Stephen Krasner

Stephen Krasner

 

Threats to American national security come from three sources: major powers, malevolent states, and weak or failed states.   There is, obviously, nothing new about tension with another major power, with the most obvious current challenge coming from China.

The other two sources of threat to American national security—malevolent states with effective national control but limited aggregate material capabilities and states that cannot control their own territory (failed or weak states)—are historically unique.  Threats from both of these sources are the result of the decoupling of underlying material capability (as indicated by GDP, population, military spending, and technological capacity) and the ability to inflict harm especially with nuclear and biological weapons.

In the case of malevolent states these capabilities are controlled by the state apparatus.  Although the ability of malevolent but under-resourced states to inflict catastrophic damage is new, the measures to counter these threats are not.  They include offensive, defensive and deterrent military actions, as well as economic sanctions.

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Ending the Double Game

On September 22, 2011, Admiral Mike Mullen, then-chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, made his last official appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee. In his speech, he bluntly criticized Pakistan, telling the committee that “extremist organizations serving as proxies for the government of Pakistan are attacking Afghan troops and civilians as well as U.S. soldiers.” The Haqqani network, he said, “is, in many ways, a strategic arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency [ISI].” In 2011 alone, Mullen continued, the network had been responsible for a June attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, a September truck-bomb attack in Wardak province that wounded seventy-seven U.S. soldiers, and a September attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul.

These observations did not, however, lead Mullen to the obvious conclusion: Pakistan should be treated as a hostile power. And within days, military officials began walking back his remarks, claiming that Mullen had meant to say only that Islamabad gives broad support to the Haqqani network, not that it gives specific direction. Meanwhile, unnamed U.S. government officials asserted that he had overstated the case. Mullen’s testimony, for all the attention it received, did not signify a new U.S. strategy toward Pakistan.

Yet such a shift is badly needed. For decades, the United States has sought to buy Pakistani cooperation with aid: $20 billion worth since 9/11 alone. This money has been matched with plenty of praise from U.S. leaders, who have also spent an outsized amount of face time with their Pakistani counterparts. As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton has made four trips to Pakistan, compared with two to India and three to Japan. Mullen made more than twenty visits to Pakistan.

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Talking Tough to Pakistan

On September 22, 2011, Admiral Mike Mullen, then chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, made his last official appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee. In his speech, he bluntly criticized Pakistan, telling the committee that “extremist organizations serving as proxies for the government of Pakistan are attacking Afghan troops and civilians as well as U.S. soldiers.” The Haqqani network, he said, “is, in many ways, a strategic arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency [ISI].” In 2011 alone, Mullen continued, the network had been responsible for a June attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, a September truck-bomb attack in Wardak Province that wounded 77 U.S. soldiers, and a September attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul.

These observations did not, however, lead Mullen to the obvious conclusion: Pakistan should be treated as a hostile power. And within days, military officials began walking back his remarks, claiming that Mullen had meant to say only that Islamabad gives broad support to the Haqqani network, not that it gives specific direction. Meanwhile, unnamed U.S. government officials asserted that he had overstated the case. Mullen’s testimony, for all the attention it received, did not signify a new U.S. strategy toward Pakistan.

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One cannot oneself create anything; one can only wait till one hears the footsteps of God resounding through events; then leap forward and seize hold of the hem of his coat — that is all.  — Otto von Bismarck

Only policy makers in great-power nations can aspire to realize grand strategies. They rarely succeed. In the contemporary international environment, coherence is more likely to be achieved by aiming at something more modest, a principle around which foreign policy might be oriented. Responsible sovereignty is the most promising candidate. Responsible sovereignty focuses on the need to create states capable of governing effectively within their own borders and to realizing, where possible, mutually beneficial bargains with regard to global public goods. Irresponsible sovereigns and failing states threaten the well-being of their own populations and the security, domestic norms, and authority structures of even the world’s most powerful countries. There is no alternative to responsible sovereigns; no regional much less global authority structure can replace the state.

Continue reading Stephen Krasner in Policy Review