• Friday, August 14, 2020

Master of the Game

Discussion in 'World Affairs' started by fatman17, Aug 7, 2015.

  1. fatman17

    fatman17 PDF THINK TANK: CONSULTANT

    Messages:
    28,408
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2007
    Ratings:
    +81 / 33,012 / -0
    Country:
    Pakistan
    Location:
    Pakistan
    Master of the Game

    By Ejaz Haider 5 AUGUST 2015



    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who will guard the guards themselves?)

    — Juvenal, Satires

    “The civil-military challenge is to reconcile a military strong enough to do anything the civilians ask with a military subordinate enough to do only what civilians authorise.”

    — Peter D. Feaver

    On May 16, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) suggested to TV channels that Lt.Gen Naveed Mukhtar, Corps Commander, Karachi, was going to address a National Defence University seminar, attended by the city’s elite and business community, and it would be helpful if the channels could telecast his speech live.

    Every channel did.

    Mukhtar, a rather well-spoken officer in an age when the English language is not a strong suit of military officers, barring exceptions, made no bones about what ailed the city – a crumbling, atrophying megalopolis of over 20 million people – if guesstimates are to be believed.

    His speech was declared by most observers of the scene to be directed at the political actors in Karachi, notably the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the city’s strongest political actor, and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which rules Sindh and has acquired notoriety for being remarkably dysfunctional and corrupt.

    PEMRA’s ‘request’ for live telecast of the speech and the speech’s content were clear proof, if one were required, of who steers important policy matters in Pakistan. Mukhtar’s speech followed earlier comments, staccato, compared to his explication, by the Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif. Observers were convinced that the General Headquarters (GHQ) had decided that the city, Pakistan’s financial hub, needed to be cleansed of its criminal and disruptive elements, regardless of their genesis and affiliations.

    Whether that can, or will be done, is a separate debate and outside the scope of this piece. What’s important is that since the beginning of Operation Zarb-e-Azb a year ago and, later, during the sit-ins by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), the army has, masterfully, managed perceptions to show that it is the only organisation that thinks nationally and has the capability to deliver results. But the exercise in perceptions management is as much about signalling the inefficiencies of the civilian principals as it is about priding itself on its own ability to multi-task. In fact, it achieves the desired result by showing the contrast and, unless one were trained to think rationally and go beneath the surface, the contrast does appear very obvious and, often, stark.

    The important point in the new strategy, to show the civilians up for the nincompoops they are, is that it is not crude. For instance, during the PTI-PAT sit-ins, there was much speculation about when the army would take over. The speculation missed the point since it presupposed the old strategy of the army to send in elements of the 111 Brigade to take over PTV and Radio Pakistan buildings and other important buildings on Islamabad’s Constitution Avenue.

    That was not to be and, unless something very drastic happens, won’t be. And yet, the takeover is complete. The army sits at the high table and it dictates its terms. The civilians can either take it or lump it. That they choose to meekly submit to the army’s advice is what ensures the form of democracy. As for the substance of it, there wouldn’t be much even if the army weren’t on the scene. But, that too, is another debate.

    Corollary: it works fine for both sides.

    The army is smart enough to let the civilians be seen to be in the driver’s seat even as it navigates the bus. This way, if and when something goes wrong, people will hold the civilians responsible. In other words, the army can rule without being subjected to direct responsibility for any action. Whoever said that one could not have one’s cake and eat it, too, obviously was not thinking about the Pakistani army.

    The civilians are taking the hit on economy. But not many would pause to realise that it is these very policies, foreign and security, as directed by the army, which continue to trap the country in a poor economic cycle. Not just that, military-directed policies also shrink the space for the civilians to handle foreign and security policies and threats through means other than military.

    India, where Narendra Modi’s government has been particularly poisonous towards Pakistan, is a case in point. The army has carefully crafted and directed perceptions towards a confrontation, given the confrontational tone emanating from New Delhi. The fact, however, is that atmospherics can be improved by using non-military means, including by movement on the trade front. But that’s a closed chapter, despite the fact that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is deeply interested and invested in trade with India and appointed one of the best in his team, Khurram Dastgir Khan, as commerce minister.

    It’s easy to manage perceptions on India because the Modi government, unlike the Vajpayee and Singh governments, thrives on challenging Pakistan directly. As things stand, relations with India are going to go from bad to worse. Ironically, that impacts Islamabad’s relations with Kabul, despite genuine efforts by President Ashraf Ghani to improve the optics and substance of relations through a three-phase, short- to medium- to long-term engagement.

    That window, too, is closing. With the Taliban launching an intense spring-summer offensive, this has been the bloodiest year of fighting in Afghanistan. Ghani’s political risk at home is increasing exponentially and unless Pakistan moves fast to give him operational space, the downward spiral will not be stopped.

    Both areas are crucial for the Pakistan Army. But lest it be misunderstood: The army is not being villainous. It is reacting and acting to these developments. The problem is that as managers of violence, their kitty does not have non-military solutions. That is the job of the civilians and the civilians have already conceded space to the army. The army, like all large-scale bureaucratic organisations, is afflicted with bounded rationality and systematic foolishness. Not because the officers are stupid but because organisations ‘satisfice’ rather than ‘optimise’. They are essentially tactical in problem-solving and they go sequentially rather than looking at the broader picture and understanding the imperative of simultaneity.

    At home, it’s the same story. General Sharif has been presented as a man of action. He went into North Waziristan without the hemming and hawing of former army chief, General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani. Great. But an operation with limited objectives that has already taken a year was presented, from the word go, as a final showdown between the state and the terrorists. Now, the focus is not on hard questions but notions of chivalry, the heart-warming songs, the symbolism of the flag and the state et cetera. All of which is very well, except it doesn’t proffer answers and it begs too many questions — questions that very few are prepared to ask because they begin to clear up the smokescreen that will show the army up for its own limitations, no less remarkable than the inefficiencies of the politicians.

    No one knows how the operation has been conducted. What exactly were the objectives? How much has been achieved and what remains? What operational techniques were employed? Has the fighting been discriminate? How long will it take for the IDPs to return, if at all? This is not even an exhaustive list.

    imagesThe painful irony of all this is that perceptions have been managed cleverly. Not through, as I said, activating the 111 Brigade but through handheld gizmos, smart phones and even smarter use of social media by DG-ISPR, Maj.-Gen Asim Bajwa and his team, all of them smart, hardworking officers. I call it the Twitter coup. They work round the clock, tweeting strategically, using bots to spread messages, focusing on sacrifices rather than operational questions, providing information to those who will lap it up uncritically and cutting loose those who have an annoying habit of being critical.

    They are helped in this by many young officers who have also taken to social media and put out news and pictures of men in uniform, sacrificing their lives and being away from their loved ones, contrasting that Spartan existence with the lavish laziness and apathy of civilian rulers. And social media, especially Twitter, require this kind of bombardment. The 140-character brevity, which certainly is neither the soul of wit nor of lingerie, thrives on the attention span of pea-brained people that swarm the electronic space like flies, and is of tremendous help to anyone out to tell lies or, if he is generous, merely withhold the truth.

    Facts, subtleties, nuances and hard questions are lost, however. What is lost is the obvious, in-one’s-face fact that this is a war that killed some 2,000 Americans but has ended up killing more than 55,000 Pakistanis. If this is our idea of grand strategy and victory against real and ghost enemies then we need to revisit it badly.

    Civil-military relations theories have amassed a huge corpus of literature since Samuel Huntington wrote The Soldier and the State. But what the army has managed to do in the last year-and-a-half is employ a strategy that no civ-mil theorist has ever written about — or could possibly have conceived.

    Why? Because it is essentially a takeover without a physical takeover and it is underpinned by perceptions management through a clever use of social media. If anything, in the years to come, the Pakistan Army’s use of social media will become a case study.
     
  2. AUz

    AUz ELITE MEMBER

    Messages:
    8,316
    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2010
    Ratings:
    +29 / 13,903 / -44
    Country:
    Pakistan
    Location:
    United States
    The war killed 2000 Americans because the war wasn't fought in America! Had it been fought on American continental plates, and Pakistan Army was deployed there thousands of miles away from homeland--I can assure Mr Haider that the ratio of deaths would have been lopsided towards America.

    Americans only have to kill few commanders and destroy select targets. Pakistan, with vastly less resources, has to face a full-spectrum of insurgency in its cities, villages, and towns---and that insurgency gets fueled by outside powers and events beyond Pakistan's control.

    Sure, operational lessons should be learned. Mistakes should be analyzed. Amends should be made. Pakistan Army, as a fighting force and as an institution, should grow stronger from this war. But lets not discuss these important issues at the wrong time.

    The war is not over yet. Once its over. Stability returns in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Political turmoil withers away and democracy matures in Pakistan--then we can sit down and talk about operational shortcomings of a military that is over-stretched, under-funded, fighting at multiple fronts, and has to take care of gang violence in Lyari as well!
     
  3. Arsalan

    Arsalan THINK TANK CHAIRMAN

    Messages:
    18,150
    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2008
    Ratings:
    +66 / 22,620 / -1
    Country:
    Pakistan
    Location:
    Pakistan
    Nice read, will love to have your personal views on this one :)

    Do you think it is the start of mud slinging on armed forces? We have seen in past as well, the new army chief is praised in all circles when he begins his tenure, is presented as the savior of the nation. Then after the first terms nears its end he is given an extension and in the second term he becomes the villain. Have seen it happen to Gen. Musharaf, to Gen Ashfaq Pervaiz! Now will this be the turn of Gen. Raheel Sharif? I know there is no extension as yet but still what do you think sir? it is the start of the same blame game and mud slinging on the armed forces or this article is a one off example OR is it anything else?
     
  4. Panther 57

    Panther 57 PROFESSIONAL

    Messages:
    2,534
    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2013
    Ratings:
    +22 / 2,556 / -0
    Country:
    Pakistan
    Location:
    Pakistan
    The script clearly indicates that the author wants to write against army but cannot because their achievements. The article is full of self contradictions. For example:

    Is it not what common man wants? Common man has always wanted this, through civil government and their bureaucrats. When it was not done by the responsible people and army gave the signal for their heart felt desire. It has been welcomed. Why should be there a hue and cry on ones own wrong doing and negligence in duty/responsibility.
    In such case calling common man pea brains is highly unjustified.

    Is it not correct that the civilian principals are inefficient? Is it not correct that at present army is doing multi tasking, which civil government has failed to do, except in the matters of misappropriating public money. If it is correct then presenting it to the nation is very well justified by those who are doing it. At least it is true rather then lies spoken by politicians.

    Aren't they nincompoops? If so then what is wrong in calling a spade a spade.

    For once the sides are changed. Politicians have been blaming army for their doing since beginning, its good that this time tables are turned.

    Civilians are taking hit on economy to achieve their political objectives. Army hasnt asked them to distribute free laptops, Neither they have instructed to establish metros at exorbitant prices.
    They haven't pushed them to take loans from IMF. All these have been done to satisfy their insatiable desire to remain in power for ever, through cheap publicity. and never ending desire to make money.


    If they are using digital technology to disseminate information and gather public support. They are smart, unlike politicians who are tweeting baseless and nonsense tweets. Hence proved that they are smarter then the politicians

    Those who create case studies are definitely with higher intelligence level in comparison to those who are not.
     
  5. VCheng

    VCheng ELITE MEMBER

    Messages:
    38,927
    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Ratings:
    +58 / 33,080 / -4
    Country:
    Pakistan
    Location:
    United States
    PDF itself is a great example of the use of social media to manage "approved" perceptions according to the lines suggested by the article.
     
  6. fatman17

    fatman17 PDF THINK TANK: CONSULTANT

    Messages:
    28,408
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2007
    Ratings:
    +81 / 33,012 / -0
    Country:
    Pakistan
    Location:
    Pakistan
    EH is ex army. Why he left the army l don't know and l don't think he is anti army per se.
    My read is this esp with references to op Zarb-e-Azb. We know the army with the help of the airforce and FC has been successful in pushing back the militants into a cul de sac called Shawal Valley. If the army is confident of its successes it should allow the media to go in and make their own observations and assessment. Personally l hate it when the reports say the claim cannot be identified by independent means.
    There have been cases of collateral damage where civilians have unfortunately been killed. The army should come clean on this topic. It's for their own good. Hiding things dosnt help their cause. After all this is a war against a invisible enemy. The US has also reluctantly admitted to army's successes. Take advantage of such.
    On the civilian side things are not so clear. The fog of war is really on civil military relations but the army cannot be faulted IMO to prod the civilians into action when it comes to matters of security internal or external. The civilians always try to obfuscate their responsibilities when the time for hard decision making is at hand. We've seen it happen many times because the civilians don't want to rock the apple cart too much.
    Finally yes the army officers of senior ranks are by and large more educated than their civilian counterparts. I haven't seen any cases of fake degrees in the armed forces. Yes there is corruption in the military but to a much lesser extent in comparison to the civilian institutions. Having said that ex army officers do tend to be more creative in their corruption.
    Whether the army has weakened the civilian institutions or the civilians have done it themselves well a lot has been written about how PIA Pakistan Steel Pakistan Railways PNSC etc have been destroyed by corruption nepotism , recruitment beyond their actual needs etc .
    Kayani once told the Americans we are playing in our own sandbox and he was vilified for being a weak general. Now the new chief is prodding the govt to take action and he is also being vilified.
    Can't win for losing in this country l guess.
     
  7. Arsalan

    Arsalan THINK TANK CHAIRMAN

    Messages:
    18,150
    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2008
    Ratings:
    +66 / 22,620 / -1
    Country:
    Pakistan
    Location:
    Pakistan
    Better then the article itself, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    I tend to agree with what you said. While i am of the view that army should not get involved in the political affairs or running of the country but should we then leave it to tatters when the elected government do nothing to help things improve? i don't think so. Yes army have been wise enough to keep there hands clean this time. There have be about half a dozen opportunities in last this and the last civilian government where army could have taken over and would have been welcomed by majority but they though better of it, remained at the sideline guiding the policies while not making and announcing them. We have had our fair share of political shaheeds and need no more, it is good that the democratic cycle continues, things will gradually improve. Till then we need the army's involvement to keep things in check and on track. It is absurd to state that it is army that is responsible for the economic issues, WE ALL know how our corrupt politicians have sold the nation and are still trying to make fool of us (still succeeding at an astonishing rate).

    Regarding the army coming clean on the ongoing operation, YES, this is a mistake by them. People know well who we are fighting in this war. They are some foreign supported local people who we cannot distinguish from our own and unfortunately they have support of some misguided local tribes/people. Fighting such a war will surely have collateral damage. While it is sad, it is a necessary evil. We cannot forget that the hundreds of thousands of innocents that these TTP goons have killed in our country were also humans and our own people, there blood was equally red as the one of civilian casualties in the operation. If these scums are not dealt with they will keep shedding blood so this had to be done, no matter at what cost. I feel sorry and sad for the locals who were effected in this operation, they were not at fault but neither were the people killed in our bazars and mosques. It is harsh but that is what it is! Army should be open about the operation, to some extent. I CANNOT trust our media to do any good but then again this is all we have to reach masses and i hope army can clarify its position on the operation and media should act with some responsibility (HIGHLY UNLIKELY). Also personally i feel army is also moving in that direction. IN past how many armed forces trails have been a public knowledge? how many times we see media and people openly talking about scandals of army and army taking action against them openly? The action against corrupt generals, NLC etc are a prime example and they make me believe that army is also moving in the right direction as far as clarity on there operation/affairs is concerned.