The world order established primarily by the US and its allies following their victory in World War II centered around three basic institutions: the UN for the maintenance of international peace and security, the promotion of international cooperation, and the protection of human rights; the World Bank for supporting economic development; and, IMF for facilitating international financial exchanges. These and the related institutions were structured and their rules were formulated in such a manner as to maintain the supremacy of the US-led West in the consideration of strategic issues relating to international peace, security, and prosperity. The defeat of the Soviet Union in the Cold War and its subsequent disintegration further consolidated the West’s domination at the global level and raised the US to the status of the sole super power because of its overwhelming economic, technological and military power supported by its alliances and the worldwide influence of its soft power.
For about two decades after the end of the Cold War, the US dominated the global scene like a colossus. However, this unipolar moment in the broad sweep of human history proved to be short-lived. The US took full advantage of its global supremacy to expand the West’s power and influence eastward in Europe at the expense of Russia. The result was a re-assertive Russia under Putin to protect its security interests in its “near abroad”. China also has been subjected to the US pressure following its phenomenal economic growth which catapulted it to the position of the biggest economy in the world in purchasing power parity terms by 2014 with the prospect of surpassing the US economy even in nominal dollar terms by 2027. In response to the continuous US pressure, China and Russia predictably have developed strategic partnership diluting Washington’s ability to dictate to either one of them. Shanghai Cooperation Organization is the outcome of this development. The trend, thus, is towards a multipolar world limiting the US capacity to act unilaterally.
The US overconfidence in its power also led it to strategic mistakes, namely, invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 in the aftermath of 9/11 and of Iraq in 2003. Both invasions have proved to be extremely costly in terms of blood and treasure. According to some estimates, they may have cost the US more than three trillion dollars. From a strategic point of view also, these invasions have proved to be counterproductive. In Afghanistan, despite considerable success in decimating Al Qaeda, the US goal of establishing a durable government of its choice remains elusive because of the continued armed resistance of the Afghan Taliban. Developments in Iraq following the US invasion have badly destabilised it and expanded Iran’s strategic influence in that country and the region to the dismay of the US. Russia and Iran have also successfully checkmated the US in Syria, thus, exposing the limits of US unilateralism in a multipolar world.
Under these circumstances, when Washington needs the support and the cooperation of its allies in facing strategic challenges in different regions of the world, the US has the misfortune of having at the helm of affairs a President who is alienating them instead. The fiasco of the G-7 summit in Ottawa last month, the controversies surrounding the recent NATO summit in Brussels, and the initiation of trade wars by the US against its own allies merely show that President Trump in pursuit of short-sighted tactical advantages is overlooking the broader strategic picture and damaging America’s long-term interests. Trump’s policies policies carry the risk of unravelling the security and economic cooperation architecture which had been put in place by his predecessors for safeguarding America’s long-term strategic interests. Trump’s decisions to withdraw the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations, which were meant to strengthen strategic support for the US in the Asia-Pacific and the Atlantic regions respectively, strengthen these apprehensions. Trump’s denunciation of the Iran nuclear deal, which had been endorsed by the UN Security Council, EU and major world powers, has badly damaged the US credibility internationally.
By threatening friend and foe, Trump is acting more like a bully on the loose rather than a prudent President of a mature world power. It is not surprising, therefore, that Trump is using the policy of threats and intimidation in dealing with Pakistan also, particularly in dealing with the situation in Afghanistan where the US is facing the inevitable adverse consequences of its flawed policies. Its reliance in the past mainly on the use of brute force to impose a government of its own choice in Afghanistan has strengthened the resolve of the Afghan Taliban to continue their armed struggle. Instead of recognising the shortcomings of its Afghanistan policy, the US has found it convenient to deceive its own public by making Pakistan the scapegoat for the consequences of its policy failures in the country. This is the real reason for the incessant US demands on Pakistan to do more in dealing with the crisis in Afghanistan. Our COAS was right when he said that it was time now for the rest of the world to do more in the interest of a negotiated political settlement and durable peace in Afghanistan.
Till that happens, the US pressure on Pakistan is likely to continue. Growing US-India strategic cooperation to check the expansion of the Chinese power and influence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region and Pakistan’s rapidly developing strategic partnership and economic cooperation with China as reflected by CPEC are other factors which portend increasing alienation between Pakistan and the US. Coming years will, therefore, see increasing US political, military and economic pressure on Pakistan to bring it in line with its own demands irrespective of their consequences for Pakistan’s national interests.
Besides economic, technological and military strength and a proactive foreign policy, Pakistan’s internal political unity and stability are essential conditions for our success in facing the current and the anticipated American pressure on us in the years to come. Unfortunately, at this critical juncture in our history we are again a nation divided rather than united in safeguarding our national interests. Pakistan’s internal political stability is closely linked with the strengthening of the democratic process in the country. What we see instead are the shenanigans of the anti-democratic forces trying to establish the writ of the deep state instead of the rule of the elected representatives reflecting the will of the people of Pakistan.
In the process, a duly elected Prime Minister was removed from office, disqualified for life from holding a political office, and now convicted for holding assets beyond his known sources of income through controversial judgments arrived at through questionable legal procedures. As a result of these developments, the democratic process in the county has been put on the reverse gear and political instability and divisions have been aggravated posing serious threats to the nation’s security. The sooner this is realised and rectified by the powers that be, the better for the country. A fair and free election on 25 July with level playing field for all the political parties is an indispensable condition for the evolution of the democratic process in Pakistan on the right lines. Unfortunately, the conduct of the renegade elements belonging to the deep state and the caretaker government in Punjab has been far from meeting that standard so far. When history is written, they will be held responsible for the damage they have caused to the political stability, security and economic well-being of the country.
The writer is a retired ambassador and the president of the Lahore Council for World Affairs.