Thursday, May 21, 2009

Smart Power in Pakistan

By Louise Diamond

Hard power, soft power, smart power -- what is the right mix of U.S. resources for engaging with the world and it challenges? This is a question sweeping through Washington, and rightly so, as the Obama administration seeks to reverse the toxic legacy of eight Bush years on America’s world standing.

We don’t hear much about Kashmir these days. Yet, like the tip of the iceberg, it is the visible reminder of a much larger problem. The Partition of British India in 1947 displaced approximately 12 million people, spawned violence that killed hundreds of thousands, and left a psychological legacy of distrust, animosity, and unhealed trauma in both India and Pakistan that has only grown worse over the decades.

Kashmir got caught in the crossfire of Partition, and remains so today. In the last 60 years it has been the focal point of bitter and dangerous Indo-Pak relations. Like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Kashmir situation has defied endless attempts at solution and has bred increasing hatred, violence, and seeming intractability. Yet, a solution is possible -- and, I would suggest, urgent.

Here is where President Obama and Secretary Clinton can exercise the best of what we know of diplomacy. As long as the Pakistan military sees India as its greatest security challenge and posts most of its resources along that border, it cannot fully address the rising threat posed by the Taliban. Meanwhile, India rejected including India in Richard Holbrooke’s mandate as Special Envoy to the region and has consistently held that it can solve the Kashmir situation on its own.

The world has spent decades dealing with the waste products of Partition. The U.S. would be wise to go to the root and use its power to engage the region in finally addressing the Kashmir conflict, and to healing the relationship between the peoples of India and Pakistan. If France and Germany, which had been historical enemies for centuries through numerous wars, can turn that enmity into friendship after World War II, there is no reason why India and Pakistan can’t do the same.

With a nod of acknowledgement to those in Washington speaking for the need to integrate defense, development, diplomacy, and democracy, I’d like to suggest my own definition of smart power: using our resources to create power with and power for, rather than power over or power against.

The Taliban are spreading across Afghanistan and now Pakistan. We’ve tried power over and against, with air attacks and boots on the ground. Yet, the Taliban only grow stronger.

If Pakistan, with its nuclear arsenal, falls under their control, we are rightly concerned about their penchant for power.

Power with means putting our resources together with others in a cooperative, co-creative way. Traditionally our resources have gone to the Pakistani government and military, and this obviously will and should continue, though sovereignty issues affect how much influence we can have on how this money is spent.

We also have a solid USAID presence in Pakistan, which could be strengthened to engage more with Pakistan’s relatively strong civil society. Education is an especially critical need over the long-term, both to reduce poverty and to empower people to take charge of their own destiny and resist tyranny. I’m sure the AID team in Pakistan is doing a fine job; however, with no AID administrator appointed and no National Development Strategy yet in place, our efforts are not as full as they could be.

Consulting directly with a variety of unofficial players in the region should also be a part of the plan. Women’s groups, moderate religious leaders, courageous human rights activists, democracy advocates, entrepreneurs, educators, and others in Afghanistan have a long history of dealing with the Taliban as do international relief and development agencies. We can learn from their experiences, successes -- and even failures -- which might help their counterparts in Pakistan.

Our goal is to assist a strong, democratic nation of Pakistan that is politically and economically viable and can resist the influence of religious extremism and armed militancy spreading throughout the region.

These steps would serve the common good -- both regionally and globally -- and go a long way toward weakening the ground under the power over approach of the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and similar groups.
Diamond is president of Global Systems Initiatives and a consultant on issues of international peace and security
Copyright (C) 2009 by the American Forum. 5/09