Friday, January 10, 2020

United States of America: Benevolent or Malign Superpower?

Is United States of America a benevolent or malign superpower?

The United States has provided large amounts of aid to developing nations but has also caused a lot of pain by many invasions and wars it has initiated in the Middle East and elsewhere. Is it better or worse than other imperial powers in history? How is it different? What does John Perkins say in his book titled "Confessions of an Economic Hitman"? Has US exercised its immense cultural, technological, economic, political and military power responsibly?

Is Pakistan's US policy good or bad for Pakistan? How should Pakistan balance its relationship with the United States with its growing relations with China emerging as the next superpower? What role should Pakistan play in its immediate neighborhood of South Asia and the Middle East? How can Pakistan help bring peace to Afghanistan? How can Pakistan help keep the peace between Iran and Saudi Arabia?

ALKS host Faraz Darvesh discusses these questions with Misbah Azam and Riaz Haq (


Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Soleimani Was the Hardest of the Hardliner

Confessions of an Economic Hitman

Putin Challenges American Exceptionalism

Is America Young and Barbaric? 

US Dollar as International Trade and Reserve Currency

Godfather Metaphor for Uncle Sam

Seeing Bin Laden's Death in Wider Perspective

US Drones and Cyber Warfare

US Dominates List of World's Top Universities

Indian RAW Agent Kulbhushan Jhadav Used Chabahar

Iran-Saudi Conflict

Pakistan's Nuclear Program

Iran Nuclear Deal

1971 India-Pakistan War

Chabahar vs Gwadar Ports

Did America Contribute to the Rise of ISIS?

Riaz Haq's YouTube Channel

PakAlumni Social Network


Riaz Haq said...

Op Ed by Daniel Runde, Center for Strategic and International Studies

Without #Afghanistan, #Pakistan and #UnitedStates need a new basis for relationship. Under this arrangement, "We would see Pakistan not as a problem to be managed but also as an opportunity as a potential South Asian economic tiger." #economy #trade #FDI

Pakistan’s population is in the same league as other democracies such as Brazil, Indonesia, and Nigeria. The United States has security ties with each of these democracies, but it also has economic ties, people-to-people ties, and ties in technology, education, and innovation. We should have similarly broad and deep relations with Pakistan.

Although there are valid criticisms in the United States of Pakistan, we need to engage the country in a more rounded way. A broader, more comprehensive engagement would likely require Pakistan to also have a more comprehensive vision of its own role in the world — one also less-viewed through the prism of a single country, namely, India. Pakistan places a disproportionate lens on its military and defense, it spent 4 percent of its GDP on the military in 2018. In contrast, Pakistan only spent 2.9 percent of GDP on education in 2017.

Pakistan’s Potential

Pakistan could become another Argentina or Ukraine in terms of agricultural potential. Agriculture accounts for 20 percent of Pakistan’s GDP and employs 43 percent of its workforce. Agriculture also plays a huge role in Pakistan’s exports, accounting for about 80 percent. But Pakistan’s agricultural productivity currently only ranges between 29-52 percent and could be much higher, with broader use of improved seeds and farming techniques.

Pakistan also has very significant tourism potential. It is best known for its ancient historical and religiously significant buildings, such as the Madshahi and Grand Jamia Mosque. It also has immense natural beauty, such as the Hunza Valley and Desoi National Park. However, Pakistan is one of the least competitive countries in South Asia in regard to travel. Pakistan had 1.7 million visitors in 2017, compared to Sri Lanka’s 2.3 million and Jordan’s 4.2 million. Introducing a recent e-visa program was a great start to opening the doors for tourism but much more needs to be done.

Pakistan has significant hydropower potential but has only developed one-tenth of its 60,000 MW potential. If this resource were properly tapped, it could play a huge role in tackling the power deficit in Pakistan and the broader region.

What would a reframed relationship with Pakistan look like?

On the U.S. side a reframed relationship would require a broader and larger set of stakeholders. We would see Pakistan not as a problem to be managed but also as an opportunity as a potential South Asian economic tiger.

Most members of congress who had an interest in Pakistan — especially outside of the military relationship — have left politics, so a new coalition in Congress needs to be rebuilt. The relationship is poisoned by disappointments, accusations, fear and distrust.


Education is also key to reframing the relationship. Student exchange programs are beneficial in improving relations between countries. In 2016, the last year for which we could find numbers, there was an 8.5 percent increase in the number of Pakistani students studying in the United States — which is still just 11,000 Pakistani students. That is half of the 22,000 Pakistani students studying in China.

The United States must revisit its foreign aid program to support Pakistan in reaching its full potential. From recent informal conversations, it’s clear that neither OPIC, now the USDFC, nor EXIM Bank have sent a mission to Pakistan for many years. That needs to change. Our foreign aid has dropped drastically and is at levels far below what’s required, given the challenges. Creating a new relationship could take as a long as a decade but must begin now.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan seeks to mitigate #US-#Iran tensions. After #SoleimaniAssassination, both Sec of State Pompeo and Defense Sec Esper called Pakistan Army Chief General Bajwa who advised them to pursue diplomacy over inflammatory rhetoric. via @AlMonitor

The US drone attack that killed Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force, took US-Iranian relations to the brink of war with the potential to destabilize the entire Middle East and shake the global economy. Although no casualties resulted from Tehran's retaliatory launch of more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two US military bases in Iraq, the attack took the conflict to another, extremely dangerous level.

To avoid further friction from sparking a broader war, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reached out to various countries that could help de-escalate the situation. Pakistan was one of the first countries he approached after the strike on Soleimani.

Pompeo tweeted Jan. 3, “Pakistan’s Chief of Staff General [Qamar] Bajwa and I spoke today about US defensive action to kill Qassem Soleimani. The Iran regime’s actions in the region are destabilizing and our resolve in protecting American interests, personnel, facilities, and partners will not waver.”

US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper also discussed the crisis with Bajwa, who called on everyone concerned to pursue diplomacy over inflammatory rhetoric. Bajwa’s main concern was to keep the situation in Iran from derailing the Afghan peace process. Pakistan had facilitated negotiations between Washington and the Taliban in December 2018. Ostensibly, a new crisis next door could complicate matters despite the absence of a breakthrough thus far.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan offered to mediate between Tehran and Washington and instructed Bajwa to visit Iran and “contact relevant military leaders to convey a clear message: Pakistan is ready to play its role for peace but it can never again be part of any war.” Stressing the need for de-escalatory measures, Khan planned to send Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to meet with his counterparts in the United States, Saudi Arabia and Iran as well as Pompeo. Arriving in Tehran Jan. 13, Qureshi presented Pakistan’s perspective to President Hassan Rouhani and stressed the need for a diplomatic solution.

Soon after drone attacks on two Saudi oil facilities in September, Khan and Bajwa visited Tehran to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Iran, believed by many to have been behind the strikes. Maintaining good relations with both countries requires a delicate balancing act. Amid the current friction between Tehran and Washington, Islamabad wants to remain neutral and steer clear of a regional conflict. Nevertheless, settling the current crisis is in Islamabad’s interest for several reasons.

First, Pakistan faces the prospect of being drawn into the conflict if it stretches on and leads to a proxy war in Afghanistan. Iran has built ties with the Taliban over the past decade, and given that Afghanistan is already destabilized, any retaliation by Tehran on US interests there could be disastrous for the region.

Understandably, even the Afghan government has been urgently encouraging Washington and Tehran to de-escalate. Some credible threats to the United States remain, and Esmail Qaani, Soleimani’s successor as Quds Force commander, vowed at Soleimani’s funeral to “remove America from the region.”

Second, the current scenario could cause a breakdown in the Afghan reconciliation process if Iran starts using its influence. As Qureshi observed, “The crisis will have a negative impact on Afghanistan, and Pakistan’s efforts in this regard could be undone. Some elements, who have been waiting for this [kind of] moment, may try to derail the Afghan peace process.” If a peace deal between the government of President Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban is hindered, it would ultimately delay any plans for a US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Excerpt from Peck, James. Ideal Illusions (American Empire Project) (p. 250). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition. 2010

Zeroing in on their likely constituents, Washington identified the “so-called secularists of the Muslim world: Business people, scientists, non-religious educators, politicians, public administrators, musicians, artists, poets, writers, journalists, actors, and their audiences and admirers”98 as the most “moveable” targets. Among these the “priority targets” were liberal secular Muslim academics and intellectuals, who tended to gravitate to universities and research centers, as well as young moderate religious scholars uncomfortable in the mosque. Women’s groups engaged in gender equality campaigns were another natural constituency. Finally, moderate journalists and writers needed help with broadcasting their work back into their own countries and, via the web, throughout the Islamic world. All these moderates had “political values congruent to the universal values underlying all modern liberal societies,”99 but again empowering them as a class might “require an external catalyst.”100 As elsewhere, they needed money, organizing, ideas—and a pan-Islamic context to counter the radicals’ advantage in organization, religious funding, and the centrality of the mosque in the local community.”101 They also needed “conceptual systems to guide and navigate” them toward American ways of thinking102—a far cry from the free flow of ideas Washington supposedly defended. Attention, not information, was key. In the words of a Defense Department task force, “What’s around information is critical. Reputations count. Brands are important. Fifty years ago political struggles were about the ability to control and transmit scarce information. Today, political struggles are about the creation and destruction of credibility.”103 Once again, local leaders could be quietly supported, invited to conferences, praised in the media, given awards and academic appointments, their reputations nourished. If they were abused, they could be spotlighted as human rights fighters; their plight movingly told, their families taken care of. In all these domains Washington appreciated the contributions of human rights—its workers, its honors, its support for NGOs fit with its own agenda well enough.

Riaz Haq said...

Destiny of CPEC depends on regional peace, while potential Afghan civil war serves US interests
By Aasma Wadud
Published: Jul 09, 2021 03:12 PM

War is not an event. It is an economy. Countries like the US have reaped fortunes from it, leaving both destruction and devastation behind. With US troops leaving Afghanistan, the future of the country remains uncertain. It symbolizes that Afghanistan will be abandoned and left alone to an inevitable defeat at the hands of the Taliban. Critics are forecasting a civil war, but there is another perspective that many fail to recognize: The US failed to link its evacuation of troops to sustainable peace, but was it circumstantial or intentional?

With China emerging as an economic superpower, the war economy is now obsolete. China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has given the world generally and the region precisely a new dimension where growth, development, stability, and peace are inevitable for every nation. Afghanistan has been burning like fuel for decades with the past's war economy. Sometimes directly and sometimes through proxies, the past's superpowers have manipulated its geopolitical location, culture, political and social dynamics. Sadly, in the past, war was a commodity that was bought and sold conveniently; Afghan war complemented the needs of those nations with power. With the situation still unfolding, is Afghanistan on the verge of another civil war, or will things change for the better this time?

The last G7 meeting in June 2021 aimed to develop strategies to counter China's BRI, which signifies its importance. The US has invested in India to counter China's influence in the region. But to America's surprise, India has failed to deliver what it was expected to achieve. Because of this, the US needed to find another more spontaneous and swift solution to the loss of its hegemony. With rapid US troop evacuation, Afghan civil war seems to be the apparent outcome, especially for war-dependent economies like the US and its allies. A civil war can serve the US multiple purposes, including some form of instability in the region to counter the BRI. It could sabotage the CPEC and maximize pressure on Pakistan's economy, which is essential to potentially winning the country's most-needed cooperation. Moreover, it could offer the US' struggling economy new support. In the past, time and again, Afghanistan has fallen prey to war economy ventures, but times have changed. With US troops leaving Afghanistan, Indian investment in the country is going to fall off. It has limited alternatives to defending its strategic interests in Afghanistan. Additionally, it fears a new wave of terrorism, and is concerned about the Taliban's growing presence. Finally, as the region stabilizes, Kashmir will see more prominence and limelight.

With the BRI and CPEC, peace has become the hottest commodity in the region. In many ways, the world's future economic growth depends on peace in Afghanistan. It is a fact that Afghanistan's internal dynamics remain the same, where domestic warlords are still significant. The Taliban has evolved from the roadside fighting group to a more flexible and accepting political entity. They are more diverse, with Afghan, Tajik and Uzbek representation. Furthermore, geopolitical transformation will have an impact on the whole situation. In the past, stakeholders were manipulated for war; but this time, "peace" will be the product offered and bought.

The destiny of the BRI and CPEC depend on peace in Afghanistan. China is known for positively contributing to other countries' economies, development, and growth. China will go the extra mile to ensure peace in the region, and will look to ensure a new chapter of growth and prosperity is achieved in Afghanistan.