The Oil and Glory Interview: Anatol Lieven, author of Pakistan: A Hard Country

In 1989, Anatol Lieven and I traveled by road from Peshawar, Pakistan, where we were both based as correspondents, north to Chitral. From there, we intended to follow the clandestine yet well-trodden overland route by truck and horse over the border into Afghanistan and spend the fall with Ahmad Shah Massoud. One evening in Chitral, ...

555412_pakistan_142.jpg
555412_pakistan_142.jpg

In 1989, Anatol Lieven and I traveled by road from Peshawar, Pakistan, where we were both based as correspondents, north to Chitral. From there, we intended to follow the clandestine yet well-trodden overland route by truck and horse over the border into Afghanistan and spend the fall with Ahmad Shah Massoud. One evening in Chitral, word came over the BBC that Solidarity would run the new Polish government. "That's it," Lieven said. "The Berlin Wall is going to fall." That of course did happen -- three months later -- but how did Lieven know? Over the subsequent years, Lieven and I crossed paths in Azerbaijan, Chechnya and Georgia. It usually was intimidating to compete on the same ground with him. As with Pakistan, he always seemed a step ahead.

Now a professor in the Department of War Studies at King's College London, Lieven set off in 2008 back to Pakistan to research a much-needed work -- a serious but readable volume on this widely misunderstood country. So it is that this week, we get Pakistan: A Hard Country, his new book. Lieven spent much time on the ground in the Punjab, Sindh and the Northwest Frontier for this deep, often contrarian and provocative glimpse underneath Pakistan.

Lieven is in Washington at the moment on his book tour. Among his thoughts in a chat we had at the office: Fears of the Pakistan Army allowing a militant strain of Islam to take over the government are unfounded; if the U.S. opens up genuine negotiations with the Afghan Taliban, it could relax tensions with Pakistan, which, in a necessarily intermediary role, would then be a constructive rather than antagonistic partner. Pakistan's biggest problem? Not militancy, but water.

In 1989, Anatol Lieven and I traveled by road from Peshawar, Pakistan, where we were both based as correspondents, north to Chitral. From there, we intended to follow the clandestine yet well-trodden overland route by truck and horse over the border into Afghanistan and spend the fall with Ahmad Shah Massoud. One evening in Chitral, word came over the BBC that Solidarity would run the new Polish government. "That’s it," Lieven said. "The Berlin Wall is going to fall." That of course did happen — three months later — but how did Lieven know? Over the subsequent years, Lieven and I crossed paths in Azerbaijan, Chechnya and Georgia. It usually was intimidating to compete on the same ground with him. As with Pakistan, he always seemed a step ahead.

Now a professor in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, Lieven set off in 2008 back to Pakistan to research a much-needed work — a serious but readable volume on this widely misunderstood country. So it is that this week, we get Pakistan: A Hard Country, his new book. Lieven spent much time on the ground in the Punjab, Sindh and the Northwest Frontier for this deep, often contrarian and provocative glimpse underneath Pakistan.

Lieven is in Washington at the moment on his book tour. Among his thoughts in a chat we had at the office: Fears of the Pakistan Army allowing a militant strain of Islam to take over the government are unfounded; if the U.S. opens up genuine negotiations with the Afghan Taliban, it could relax tensions with Pakistan, which, in a necessarily intermediary role, would then be a constructive rather than antagonistic partner. Pakistan’s biggest problem? Not militancy, but water.

Enjoy the video.

<p> Steve LeVine is a contributing editor at Foreign Policy, a Schwartz Fellow at the New America Foundation, and author of The Oil and the Glory. </p>

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