By Chet Yarbrough
Narrated by Ralph Lister
Husain Haqqani, in “Magnificent Delusions”, recounts the history of Pakistan and its troubled relationship with the United States and India. Haqqani explains how nations act with delusion and misunderstanding. Ethnic diversity within nations makes speaking with one voice impossible. Consequent delusions and misunderstandings between nations foment arms escalation and international conflict.
Diplomatic policy and action are a reflection of what leaders can do within the framework of their respective governments and cultures. Haqqani infers that delusion and misunderstanding correlate with cultural ignorance; an ignorance that is endemic in nation-to-nation communication.
Haqqani has written an interesting history. It is a history that would be helpful to an American ambassador to Pakistan. It reminds one of how important it is for American ambassadors to follow the lead of people like George Kennan, America’s ambassador to the U.S.S.R., in 1952.
Kennan spoke Russian and spent much of his life learning about the culture of Russia. Kennan correctly assessed the imminent threat of Russian belligerence with a containment policy designed to overtly or covertly resist unacceptable Russian policy. Kennan understood Russian culture well enough to see through the delusion of Russian communist hegemonic ambition. Kennan understood Stalin and the Russian culture. Kennan’s policy of containment led to the eventual dismantling of the U.S.S.R.
In contrast, Haqqani shows American government leaders have had little understanding of Pakistan. Haqqani provides insightful perspective on the influence different American’ leaders have had on Pakistan’s national policy. Regardless of charisma or personal strengths–culture, religion, and ethnicity are primary determinants of government policy and action. Leadership charisma and personal strength can make a difference but only within the framework of a nation’s public belief, or apathetic acceptance.
Haqqani notes that East and West Pakistan became one nation in 1945. East Pakistan chose to seek its own independence in 1971. Distance between the two Pakistans compounded ethnic and cultural differences of a single nation.
East Pakistan chose to become Bangladesh, after a genocidal attack by West Pakistan. Haqqani shows how religion, ethnicity, and distance create delusions and misunderstandings. The split between the two Pakistani’ nations reflects some of the same delusions and misunderstanding that drive America’s relationship with modern Pakistan.
Haqqani explains how a former President of Pakistan could lie to American diplomats about Pakistan’s nuclear bomb plans. Prime Minister Bhutto began developing nuclear capability in 1972 with Pakistan’s first 5 detonations in 1998.
Haqqani exposes Pakistan’s and America’s magnificent delusions. Pakistan inferred tacit approval of nuclear armament while the United States accepted Pakistani lies about use of financial and military aid; i.e. they willfully misunderstood each other’s delusions. Pakistan misunderstood Americans need for an ally. America misunderstood Pakistani’s fear of India.
Haqqani reports that Pakistani’ pursuit of nuclear bomb capability is directly related to fear of India. Pakistan fears invasion and reabsorption by India. Pakistan fears loss of the disputed border territory of Kashmir. India’s implied nuclear threat drives Pakistan to acquire nuclear bomb capability. Pakistan’s fear is compounded by a history of wars that expose Pakistan’s military and economic weakness.
Haqqani shows diplomatic policy and action is subjective. Pakistan lies to American diplomats about Pakistan’s pursuit of a nuclear bomb. Why–because lies about nuclear bomb research and development were necessary to protect Pakistan’s national interest. Haqqani infers American effort to stop Pakistan’s nuclear bomb research is a waste of time as long as fear of India is Pakistan’s preeminent concern.
Further, Haqqani shows how Pakistan’s leaders manipulated American leadership to acquire military, humanitarian, and financial aid. When President Carter offered $400,000,000 in aid, President Zia-ul-Haq rejected it as too low.
Zia-ul-Haq calculated that the Iranian hostage crises would sink Carter’s re-election prospect. Zia-ul-Haq bet that a Reagan administration would be more forthcoming with aid. He was right. Zia-ul-Haq sold the delusion of Pakistan as a bastion of defense against communism. In 1982, the Reagan administration provided $3.2 billion to Pakistan.
Haqqani reveals Pakistan’s first play of the “Jewish card” by a Muslim country. Pakistan’s President Zia-ul-Haq, in the ‘70s, suggests that Muslim countries need nuclear bomb capability to protect Arab nations from Jewish encroachment.
Pakistan had no dog in the fight of Israeli statehood but played that “card” to endear Pakistan to Arab nations. The primary objective was to get more military and financial aid from Arab countries to secure Pakistan’s border with India.
Haqqani tells the story of the coup that brought President Pervez Musharraf to power. Musharraf leads a military junta to replace Nawaz Sharif. Musharraf led a failed attempt to recover Kashmir from India but rather than accept blame for failure, he marshals the Pakistani’ military to overthrow Sharif.
Musharraf returns to the widely accepted belief of Pakistanis that India plans to re-absorb Pakistan. He uses what Haqqani infers is a growing delusion to keep disparate ethnic Pakistanis united. Musharraf begins a new round of American appeals for assistance but is stopped short when 9/11 remakes the American/Pakistani relationship. President Bush sends a clear message to Musharraf that if Pakistan is not with America, it is against America.
Initially, Musharraf acknowledges Bush’s appeal. However, with connivance of, or complicity with the ISI, Pakistan’s secret service, Musharraf allows Pakistan to become a haven for Taliban and Al Qaida terrorists. A haven for right-wing extremism is an easier road for Pakistani’ leadership because of Pakistan’s ethnic diversity.
Pakistan’s duplicity reaches a climax with Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, a military town in Pakistan, where bin Laden hid in plain sight. Though leadership has held Pakistan’s disparate ethnicities together, it has been unable to balance internal conflicts with its crushing need for economic development and aid.
Haqqani was imprisoned for his efforts to remove the veil of obfuscation between the United States and Pakistan. He was eventually released by the Pakistani court system and allowed to leave Pakistan. “Magnificent Delusions” is a sad tale of a hard road Pakistan travels. It is a frightening explanation of growing terrorist potential of a country riven by social, economic, and ethnic conflict.
An ambassador that understands the culture of a country he/she is sent to is the greatest protection from delusion and misunderstanding between host and sponsor countries. “Magnificent Delusions” is an excellent primer for aspiring ambassadors.