Saving Pakistan one dowry at a time
By Christian Brose I only just got around to reading the testimony on Pakistan that Gen. Dave Barno (ret.) gave along with Dave Kilcullen recently. Barno states the crux of the problem nicely: At root, neither the [Pakistani] Army nor the paramilitary Frontier Corps has serious incentive to improve its ability to fight against the very ...
I only just got around to reading the testimony on Pakistan that Gen. Dave Barno (ret.) gave along with Dave Kilcullen recently. Barno states the crux of the problem nicely:
At root, neither the [Pakistani] Army nor the paramilitary Frontier Corps has serious incentive to improve its ability to fight against the very people who, in reality, comprise the recruiting ground for many of its rank and file soldiers. In a military socialized from day one to see India as the existential threat to the nation, stepping away from that ingrained outlook … is an immense and unwelcome change. Moreover, in an Army that has become more religious, more culturally sympathetic to the extremists and more anti-American, simply receiving more American training equipment and advice is unlikely to change the dynamics of battlefield success on the ground.
It just so happens that I was talking about this very question of incentives yesterday with my friend and former State Department colleague Dan Markey. He is a first-rate South Asia expert, now at CFR, where he recently authored this very sharp paper, "From AF-Pak to Pak-Af." I had invited Pakistan experts to critique my last post pondering a containment of Pakistan, and well … careful what you wish for.
Dan made a very good and often overlooked point about the linkage between will and capability. If the Pakistani government is convinced that India, not violent extremism, is their key existential threat, there’s little we can offer in the way of incentives (financial, materiel, or diplomatic) to change their mind — not nothing, but little. Dan’s point was that a lack of will can also stem from a lack of capability. It’s simple, really: If you get your butt kicked in fight after fight after fight, sooner or later you are going to stop fighting. Hence the bad deals that Pakistani leaders have repeatedly cut with the Taliban. Of course, it doesn’t necessarily follow that an increased capacity to fight terrorism will lead to a greater willingness to do so. But it’s not likely to hurt those those odds.
What’s more, Dan added, there are some interesting ideas floating around the Pakistan policy-wonk community about how else to create better incentives for the Pakistani government to take its own side in a fight. The most intriguing to me could only be called "dowry assistance." In essence, this would be a guarantee for Pakistani police officers that, in the event they were killed in action, their daughters would have respectable dowries. Nothing like this now exists, and the resulting behavior isn’t hard to predict: Any man would be inherently reluctant to fight an enemy that is better motivated and often better armed than he is, but doubly so if his death also meant his wife and children would be left destitute. This "dowry assistance" could be one component of a broader life insurance plan for Pakistan’s police.
It’s unclear whether the U.S. government is allowed to provide such assistance, and if so, how. But of all the bad ways we have (and likely will continue) to spend money in Pakistan, this sounds like a pretty good one.
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