It is hoped that foreign policymakers in Islamabad and defence managers in Rawalpindi will consider this article as a policy review document, and review it with diligent deliberation and considerable insight in the context of future Pak-US relations. It seems imperative now that making a final or fundamental policy decision on the status of US drone strikes on Pakistani territory has assumed a central stage for bringing peace to this nation. Not only that, it is a vital issue on the basis of which Pakistan can re-establish its control over a nearly decade-old violation of its territory and sovereignty. Also, a firm decision to stop drone attacks by fresh diplomatic initiatives and possibly military intervention, Islamabad can manage to remove a major impediment to peace talks with the insurgents in the northern part of the country and gain considerable control over the ever-growing domestic terrorism. A policy decision has to be made by Islamabad now.So, what if Pakistan were to shoot down a US drone over its territory? Is the prevalent fear amongst the power-holders in Islamabad accurate and realistic that Washington would retaliate with a massive military response and bomb Pakistan back into the Stone Age (so to speak)? These are two vital questions that Islamabad needs to analyse and understand with absolute clarity and an in-depth comprehension of the American political-military behaviour.In my opinion, the Obama Administration will not retaliate with a military response. Instead, it will seek a diplomatic and a military-to-military secretly agreed upon peaceful resolution to the issue. No, sir, Obama will not venture America into fresh military adventurism. Among several other factors, the US knows that the Pakistani military is a highly trained, disciplined, organised and powerful force. Pakistan is not Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya or a militarily weak nation in Africa, or Central or Latin America. Military action would not be an easy mission for the US to undertake.Having said that, here is my line of thought and reasoning to explain why Obama will not seek a military solution if a US drone was struck down. This raison d’etre needs to be considered with due intellectual understanding and expert policymaking indulgence.Let us start with the foreign policymaking process in Washington. A superpower like the US does not make its foreign policy on an ad hoc basis. There is a lengthy, extended and meticulously organised and imaginative process that is carried out in formulating interstate relations. At the Pentagon and State Department, various possible scenarios are developed: what possible political reactions or military responses are feasible from an adversary in a political-military conflict? What crisis control management mechanism can be set into action to ward off a potentially dangerous escalation of a conflict? What kind of American public support can be mustered quickly in case a military response becomes imperative? How would the Congress react to the President’s declaration of war against a former ally? In addition, policy input from think tanks and the academic community is sought. In spite of this carefully laid out process of decision-making in US foreign policy deliberations, however, an overall riding fact is that nearly all decisions in Washington are made with an explicit mindset and a nearly rigid sense of self-perception that America is the holder of tremendous political and military power, and it is entitled to shape all global political events to its will.Added to this debilitating psychological factor is the awesome power of the office of the presidency in the US political system. The element of the personality cult of the President is so deeply imbedded in it that he becomes the central figure in the conduct of US foreign policy in all decisions, may they be political or military in nature, and are directly linked to the prestige and historical significance of the White House occupant at the time. So, the question here is: how would Obama react in the event of Pakistan shooting down a US drone over its territory? Here is an analysis:iConstitutionally, Obama cannot contest presidential elections for a third term of office. Hence, winning the election will not be an overriding personal political consideration for him. He certainly will be careful, though, in selecting a course of action that could enhance the Democratic Party’s next election prospects.iDoes Obama wish to be remembered as a “war President” or a President cherished for his domestic political reform? We will not have an answer to this until the President writes his autobiography at some point in the future.iWill the American public support Obama if he makes a formal declaration of war against Pakistan? Expert opinion on American public attitudes will tell you there is a 40/60 (40 in favour, 60 against) probability of support of another American war at this stage with the global political situation.iHow would the Pakistani military leadership react to yet another blatant military provocation against its country - in fact, an act of war?iHow will future generations in the US evaluate Obama’s presidency? Will they throw him into the dustbin of history? Perhaps, they will – in the same dustbin of political history as Bush has been assured of. iFinally, and most importantly, here is the deciding factor: what place will Obama have in history as an African-American President, under whose watch many more white, as well as black, soldiers are likely to be killed? That will be Obama’s paramount concern while deciding how to respond to Pakistan’s shooting down a US drone over its territory.If Islamabad’s fresh diplomatic initiatives fail with Washington, Pakistan should go ahead and shoot down the next drone in its sky. History and time is on Pakistan’s side - undoubtedly!

The writer is UAE-based academic, policy analyst, conflict resolution expert and author of several books on Pakistan and foreign policy issues. He holds a doctorate and a masters degree from Columbia University in New York.