The Pakistan Cauldron
The killing of Osama bin Laden spotlighted Pakistan’s unpredictable political dynamics, which are often driven by conspiracy theory, paranoia, and a sense of betrayal. In Pakistan, the late prime minister Benazir Bhutto famously declared, there is “always the story behind the story.” In The Pakistan Cauldron, James P. Farwell explains what makes Pakistani politics tick. Farwell has advised the Department of Defense on terrorism, sovereignty, and the political issues in the Middle East, Africa, and Pakistan. Here he reveals how key Pakistani political players have inconsistently employed the principles of strategic communication to advance their agendas and undercut their enemies. Pakistan is an enigma to many. Only by understanding the complex forces that shape Pakistani leaders can we uncover their shifting political agendas and how they affect America and the West. Farwell explains how and why former president Pervez Musharraf clamped down on nuclear scientist A. Q. Kahn and isolated him. He assesses Benazir Bhutto’s unique legacy and analyzes how Musharraf handled the aftermath of her assassination. He explains Pakistan’s current instability and demonstrates how the country’s emotional reaction to bin Laden’s death is best understood as the outcome of long-standing political dynamics. The Pakistan Cauldron is for anyone who needs to know why Pakistan continues to pose increasingly difficult challenges for the United States and the West.
Foreward by Joeseph R. Duffey
A senior u.s. diplomat was asked recently, “how are we doing in Pakistan?” he replied, “it’s a very complicated issue. . . . it’s not how ‘we’ are doing at all. . . . The question is, ‘how is Pakistan doing?’”1 in a recent article, deepak Chopra and salman ahmad wrote that “Pakistan is a war zone but its battle is far more cultural than military.”2 The fact is, Pakistan’s fortunes are central to stability in Central and southwest asia. how it addresses its tough challenges affects the war in afghanistan, the battle to discredit and marginalize violent extremism, and u.s. national security. For those who seek a greater understanding of what makes Pakistani politics tick, this book is required reading. James Farwell has advised the department of defense and unified Com- batant Commands (CoCoMs), such as the u.s. special operations Com- mand and the u.s. strategic Command, for nearly a decade. his background, understanding, and gift for narrative based on carefully researched and docu- mented sources yield important and relevant insights. Farwell carries no ideo- logical candle. he avoids “selling” a point of view as to decisions of any White house administration. his focus is on history and today’s Pakistani leaders. he writes as an informed analyst and historian with the expertise of a vet- eran information strategist and internationally respected political consultant. The Pakistan Cauldron spells out what we know and should understand about Pakistani politics based on public sources as well as a significant number of interviews—some on the record, others confidential with insider and knowl- edgeable sources. Farwell’s style is fluent and a pleasure to read. he helps us understand brutal decades of political rivalries, tribal emotions, a troubled search for na- tional identity, and the blatant corruption that today hamstring many of the prominent leaders of Pakistan and have put a nuclear-armed country at risk for the future. This book is full of concrete lessons that should prompt Washing- ton decision makers to ask hard questions about what drives Pakistani politics; its culture of paranoia, betrayal, and assassination; its political traps; and how to avoid self-deception while defining what is plausible as we seek to forge a viable partnership in combating al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Farwell offers fascinating new perspectives on Pakistani political and mili- tary leaders by examining how they have employed strategic communication— in deeds and words—to influence attitudes and opinions. The sharp-edged portrait that emerges is of a dysfunctional political culture and government. americans are always on the lookout for reliable friends. But Farwell cautions that in the chaotic world of politics, alliances and friendships are transactional. Countries have their own agendas. and they pursue them ruthlessly.
Pakistani leaders are tough-minded nationalists. This mind-set has been a key to their survival and it shapes their worldview. They tend to be both highly skilled and highly manipulative. They know how to exploit the relationship with the united states to secure financial and military assistance as well as politi- cal support. They have shown a gift for storytelling in soft-soaping skeptical american lawmakers to keep the aid spigots open. lies have been no impedi- ment as they have locked arms with north korea and China in developing nuclear weapons, stolen precious secrets, trafficked in nuclear technology, en- gaged our enemies behind our backs, diverted foreign aid meant for schools to a military machine, or sought u.s. support for the nation’s policies with respect to india, whose power Pakistan both respects and mortally fears.
Why does the united states tolerate Pakistani double-dealing? The an- swer is that, for better or for worse, a stable Pakistan—and a secure nuclear arsenal—is critical to the stability of Central asia. during the Cold War, that held true as Washington mobilized allies to fight communism. Pakistan then played a central role in defeating the russians in afghanistan and forcing their departure, which some believe accelerated the collapse of the soviet union. however, the victory came at a price. The problem with creating a dependency is that it is hard to restrain. once the last soviet tank departed afghanistan, we left Pakistan to its own devices, precipitating a deep bitterness rooted in the perception that we had cut adrift a staunch ally at a time when it needed our sustained assistance. ever since, Pakistan has had no scruples about pursuing interests that it recognized conflicted with those of the united states.
A majority of Pakistanis have eagerly embraced this duplicity. Today, se- rious questions persist as to whether Pakistan is helping or sabotaging u.s. efforts in afghanistan. as Farwell points out, Pakistan worries that american efforts are promoting an afghan government that serves the interests of india while undercutting Pakistan’s security and which aids rival ethnic groups like the Tajiks at the expense of Pashtuns, with whom the nation identifies. Those policies are unacceptable to Pakistan, and we have to recognize and deal with this reality. it’s an insight that inevitably should color how we approach achiev- ing success in afghanistan. he understands that this attitude stems from a his- torical view as well as the sad fact that Pakistani leaders allow paranoia to color feelings about the united states and to shape its dealings with our nation.
In dissecting Pakistani politics, the book focuses primarily on three colorful figures—a. Q. khan, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, and former president Pervez Musharraf—and how they affected Pakistan’s political dy- namics. as Farwell observes, however, although the players may have changed, in key respects the game remains the same and understandable: Pakistan first.
The nuclear scientist a. Q. khan helped to develop the Pakistani nuclear program. Many believe that he acted as a lone ranger, freelancing on the open market as a nuclear trafficker. This book’s contention that khan acted at all times with the government’s knowledge and approval underscores the ruthlessness with which Pakistani leaders have, with the exception of Benazir Bhutto, consistently played games with the united states. how Musharraf dealt with khan and shut him down presents an object lesson in hard-boiled politics. The Pakistan Cauldron concisely dissects Musharraf ’s strategy and tac- tics, which aimed to shield Pakistan from criticism, continue the flow of u.s. aid, and protect the nuclear program. It presents a convincing case study in how, at their best, Pakistani politicians adroitly use strategic communication to achieve critical political goals.
Benazir Bhutto promised to lift the veil from the Pakistan nuclear pro- gram. it’s not clear what she might actually have done, had that opportunity come. still, her pledge to do so may have been a motivating factor in her assas- sination. The book examines Benazir’s political history from the standpoint of how she and her adversaries in the military employed strategic communication to advance their own agendas. It is a fascinating portrait of powerful players locked in an edgy conflict for control of a nation. in Farwell’s view, Benazir Bhutto’s historical importance, and the true tragedy of her assassination, was that it deprived the world of a powerful voice for a tolerant form of Islam. His examination of how she approached her re- turn to power in 2007, and how an isolated Musharraf made mistake after mistake as he tried to counter her strategy, illustrates the pitfalls of a nation whose politics are dominated by the military and a need to keep Washington happy, instead of by the welfare of its citizens.
Pakistan suffers still from the wound of Benazir’s murder. When you ex- amine how Pakistan Peoples Party president asif ali Zardari, his opposition Pakistan Muslim league–n leader nawaz sharif, and the military and intel- ligence services operate—manifested in their strategic communication (a term that includes actions as well as words)—one sees the volatility of Pakistan and why serious doubts persist as to its future stability.
Too often these days a book is recommended as “timely.” But in this case, that term correctly describes Farwell’s incisive analysis. he understands politi- cal and strategic communication. he knows politics. he is totally in command of his brief. highly respected among those with whom he’s worked in national security circles, Farwell evaluates with great skill and understanding the poli- tics of a nation whose problems will challenge us for years to come. That pros- pect makes this valuable work even more relevant and important.
—Joseph D. Duffey, who has served as Assistant Secretary of State for Education and Cultural Affairs, Director of the U.S. Information Agency, Chairman of theNnational Endowment for the Humanities, Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and President of American university