Tuesday, July 15, 2014

C. Christine Fair's "Fighting to the End"

C. Christine Fair holds a PhD from the University of Chicago’s Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations. She has been working in, studying, and writing about South Asia since her first trip to Pakistan, India and Nepal in 1991. She speaks Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi. Currently, she is an assistant professor in Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program within the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. Previously, she served as a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation, a political officer to the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan in Kabul, and as a senior research associate in USIP's Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention. She is also a senior fellow with the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. She has authored numerous scholarly publications and has co-edited Policing Insurgencies: Cops as Counterinsurgents (2014); Treading on Hallowed Ground: Counterinsurgency in Sacred Spaces (2008); Pakistan in National and Regional Change: State and Society in Flux (2013); Political Islam and Governance in Bangladesh (2010). When she is not thinking or writing about South Asia, she dilates upon the politics of food. In 2008, she published Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States (2008).

Fair applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army's Way of War, and reported the following:
In Fighting to the End I try to explain Pakistan’s pursuit of numerous reckless policies that include supporting jihadi proxies, engaging in nuclear proliferation, and sustaining a seemingly endless appetite for conflict with India in an effort to rest Kashmir from India. Why does Pakistan persist in these policies that imperil the very viability of the state? I argue that the answer lies, at least partially, in the strategic culture of the army which relies heavily upon Islamic themes and imagery.

Turning to page 99, the reader encounters an extended discussion of the primacy that famed Quranic battles enjoy in the Pakistan army’s professional journals. These, along with numerous expositions of the utility of jihad in an “Islamic Army” are frequent subjects of these publications. While U.S. army professional publications engage in discussions of past and present battles with the intent of understanding what went wrong or well and why, the Pakistan army’s professional publications do not engage in such analyses of their own battles. Instead, their publications focus upon military campaigns from early Muslim history.

On page 99, the reader learns about one of these articles from 1963 titled “Morale: From the Early Muslim Campaigns.” The author, Col. Bashir Ahmad, concludes his study of early Quranic battles with four lessons that he believes are important for the Pakistan army. First, “in each battle, the Muslim contingent was inferior in strength, ill-equipped, and poorly trained.” However, despite these disadvantages against their always kufar (non-Muslim) foes, they prevailed because of their “moral qualities.” Second, their moral qualities defeated the enemies’ will to fight, obviating their numerous advantages. Third, the Muslim combatants entered each battle with full knowledge that they were outmatched. However, “They came out onto the battlefield ‘only to defend the intrinsic values of their faith.’” Finally, Ahmad argues that the “main-stay of the morale of these Muslims was…the identification of life with and its subordination to the ideal: a fundamental of the faith. An army equipped with this faith will always dominate the adversary.’”

I argue that articles such as these help explain in significant measure the Pakistan army’s endless appetite for conflict with India, which these same publications construct as the kufar enemy of Islam and thus of Pakistan. These articles serve as an important morale booster for the Pakistan army as it has never won any of the wars it initiated with India in 1947, 1965 or 1999. Worse, the Indian army intervened in the civil war that was raging in East Pakistan in 1971. Within a few weeks of India’s entry into direct combat, East Pakistan was liberated and became independent Bangladesh. Due to India’s direct involvement in that war, Pakistan lost half of its territory and population.

India will always have a larger army and a bigger, faster growing economy that permits it to invest in its armed forces more than Pakistan ever will. Yet Pakistan will continue to challenge India. I contend that articles such as these help explain why the Pakistan Army is prepared to fight to the end.
Learn more about Fighting to the End at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue