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Coronavirus
LOW Source: covid.gov.pk
Pakistan Deaths
28,704
724hr
Pakistan Cases
1,283,886
41124hr
0.92% positivity
Sindh
475,097
Punjab
442,876
Balochistan
33,471
Islamabad
107,601
KPK
179,888

Sorry, wrong number. That is exactly what Tony Blair said when confronted with the Chilcot report on going into a war on Iraq based on the WMD (weapons of mass destruction) spin. He apologized in his typical "earnest" manner, yet justified his decision. A decision that cost a million lives. A decision that destroyed a country. A decision that made a region a security hazard. A decision that stampeded the hopes and aspirations of young Iraqi men and women. These numbers of lost lives sound more like items up for sale, but are actual human lives. "The war killed at least 134,000 Iraqi civilians and may have contributed to the deaths of as many as four times that number," according to the Costs of War Project by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University. And guess what did Iraq war cost the Americans and its allies? 2 trillion dollars. Familiar.

That was 2003 and onwards. Afghanistan is a true replica. More weapons, more war, more terror, more lost lives, more cost and more and more and more destruction. 2 trillion dollars more lost on the Afghan war. The cost breakup of these wars gives an unbelievable picture. Brown University which published its results tabulates that up to now the US has spent a staggering a $2.26trn on the Afghan conflict. This compares to the estimated $250,000 that it cost Al Qaeda to organise and carry out the 9/11 attacks. As the US borrowed most of this money, rather than use regular budgeted funds, so far it has paid $530bn in interest. The day-to-day US military operations have cost $816bn. A further $88bn has been spent on training and equipping the Afghan security forces. Civilian reconstruction and infrastructure projects have cost the US $143bn. Compared to these a paltry $4.1bn went to humanitarian aid and disaster relief and $9bn has been spent on counter-narcotics programmes. Confounding- Why persist with this flawed, failed strategy?

  1. The defence industry profits-Defence industry runs a large part of American economy. War economy sustains this industry. Some facts to show this reality. The top five biggest US defence contractors are Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics. Total returns in 2 decades to these five are 872.94 percent. $10,000 in the year 2001 stock purchased ($2,000 of each stock) is worth today $97,294.80. It was no coincidence that the most powerful people on the boards of directors of all five defence contractors include retired top-level military officers. Politically, it may be a disaster but for those who wield power the more the wars the more the dollars.

  2. Regional bases-To become superpower they need to create regional control. Strategy focus is to spot centers of power accumulation regionally. In Latin America, they have been trying to create a parallel government in Venezuela, in the Middle East they tried it in Iraq, In South Asia through Afghanistan. Their formula is familiar. Plant puppet leaders, use their cheap labour in return for aid money, and siphon away special resources by sending their own multinationals to rebuild the economy. The case in point the famous Haliburton company which was once owned by Dick Cheney, the then US Vice-President. The present refusal by Pakistan to give bases to America is something the Americans are not used to.

  3. Conflict and Control-The British empire formula of divide and rule was modified by Americans into conflict and control. They have shifted to hybrid war system where internal conflicts create dependency on foreign aid and help. The war on terror had a huge backlash on Pakistan and cost 150 billion dollars to fight it. Target killings, kidnappings and extremism made Pakistan become a conflict zone. Same is the case with Syria and Libya. That is why peace in Afghanistan is so important for Pakistan but perhaps not suitable for many bigger powers.

Since the game is not to win war but create a war economy through reach and power the counter strategy should be not just to defeat them in battle grounds but on strategic grounds. Just like America has not lost by losing Afghanistan, Afghanistan may not have won by defeating America. What are the new strategic directions that nations need to take to pre-empt and prevent the long and corrosive destruction of the country's ability to stand on its feet:

  1. Win minds and hearts- Sustainable success is only possible if people volunteer to stand by you. All other methods are temporary. Force, money, power are non-durable. The only way a team, a tribe or a nation can continue fight for something or somebody is when they volunteer for it. Afghanistan and Iraq are examples of how you can conquer bodies by force or by power but these are temporary wins. The real win is when you engage the minds and hearts. Similar is the case with the Taliban. The higher purpose of fighting against aggressors and invaders kept their spirit up. But for the general public they now need to engage people by creating a balance, serving their needs rather than forcing their own will over the will of the people.

  2. Develop Regional Support-The approach should be "give and take" politically, socially, and economically with your immediate neighbours and second neighbours. Countries like Malaysia and Turkey have managed to co-exist with all types of countries and all types of cultures. This ability to respect and be respected are the best weapons against intrusions of all sorts. Pakistan's new strategy of consult and cooperate with all the regions and beyond will pay dividends in the future.

  3. Focus on Niche Economy Development-Economic development has to be based on some inherent unique proposition. Sri Lanka despite terrorism built its repute on islands, Maldives on beaches, Rwanda on coffee beans etc. Afghanistan needs to develop its niche on either its minerals or its mountains or its history. Depending on foreign aid is a curse that needs to be dispelled by internal positioning based on a resource that makes the economy resilient to external shocks.

The real weapons of mass destruction are the attempts to force, to betray, to deceive, to spin, to impose, to fabricate, to mislead, to misinform, to miss the basic values of human dignity and respect. The British head of defence secretary said that "America is no longer the superpower". The good thing is that President Joe Biden is also reconsidering the military might strategy. These are signs of the western powers reflecting over their long worn-out power control plan. Similarly, the Taliban need to re-think their governance system. Pakistan can ideally act as a bridge between the drift existing in the two parts of the world. As, within these policy decisions lies the choice of making the future the best of the times or the worst of the times.

(The writer can be reached at [email protected])

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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