Let us be clear on this: the simple and plain truth is that "peace" is cheaper than "war." Peace is also more rational, logical, moral, sociologically pertinent, culturally desirable, essentially civilized and in its essence absolutely humanitarian, compassionate and merciful. "War," on the other hand, even at the best of its glory, heroism, and its stated noble goals (national honor, dignity, etc.) is ultimately destructive of human spirit, subversive in its consequences, mercilessly obliterates life and is catastrophic in the end. "War" in all its manifestations is vandalism against humanity - it morally and financially bankrupts nations (except those imperialist nations that use war as an instrument of colonization, economic expansion and political-cultural domination). Some 2500 years ago, the ancient Chinese military critic Sun Tzu prophetically observed, "When the army marches ...the (national) treasury is emptied..." (deduction). War creates the arrogance of power. Indeed, the disagreeable truth is that war creates heroes of the likes of Alexander the Great, Salahuddin Ayubi, Genghis Khan, the Red Baron, Admiral Nelson, Generals Douglas MacArthur and Dwight D. Eisenhower, and General Jagjit Singh Arora to name a few from ancient and more recent times. But without exception, all war heroes have been instrumental in human catastrophes - no matter how madly we admire these heroes as inspirational national protagonists. The agreeable truth, on the other hand, is that the quest for "peace' gives birth to compassionate, dignified, visionary, knowledgeable, competent and versatile leadership - Abraham Lincoln in the US, Nelson Mandela in South Africa, Gandhi and Jinnah in the Indian subcontinent, De Gaulle in France, Shaikh Zayed Al Nahyan in the UAE, to name a few from modern history. Consider this: Vladimir Lenin, in the post-revolutionary Soviet Union, articulated and granted full independence to Finland (a nation under consecutive occupations) without firing a single shot and exclusively on the basis of a "peace dialogue" at a conference table in the Kremlin. The questions are: When will there be another Jinnah in this country? When will we have a Nelson Mandela for a national reconciliation of our own? Why does Pakistan have to fight a "war" against its own people? When will this mindless "war," going on for nearly a decade against its own citizens, come to an end? The simple gracious and agreeable truth is that Pakistan does not need "war heroes" and "legendary generals." What we need is visionary, knowledgeable, compassionate leadership, apt and capable of efficient, competent, productive, efficacious and people-oriented political management of this nation: a government "of the people, by the people, for the people." This has not happened in Pakistan for the last six decades. And the present political-military crisis in the country is the direct result of the mishandling of affairs by an entire injudicious political leadership. We live in the worst of times because our national leaders have failed us. An ascendency to the leadership of a country makes it absolutely imperative to disengage oneself from personal interests and serve the nation selflessly. A nation's repute, pride and dignity are directly related to the political conduct of its leadership. There is a dire need to restore the integrity and honor of political leadership in today's Pakistan. Perhaps we should follow the Far Eastern nations, their people and leaders, emotional attachment to a cultural paradigm of honor where failure in political judgment harmful to the nation's interests is considered an unforgivable transgression beyond human redemption, and the exercise of absolute political and moral prudence is considered a personal responsibility: recently, former South Korean President Roh-Moo, after being questioned over a multi-million dollar corruption case, committed suicide. Let us take stock of what is at stake in Pakistan with the on-going military operation "Rah-i-Rast" (the Righteous Path) in Swat: First and foremost in jeopardy is Pakistan's future survival as one united nation (as we know it now). The threat to our national existence comes from the fact that the entire political leadership of the country is gradually but certainly and completely driven into implementing the Anglo-American strategic counter-insurgency military doctrine in conducting its war in Swat. In fact, our leadership is falling in the Western political-military-media strategic trap skillfully constructed to destabilize this nation further to the point of a political abyss. Be mindful that a fundamental imperative of the counter-insurgency military doctrine is to inflict massive civilian casualties, both in terms of actual killings and infrastructural destruction as well as razing homes with heavy military bombardments, devastation of cities and large-scale civilian displacement. This is what is exactly happening in today's Pakistan with its heroically-named and symbolic "Rah-i-Rast (the Righteous Path) on-going military operations in the NWFP. "Pakistan poses an even greater challenge...its very survival was at risk...(it) would be important in rolling back this existential threat, a true threat to Pakistan's very existence," said General David Petraeus, head of the US Central Command. Reflecting on Gen. Petraeus's warning, Patrick Seale, the eminent commentator, wrote the following in a recent article about the implications of the US military strategy: "It means, of course, being militarily agile...and killing their (insurgents) leaders when and where possible. But it also means the deliberate use of disproportionate force, even at the cost of massive civilian casualties. The key idea is to make life so intolerably dangerous and harsh that the local population will desert the insurgents, and both will lose the will to fight" (to what the common people and insurgents consider foreign occupation). But this strategy of deliberate construction of civilian calamity is not only immoral, it is also against international laws, humanitarian and UN conventions. But American "exceptionism" is heartless in ignoring these humanitarian issues. Recent and past history bears witness to the "terrorizing and killing of civilians" as part of the counter-insurgency military doctrine and operational strategic modus operandi. US drone attacks in the NWFP is a point in fact. The purpose of these attacks is psychological warfare as well as offensive military tactics: creating life uncertainty, fear, war phobia, alarm, dread, horror, anxiety, and panic amongst the local population and, as a result, causing massive civilian displacement with the desired consequences of people giving in to foreign occupation and its cultural-economic-political expansion and domination. This is precisely the political-military technique that Israel has been using against the Palestinians in particular and Arabs in general. The recent "Gaza Holocaust" is a vivid example in this context. Another example is that Americans have used Hellfire missiles by pilotless drones in Afghanistan resulting in massive civilian casualties (for which they apologize from time to time - but continue the attacks). Anglo-American war history is full of these murderous instances against Third World people. Not so ancient history in British Raj India, too, can offer lessons in merciless atrocities against civilians in the context of counter insurgency (the freedom movement was considered as revolutionary insurgency by the British) tactics in the pre-independent Indian subcontinent, should the present Pakistani leadership wish to take note. Recall the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of April 13, 1919. British Brigadier General Dyer opened fire with machine guns against the peaceful unarmed public gathered for a Sikh festival in Amritsar, killing over 1000 people and causing fear and horror amongst the general public all over India. Contrary to the general impression that this was an error in judgment by a single high-ranking military officer, the fact is that the then British administration in Punjab endorsed Dyer's actions -- the Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab, Sir Michael O'Dwyer, sent a telegram to Gen. Dyer stating, "Your action is correct." Dyer had contended that he was "confronted by a revolutionary army." This massacre of civilians was a tactical British move to frighten, panic and demoralize a public that was unarmed and peacefully demanding an end to British rule in India - an early example of the use of the counter-insurgency doctrine. The present so-called "war on terrorism" is the Anglo-American conception of "Clash of Civilizations" whereby there is conflict against Muslim nations. "The resort to disproportionate force to overwhelm the enemy, and make him despair of ever winning, is an essential aspect of counter-insurgency...terrorizing and killing of civilians is part of the strategy," warned Patrick Seale. The Pakistani leadership would be well-advised to understand the sudden appointment of Lt. General Stanley A McChrystal as the top US commander in Afghanistan in the context of an escalation of counter-insurgency tactics of the Obama Pak-Afghan military policy. Pakistan can expect a steep surge in civilian deaths as well as a greater influx of refugees to other parts of the country resulting in socio-economic deprivations, increased crime and eventual destabilization of the society. Let us be very clear about it: The lethal firepower, threat to civilians, and the strategic objectives of President Obama's counter-insurgency plan for the Pak-Afghan war policy are not going to alter. Consequently, it is for the Pakistani leadership to choose: Peace or a war of national destruction and calamitous human tragedies all over Pakistan It is also for the political leadership of the country to decide: When will Pakistan stop fighting a proxy war for the US and its allies? How long will Pakistan soldiers and people suffer? It is our leaders call. I say: Peace not war That is the "Rahi-Haq" - the Righteous Path The writer is a professor, political analyst and conflict-resolution expert E-mail: hl_mehdi@hotmail.com