United States’ policy of engagement in the troubled South Asian region should be in favor of an extended engagement where the concerned countries yield benefit to us, that is commensurate with our own investment in the region. We cannot yield to the naysayers and to the pessimistic view of wrapping up our enterprise and packing up our bags. My line of thinking derives from the fundamental premise that a resolution of the many issues plaguing the region, and as a result us and every other stakeholder in the world, can only be brought about if the US stays engaged and committed for decades to come. What manner of engagement is best is open to further debate – military or diplomatic or to some extent both. Following are my chief arguments.
Lessons from Vietnam
The United States cannot afford to forget the bitter lessons of Vietnam. We left our alliances cold and the Southern region was quickly assimilated by the northern communists (Ryan, 2006). We are at a similar threshold at the present moment in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Once we withdraw, our enemy would only be too glad to chance upon a lack of security presence and re-establish.
The naysayers and those tired of the effort are quick to remind us of the billions of dollars that the United States has already committed to the region, much of it in the form of present military engagement. The naysayers also bring to the table the thousands of lives lost in the war effort, upwards of two thousand by September of 2012. However, what has been ignored is the establishment that has so far come about. The alternate scenario where our policy would have changed looking at the diminishing marginal equity of the money spent and lives lost would have been catastrophic. Extremist would have prospered and more lives back home would have been at a much greater risk.
The Road Ahead
If we listen to the naysayers we would lose all the progress we have made thus far. The road ahead in Afghanistan and the greater part of Pakistan is clearer and more predictable today that it has been at any given point of time in the past decade. Any withdrawals now will be a slur upon the zest with which our soldiers have gained all this ground. America should never withdraw and make it easier for the enemy to re-group and organize, for that is their wish. I, however, do not argue that a sustained military effort alone would be a panacea for the region and its problems.
Diplomacy, Not Force Alone
Following in a traditional carrot and stick approach, the United States should use fear of aggression more than the act of aggression itself. Ensuring that fear persists, we must be aggressive at times as well. The approach has worked in Pakistan where last year the Taliban had swarmed the country beyond the North West Frontier Province all the way south up to Swat Valley (Khan, 2011). A direct military offensive would have been extremely counter-productive in that the money involved and lives lost would be significant factors. Instead, arm twisting the government and the military generals of Pakistan ensured the counter-terrorism effort was heralded by the Pakistani army, known for its collusion with militants in the region. This kept us out of the mess and the war was not as entrenched as it could have been had foreign forces been engaged. This kind of a diplomatic effort and success is not remotely possible if it were not for the proximity of the many American bases and NATO forces and the looming shadow of threat they posed.
Like Pakistan, Like Afghanistan: Rethinking Government
One of the factors working for the NATO led coalition and the United States forces are that the situation is not very different in either country. Beset with militancy, the regions problems are common and quite literally, the border is non-existent. The difference however is concentration of power in the case of Pakistan, which the United States has identified and uses to manipulate: for example the head of the Inter State Intelligence Services, the Chief of Army and the government establishment.
A similar approach in Afghanistan would require a diplomatic shift for the United States. In the absence of a proper governmental channel, the policy needs to recognize tribal chieftains and feudal lords – realities of the region that must be accepted if we are to make headway.
Not only are the naysayers bad for our interests in the region, so are the supremacists that are against bending policy, and are subsequently against understanding how the region actually works. The United States should not insist on dealing with governments alone because all other power entities are in any way deficient. They are what they are, because the respective people have chosen to be governed in the way. We must remember, our effort is at helping the people in the region overcome extremism, and for that to happen, we have to understand what moves them. This requires empathy. A withdrawal, much like Vietnam would be a statement in apathy.
Lessons from the Arab Spring!
While democracy has a million strengths, a weakness is that it is not possibly imposed on masses that have not come to appreciate it yet or have seen it work either. A lesson from the Arab Spring for us is that the same system does not work every time in every place. It would be a fallacy of accident to assume that way. The United States needs to reboot its policy to adapt to working with changes; at the same time waiting with the system in place, a dictatorship or a communist setup etc, while the populations wake to cherished democracy. The last thing we can do is give up and leave because some relationships may perhaps be taxing at first, but are subsequently rewarding.
India and China
Indian and Chinese companies are making forays into the region each day. Indian government and companies have pledged billions of dollars to mining and infrastructure development in Afghanistan (Najafizada, 2011). The countries have recently entered a strategic partnership agreement that seeks, interestingly Afghanistan’s first since the Soviets left. While Indian involvement is seen more as a bulwark against extremism and arch-rival Pakistan, Chinese involvement is more commercially oriented. Chinese companies are betting big on the vast mineral and oil wealth of Afghanistan (Neuhof, 2012). China-Pakistan relations are more cordial and warm, in the backdrop of a common rival, India.
For example, China provides immense military aid to Pakistan and finds it in its interest to foment regional rivalries. Therefore we see a trend of engagement at whatever feasible level possible because it is in the interest of the respective countries. Against the backdrop of this coagulation, the United States must seek alliances in the region to further its interests. If we were to disengage our influence would wane and interests would be left stranded. In a way, we have paved the road for all this development to happen. There has been no mining for years in the region nor would there be any, if it were not for the relative stability we provided.
Policy in the Middle East
The present government’s policy of disengagement in the middle east is a poor example or model to follow in the case of Afghanistan and Pakistan (or even the middle east). We are seeing a waning American influence. A complete lack of governance in the region has given a clean chit to extremists from all over the region to freely travel across borders and group. Militants belonging to Al Qaeda and other sinister networks are finding it easy to organize and grow. In an unfortunate climax of these developments, we saw our ambassador to Libya murdered at the hands of these very extremists, kept at bay for decades by American plants and dictators. The erstwhile foreign policy also ensured peace in the region by safeguarding the interests of our closest allies like Israel and Saudi Arab.
The motivation behind enabling “freedom fighters” may have been good, and seen as a first step in the long road to democracy, however, we failed to check if there was enough cultural infrastructure to support an unknown institution like democracy. For example, the government currently voted to power in Egypt, the biggest country involved in the Arab Spring openly calls for Jews to be persecuted (Ephron, 2012). Such a scenario of disengagement in South Asia would jeopardize the positions of not only Israel and India – our biggest allies, but in the long run, ours as well.
The bottom line is that the United States continues to be a stakeholder in the process at play in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We believed otherwise each time we were attacked before 9/11, when we were proved wrong. There needs to be learning from the mistakes we made in the past and must realize that the best US policy in the region would be one of intellectual engagement. We cannot merely train our guns and we cannot impose a set of rules we have known to work for ourselves for any foreign region, specially one like Afghanistan and Pakistan. The United States’ Policy of Engagement in the troubled South Asia region needs tweaked from time to time.
Ephron, D. (2012, June). Morsi’s Win in Egypt Sparks Fear in Israel. The Daily Beast. Retrieved from http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/06/19/morsi-s-win-in-egypt-sparks-fear-in-israel.html
Khan, N. (2011). Taliban seizes Swat Valley hub. The Washington Times. Retrieved from http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/may/06/taliban-seizes-swat-valley-hub/?page=all
Najafizada, E. (2011, December). Indian Group Wins Rights to Mine in Afghanistan’s Hajigak. Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved from http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-12-06/indian-group-wins-rights-to-mine-in-afghanistan-s-hajigak.html
Neuhof, F. (2012). China wins first rights to drill for Afghan oil. The National. Retrieved from http://www.thenational.ae/business/energy/china-wins-first-rights-to-drill-for-afghan-oil
Ryan, D. (2006). Vietnam in Iraq: Lessons, Legacies and Ghosts. Taylor & Francis.
Letter to the Editor At the end of Unit 9, you will submit an analysis project in which you will apply and bring together all the critical thinking skills and techniques you have learned throughout the course. Your assignment is to write a “Letter to the Editor” on an issue that matters to you. There is no specific length requirement; however, a well researched editorial would be approximately 4- 8 pages, and would properly cite all sources using APA citation format. You have prepared for this Final Project throughout the term by presenting a strategic argument in your reflection paper; by analyzing newspaper articles; by presenting your viewpoint in a letter to the editor; by reporting on argument effectiveness of an advertisement or editorial cartoon; and by organizing your thoughts and source material in an outline and annotated bibliography. Review the information in Chapter 1 of your text and then you will be ready to bring together all of the skills you have learned throughout the term in a persuasive communication. You will use specific argumentative strategies to present your point of view and persuade others to accept your conclusions. You will assess your own arguments and those of opposing views for soundness and identify common fallacies. You will analyze the information in your sources for reasonableness, relevance and sufficiency. You will compose a persuasive argument and articulate your stance in a manner that is reasonable and forwards rational dialogue. In other words, you will use critical thinking to demonstrate your own views and persuade others to accept your conclusions. Your goal is to present a clear and strategic argument for a specific view point on an issue of your choice. You will also support that view by assessing the opposing viewpoints as well. Editorials are written on topics that are of interest to readers and controversial enough to persuade readers to embrace a specific viewpoint. An editorial piece is not the same as researched news reporting; rather, it is an informed opinion offered to open or further rational dialogue about a specific issue. A good editorial should analyze documented arguments for and against. Your Final Project is more than merely an academic exercise, it allows you to apply the skills you’re developing to something that really matters to you as you identify fallacious arguments and compose sound arguments to support your own position. In your editorial, you will use your own ideas in the various types of argumentative styles we have studied. In addition, you will analyze the arguments with opposing views and demonstrate that you have the stronger position by identifying the fallacies we have studied to highlight the holes in opposing arguments. For guidance on writing a persuasive argument paper or on using APA citation format,