February 24, 2011

America Choosing Fear Over Love in Raymond Davis Crisis

The rumors of Raymond Davis’s occupation have no bottom. Given rumors that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has stopped providing information on the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba, two groups clandestinely financed by the ISI, some reports have Davis selecting targets for the CIA’s drone fleet. Other U.S.-friendly reports have the former Special Operations agent and Blackwater employee as a simple bodyguard for CIA counterparts. He’s even a candidate for the CIA’s temporary chief after Pakistan’s media outed its former occupant.

Few would blink were Davis eventually revealed as an alien. And judging by recent events in Oman, Davis’s case may descend into deeper madness rather than restore sanity to U.S.-Pakistani relations.

An interesting development has unfolded in America’s war in Afghanistan. While the Pentagon hails its progress en route to obliterating President Barack Obama’s July 2011 withdrawal deadline, Pakistan has quietly fallen out of the picture. Deemed crucial to success during Washington’s policy reviews, the country tends to recede once the U.S. military argues its case for “progress.” With Pakistan unwilling to act on command in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), recent military success is largely attributed to U.S. Marines in the south and Special Operations night-raids. Pentagon officials have given up on North Waziristan, at least publicly, now claiming an operation isn’t vital to America’s war in Afghanistan.

In short, Pakistan serves to scapegoat U.S. shortfalls during times of intense political pressure, while simultaneously discarding the baggage Islamabad brings to Washington’s strategy.

But privately, the U.S. military is extremely concerned about Pakistan’s ability to contribute to Afghanistan before and after July 2011. Sending the whole lineup to Oman, the Pentagon’s highest authorities have stepped in to settle Davis’s case out of court. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. David Petraeus, commander of International Security Assistance Force, Adm. Eric Olson, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, and Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, commander of U.S. Central Command, all met with Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan’s chief of army staff, and Maj. Gen. Javed Iqbal, director general of military operations.

Although the meeting was planned in advance, it came be viewed as a means of “restoring calm” to a volatile situation. Naturally U.S. officials walked away brimming with optimism. But it wouldn’t be the first time the Pentagon disregarded Pakistan’s sovereignty and popular opinion.

"The militaries will now brief and guide their civilian masters and hopefully bring about a qualitative change in the US-Pakistan Relationship by arresting the downhill descent and moving it in the right direction,” says one official involved with the meetings. "The idea is to find a solution whereby the Davis incident does not hijack the U.S.-Pakistan relationship.”

In other words, the U.S. military will once again conspire around Pakistan’s civilian leadership and public to obtain favorable results from themselves. Who exactly is the “master” again?

The most probable outcome, according to this anonymous official, is Davis’s exchange for a proper investigation, along with payment to the victims’ families. An immediate problem according to Mohammad Waseem, brother of victim Mohammad Faheem: "Davis deserves no pardon... We knew from day one that he was working for the CIA and Blackwater.”

Waseem's thinking represents the dilemma currently obstructing America’s continuation of policy in Pakistan. Two sets of relationships are actually competing against each other: the U.S.-Pakistani military relationship and the relationship between Pakistanis and the U.S. government. The first dynamic has long been, and continues to be, maintained at the expense of the second. At the macro level, Davis represents the future of all personnel of his type, quasi-diplomatic contractors that surely roam other countries as well.

That Washington is fighting so absolutely for Davis is logical in this regard. The Special Operatives directive at work was authored by none other than Petraeus.

But at the micro level of Afghanistan and Pakistan, the U.S. military and CIA is protecting their means to wage war by sacrificing a necessary component of “winning” a counterinsurgency. While U.S. officials such as Mullen readily admit the continual downward trajectory of America’s image in Pakistan, the Pentagon and CIA nonetheless blame the ISI for turning Davis into a media sensation. In fact the U.S. media knew of Davis’s identity and concealed it in deference to Washington, which didn’t want Davis’s background surfacing in Pakistan. The White House realized the inflammatory nature of his CIA/Blackwater background and tried to hide it until he could be extracted.

"It's a spy game being played out in the media and the CIA has told the ISI to cut it out," one official warned, yet Pakistan’s media didn’t have to fan self-propelling flames. The Obama administration wouldn’t be in this position had it not continued to run roughshod over Pakistan’s sovereignty, destroying the government’s credibility with the people and bringing the situation to its present stalemate. Thus U.S. officials, after claiming to understand the hypersensitivity in Pakistan, blame the crisis on Islamabad.

They must not understand as much as they think.

Since this tactic failed - what a shock - the Pentagon will once more usurp Pakistan’s civilian authority through its military’s backdoor. Some Pakistani analysts have welcomed the move and justifiably so - they usually lack any confidence in the PPP government. But resolving this individual case in a vacuum is going to create collateral damage in the streets.

The Pentagon is acting as though it doesn't expect additional military operations out of Islamabad, because Washington is making them impossible to sell to an already skeptical public.

Washington seems to have given up rather easily on “hearts and minds.” Two militaries can force their governments to kiss and make up, a scenario that may play out in the end, while the CIA and ISI can reset their "rules of the game." However this “resolution” only clears a small block to U.S. interests. Pakistan’s political sphere will remain indebted with complications from Davis, especially if he receives lenient treatment in America. And U.S. officials will go on complaining of Pakistan’s internal dynamics, one disastrous public relations impacting counterinsurgency on the regional level.

At this point the White House is the only entity believing Davis to be a diplomat, and it probably doesn’t buy its own story. All the more reason why Pakistanis won’t. The truth is out on Davis. If America expects to free him without consequences - and by the Pentagon’s intervention no less - it will keep choosing to be feared rather than loved in Pakistan.

And Machiavelli didn’t wage many counterinsurgencies in his day.


  1. I doubt that Davis was the first.
    Or that he will be the last.
    The Pak ISI has some very difficult decisions to make.
    The West is losing their "decider" status at every turn.

    Libya concerns me.
    I fear that it is not as simple as it seems.
    Will the West make a stand in Libya so that it does not spread into Saudi Arabia?

  2. Algeria, Libya's neighbor, may be the more immediate concern for America and Europe. Obama's main problem is how weakly he supported the Egyptian people. By not standing up strongly then, Obama has limited himself when addressing America's enemies due to the perceived hypocrisy. But I do expect military action at some point. Air support and ground funding to Libya's opposition may be enough to decapitate Gaddafi, although his vacuum may prove more challenging to contain than Mubarak's or Saleh's.