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Strategic leadership and statecraft ( Part – III )

In Chinese thinking the strategic discourse is more holistic and integrated than segmented just as is the case with its medical, political and philosophical traditions. Chinese history and strategic thinking are, of course, replete with zero-sum games of deceit, outsmarting, outmaneuvering, psychology, prevailing over superior numbers, etc.

But all of this is integrated into a larger harmony as the condition for longer-term success and the bestowal and preservation of the Mandate of Heaven. When this harmony is broken and policies are segmented and stove-piped, all the short-term successes add up to nothing – as has frequently happened in Chinese history – and the Mandate of Heaven is withdrawn.

The US cajoles, bullies, coerces and sanctions Pakistani governments into submission and reluctant cooperation. China achieves much more by investing in the prospect of shared prosperity and security for the people of Pakistan. It retains a relative advantage over the US despite the equivocation and unreliability of Pakistan’s ruling elites. It demonstrates superior strategic leadership.

Pakistan’s policies, whether external or domestic have, by and large, been an extended series of short-term policies that never add up to a coherent and successful longer-term policy. That is strategic incoherence. This is because statecraft or good governance has been missing. In these circumstances, strategic leadership remains an aspiration divorced from reality.

Economically, Pakistan has statistically done reasonably well with an externally dependent and colonially structured economy that has little or no prospect of domestically generating longer-term stability, security, prosperity and well-being for its people. Its massive informal economy has so far enabled it to survive as a low-level equilibrium economy. But this will not be for much longer because the youth and the poor of Pakistan are no longer ready to eke out their lives at the point of a gun and the bottom of the barrel.

These weaknesses have fed into every aspect of Pakistan’s national policies including its foreign, security and strategic policies. The progressive militarization of national decision-making based on a fundamentally underdeveloped economy that is not allowed to be radically reformed, re-structured and developed by its ruling power elites has further exacerbated its strategic disadvantage. In these circumstances, discussions on statecraft and strategy become little more than intellectual entertainment and sterile discourse.

Where do we go from here? The newly elected government has made several electoral pledges drafted by experts to attract voters which are destined for the waste-paper basket. The establishment as usual promises to ‘turn over a new leaf’ after each change of government. But as British philosopher A C Grayling observes, if each page has the same text, then the book has only one page which may be turned over as often as you like but remains the same.

In his last book, ‘The Age of Artificial Intelligence’, written when he was 97 years old, Kissinger talks of how AI will radically alter the parameters of statecraft and strategic policy. He says AI is “integrating non-human intelligence into the basic fabric of human activity.” Decision-making will take place at speeds faster than human thought and the amount of information integrated into decision-making will be several orders more than what the human brain can contain. AI-assisted network platforms that will outthink human decision-making.

Whether this will supersede occidental and oriental strategic thinking and warfare, and whether it will enable the international community to come together to avert the elimination of human civilization by the human misuse of non-human intelligence is today what a former US defence secretary called “a known unknown”. Every country, including Pakistan, has a role to play in such a collective existential endeavor.

In conclusion, what should statecraft and strategic leadership require of Pakistan? It has to first become viable to have any statecraft or strategy worth the name. The elected government should be held strictly accountable for the pledges it has glibly made. No excuses should be brooked.

Electoral pledges should be time-lined. The prime minister must regularly brief the nation on national TV on the progress being made. He must similarly interface with the people, including media commentators, experts, scholars, women, teachers, etc. on TV to ascertain their assessments of progress about his pledges.

Questions will need to focus on a whole series of radical structural and tax reforms to ensure transfers of income from the 10 per cent of richest families and corporations to finance the provision of basic needs and services to the poorest 90 per cent of the population. This can ensure rapid progress towards debt-free development and escape from IMF structural adjustment programmes and foreign investments that threaten economic sovereignty through one-sided SIFC investment protection agreements. Currently, administration, military, debt servicing and repatriation of profits and loans leave practically nothing for development expenditures which are financed by deepening the fatal debt trap.

Pakistan’s experience demonstrates that none of this will even begin to happen as long as the people remain passive, resigned, uninformed, unorganized, divided and incapable of developing nationwide grassroots movements and political parties that represent their interests, and are not led by essentially uneducated politicians thousands of times richer than themselves.

Today, political leaders and parties are by and large jointly arrayed against the people. Musical chairs at the top of the political food chain accompanied by phony displays of mutual hostility are the name of the game and the establishment is its impresario. All this will need to change. Once a legitimate political order is established, the whole range of domestic and external policies can be rooted in the priorities of the people. The exhilarating task of devising, discussing, implementing, reviewing and revising such policies can become the mission of a lifetime for a whole nation.

Pakistan will progressively become a strategic player instead of an object of strategic play. This will change the political culture of the country, raise the quality of life for its citizens, elevate Pakistan to the rank of the more successful and respected developing nations, enable it to cope with the existential challenges looming over it, and enable it to exercise strategic influence and leadership. There are, however, far too many who will merely shrug their shoulders at all of the above. They are the problem.

[In memory of Dr Kissinger]


Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, "Strategic leadership and statecraft ( Part – III )," The News. 2024-03-11.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Political order , Politicians , Accountable , A C Grayling , China , Pakistan , SIFC