling ideals of their anti-India mentality. To begin this discussion, one must recognize that India has posed an actual threat to the state of Pakistan throughout its history and continues to do so. However, a policy based on balancing a rival state’s power will lead to a failed state when domestic non-state actors are challenging the writ of the state daily. Thus, it is not my proposition that Pakistan artificially forget India as a competitor and rival, but to realize that greater threats exist which collectively harm both nations.

Pakistan is currently engaged in a type of proxy war through Afghanistan because it fears that if India can create a positive relationship with the Afghans, Pakistan will be stuck in between two hostile neighbors. Thus the ISI and the military have been suspected of maintaining relationships with extremists in order to market themselves to the U.S. as the only allies who can be trusted in Afghanistan after the U.S. exit.  Ayesha Siddiqa pointed out this week that Pakistan has a renter-relationship with the U.S., and the ISI has maintained links with these extremists to increase the value of Pakistan’s assistance.

Unlike the repercussions for the U.S. proxy war in Afghanistan which surfaced decades later, Pakistan’s establishment is suffering immediately from their misguided anti-India focus. Soldiers are being executed, the Taliban has taken over hundreds of villages, and the amount of terror attacks within the border have tripled in the last year. Therefore we know that there must be a large presence by the military to wrestle control from non-state actors, and yet Pakistan’s establishment continues to station 500,000 troops on the eastern border with India, and less 200,000 in the areas affected by terrorism. Pakistan must acknowledge that extremists do not differentiate between states, and thus Pakistan is in the same boat as Indians in terms of security. This is obviously a hard pill to swallow for nations that share such a deep rivalry, but the Mumbai attacks show how extremists can challenge the security of both states.

            The increasing rate of globalization and the rise of terrorism shows that state-based conflicts like the Cold War are no longer pervasive when the battles are now between state and non-state actors. By refocusing the American policy away from militarily fighting wars (whether proxy or actual), Obama’s administration has learned that long-term goals of stability and peace are imperative to U.S. security. Therefore, Pakistan should refocus itself away from India and limiting its power in Afghanistan, to whole-heartedly treating terrorism as public enemy number 1.


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