They certainly have rooms with the best view. Only if they could rid their windowpanes of the lenses they have been using since decades. The world has changed, so should the view. They must know it well for they are not Mike Harding’s Wazzocks. Why is it that the more things are changing, the more they are looking exactly the same? The lenses. They create unnecessary obstruction in ascertaining the full view. Cutting this fog by cleaning the lenses might help. Consider.

Before going to the fantastic aphorisms on strategy, lets decipher the enigma of ‘national security’ towards which any strategy should serve. The view from the windows our men have, might only show the troops wearing flawlessly ironed uniforms and an arsenal festooned with most modern and lethal weaponry. The reality might be a little more complex. You have to have an impeccable and well-equipped force to fight in the hour of the need. Fair enough. But does the national security end here, is the real question.

National security as a function of national power has military prowess as an important element but does not solely depend on just this. The aspects of social, political and economic spheres – e.g., energy, natural resources, environment, a responsive democracy, a progressive society, an educated (as opposed to a literate) populace, an aware citizenry, a society sans intellectual poverty, an intelligentsia enriched with dissent, an uncompromised but free media, an ambience of freedom and internal détente, and so on and so forth – all contribute to a comprehensive notion of national security.

Every single artist when s/he goes out to work – in the far off lands – contributes to nation’s pride, which in turn adds a dimension to national power. Every single girl adds to this power when she goes out to tell the world she was battered by monsters but still stood up to them. She is actually telling the world that Pakistanis are fighting back. Every single activist when comes on the street demanding rights, s/he is adding to nation’s pride by telling the world Pakistanis are awake and are holding their freedoms dear.

Every time a scholar dissents with the mainstream viewpoint, s/he is actually enriching the discourse opening new avenues of thought that would only help the institutions in longer run. For the institutions are not about petty egos, they are about a hindsight spanning centuries and foresight beyond decades. And that is what needs to be secured for achieving zenith of national power and national security.

Now, let’s see what’s actually happening on ground in the name of national security.

Every time an activist is jibed for being a foreign agent getting dollars to disrepute the country, an inch from the national security horizon dies silently. When you are discrediting her/him, you are actually telling the world that Pakistanis are perfect robots having no thinking capacity or conscience and would only differ from state discourse when seduced with money and power. Think.

Swimming against the tide is done by the noblest and the most honourable. Dissent, may I plead, is a very respectable and courageous thing to do. It is like oxygen for a non-stagnant worldview of nations. Anything and anyone trying to deplete this oxygen should be considered a national security threat. Anyone who reviles dissent confusing it with unhealthy discord or conflict is certainly not doing any service to the nation. Think.

And now a little peep at strategy Tsars like Sun Tzu and Carl Von Clausewitz. The former says, “fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting”. Without fighting would mean without resorting to flawlessly ironed uniforms. How about having a flourishing economy that engulfs all other considerations? The economy is survival for every nation, even for the enemy. How about becoming an equitable market coveted for global investors – all of them? Think.

Would this economy and market be possible if internal security is at risk and political stability is perpetually unpredictable? Would it be possible when everyone knows a certain ‘Inc.’ has unchallengeable monopoly on resources, business opportunities and market openings with unbeatable comparative advantage? Or when assorted ‘assets’ gone rogue have unhindered opportunity to play havoc with any outsider in the name of either religion or ‘patriotism’ or xenophobic anti-West-ism? Think.

In his Art of War Tzu says, “The art of using troops is this: When ten to the enemy’s one, surround him; When five times his strength, attack him; If double his strength, divide him; If equally matched you may engage him; If weaker numerically, be capable of withdrawing; And if in all respects unequal, be capable of eluding him, for a small force is but booty for one more powerful.” And here our only elusion seems to be nuclear. Is it enough? And ample? How about depleting enemy’s arsenal of diplomacy and of moral higher ground? With insisting to carry on with decades old hackneyed and overspent proxies, haven’t we given moral higher ground to the enemy on a plate? Think.

Clausewitz in his On War says, “No one starts a war – or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so – without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it.” It is now high time that our men make up their minds. How are we going to conduct a war and why? What purpose would it achieve if Kashmir keeps bleeding because of our bullets and enemy’s chutzpah of using brutal force denying people their rights? At the moment in this equation, our bullets are rendering Kashmiris powerless, more subjugated and oppressed alongside neutralizing their legitimate struggle bracketing it with terrorism. How about removing this factor from the equation and highlighting the chutzpah factor instead? We would get world’s ears. Think.

Clausewitz then goes on to say, “the aim of war should be the defeat of the enemy. But what constitutes defeat? The conquest of his whole territory is not always necessary, and total occupation of his territory may not be enough”. That says all! Where is our homework on that? Assorted writers praising state policies on the fancy pages of Hilal wouldn’t be able to solve it for you. Dissenters might. Think.

And then, as Tzu says, “He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks”. This animation of ‘same spirit throughout all ranks’ can’t be achieved with mixed messages that come from proxies in intelligentsia and opinion-smiths with their powerful volubility and rhetoric. Message has to be one. It has to be one that empowers the entire nation irrespective of religion, class and ethnicity. It would come rooting our pride in the soil rather than in the lost glory of outsiders who once conquered our soil.

Just as Anthony Bourdain would say, I don’t have to agree with you to like you. Your room is beautiful and so is your view. Change the lenses for a while to the grass that is not so green.

The writer is an Islamabad based freelance columnist.