FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
Ownership of war? Political or military
Posted:Jan 24, 2018
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
By Muhammad Ali Ehsan
 
We have won many battles but the war is still not won. The military method of winning the war is to nail things down, to wrap and close options unlike politics and those who conduct it. They try to juggle with conflicting concerns, keep options open, unwrap and unfold all options for political discussions and strive in all directions yet seek a politically rewarding near-term solution.
 
Sadly, the problem with the irregular war that this country is fighting for a long time is that over the years it has ceased to remain an extension of politics. Military operations have been driving the policy instead of serving it and thus the war has been creating a military momentum of its own. There was no North Waziristan operation until General Raheel Sharif decided to initiate it in June 2014. There was no visible coherent, consistent and direct translation of civil-military preferences into military plans and action — until the Army Public School Peshawar incident of December 2014 forced the political conscience of a polarised political system to succumb to the possibility of a joint sitting to draft and approve a national action plan. Still, regardless of the current political chaos and the ‘attention diverting political activities’ the military is doing everything possible not to allow internal as well as external circumstances and pressures to undermine the very purpose for which this war is being fought.
 
As a student of art and science of war it is not difficult to deduce that the irregular war that our military fights today is not a servant of politics. Not because it cannot be and it will not be, but only because it has been fought and mastered for a long time now by the generals unhindered and uninterrupted by politicians who every time they come to power are most adapt to securing and enlarging their political positions, political space and political power rather than reaching out to the military to introduce and devise a joint strategic framework to secure the nation-state, its citizens, its economy and even its institutions.
 
If intrusion means ‘putting oneself deliberately into a place or situation where one is unwelcome and uninvited’, then the question that we must ask today is who has intruded whom? — Politics upon war or war upon politics? The civilian control over military is idealised but if war is understood in the language of the famous military theorist Carl Von Clausewitz ‘as a political act’, then it’s not the civilian but the political control over the military that terminates war into a political act. Not the ‘civilian’ but the all-encompassing ‘democratic political control’ that should be responsible for a country’s strategic decision-making — including the decisions on the political objectives of the war. If democracy suffers in this country so does the irregular war that the nation fights. Castigated and reprimanded recently by a strong candidate (Imran Khan) for the position of prime minister in 2018, the Pakistan parliament will only be able to exercise ‘democratic political control’ over the military if its members serve their individual conscience as much as they serve the dictates of their political parties.
 
In the day of instant media, the civil-military leadership seems more inclined to use media’s services to push forward or backwards each other’s concerns — this is being done through selective leaks and the most prominent of them in the civil-military context in the recent past has been the Dawn Leaks. Fashioned to draw favourable civilian or military response these leaks are mere manipulations designed to do the bidding of either of the two stakeholders. The political motive is the public disclosure and revelation of any military attempts to insert itself in politics. Military motive for any leaks would be to reluctantly highlight as a last resort any civilian decision that is regarded and judged as ‘dangerous’ for national security. Although from the military perspective and its Pakistan Military Academy’s Ingall Hall inscribed motto of ‘honour, duty and country’ the choice before any military leader should be simple — either live with the civilian decision and carry it out (not a popular choice) or if the decision is bad (dangerous) for our national security, publicly resign and state the reasons in the resignation letter. Working the system by utilising leaks to build political pressure to force the civilians to change the decision is not the military way, that teaches its officers right at the outset in the military academy not only to keep their uniforms but their honour and their institution’s honour wrinkle-free.
 
Interestingly, today armies trained to fight conventional warfare are shifting to execute more and more counterinsurgency, counterterrorism and nation-building operations. This shift leaves little room for generals to make themselves legends like Patton and McArthur. As a consequence of this shift the theatre of war is reduced and limited to internal boundaries and thus it’s not the massive military operations at grand scale but small tactical battles put together that will determine the outcome of this war. Under this military scenario the visible physical space that the military occupies has its importance but it is the greater political space that the political leadership must occupy through its political control, politics and exercise of executive power. For politicians to achieve this military operations cart must not be tied ahead of the political horse.
 
Unfortunately, a country that is fighting an existential war has too lessen a political patronage on the battlefield to guide the course of war. War preferences are to be debated on the negotiating table before they are translated into military actions on the battlefield. Without the presence of politics (policy) that oversees military plans the military will continue winning us the military battles but would not be able to estimate the culminating point of victory or know how to get out of this war by determining an exit strategy — in this irregular war that we fight this remains the domain of politics.
 
Lastly, comparing the permanent presence of political leadership compared to the three years’ tenure of the military commander our former president Asif Zardari had famously said, “We are here to stay, you are here only for three years.” Now that one looks at the current political environment in the country from the military’s perspective it seems that the military is more than glad that the Constitution of Pakistan ensures that the political leadership is possibly turned over every five years at the executive level through the process of elections. The military as an institution that stays in place so does parliament — what is likely to change is the occupiers of the parliamentary seats. Maybe with it will change the ownership of war — more political than military.
 
The Express Tribune, January 25, 2018
 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

Disclaimer: South Asia Monitor does not accept responsibility for the views or ideology expressed in any article, signed or unsigned, which appears on its site. What it does accept is responsibility for giving it a chance to appear and enter the public discourse.
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
spotlight image Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Housing and Urban Affairs, Hardeep Singh Puri, is a former top diplomat who retired as India's Permanent Representative at the United Nations. In his new political avatar, as an important minister in the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Puri told INDIA REVIEW & ANALYSIS that
 
read-more
Aimed at consolidating cooperation between the armed forces of India and Saudi Arabia and explore new avenues of defence cooperation, Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee and Naval Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba, visited Saudi Arabia on from 4-8 February 2018, writes Anil Bhut
 
read-more
Campus placement season is here and the news is that graduates from the top campuses in India, especially the IITs, have received six figure pay packets and job offers in the US. However, looking beyond the top 200 engineering schools in India, pay packets are not looking too promising. The reason is the emergence of new engineering sc
 
read-more
Since the NDA government converted the ‘Look East’ Policy to the ‘Act East’ policy, there has been a greater sense of strategic engagement with the ASEAN, writes Gurjit Singh
 
read-more
The UN will be making contacts with Maldives leaders in response to the request by the opposition leaders for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to oversee the all-party talks proposed by that nation's President Abdulla Yameen, Guterres's Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said Friday.
 
read-more
Bangladesh is disaster prone country because of its conical shape. The risk of climate change, drought, flood and natural disaster has increased uncertainty of agricultural production, which has also increased the level of food insecurity in the country, writes Minhazur Rahman Rezvi
 
read-more

The Indian government is undertaking a project to enhance and install infrastructures related to trade and customs along its northeastern frontier, that include trading points with Bhutan.

 
read-more

Society for Policy Studies in association with India Habitat Centre held a lecture in the “2022: The India We Seek”

 
read-more
Column-image

Title: Do We Not Bleed?: Reflections of a 21-st Century Pakistani; Author: Mehr Tarar; Publisher: Aleph Book Company; Pages: 240; Price: Rs 599

 
Column-image

From antiquity, the Muslim faith has been plagued by the portrayal of Muslim men regularly misusing this perceived “right” to divorce their wives instantly by simply uttering “talaq” thrice.

 
Column-image

'Another South Asia!' edited by Dev Nath Pathak makes a critical engagement with the questions about South Asia: What is South Asia? How can one pin down the idea of regionalism in South Asia wherein inter-state relations are often char...

 
Column-image

Book: A Time of Madness; Author: Salman Rashid; Publisher: Aleph; Price: Rs 299; Pages: 127

 
Column-image

Book: Why I Am A Hindu; Author: Shashi Tharoor; Publisher: Aleph Book Company; Pages: 302; Price: Rs 699