By Ali Imran
WASHINGTON, April 30 : Washington should work devotedly towards a two-state solution in the Middle East as well as resolution to longstanding Pakistan–India tensions for achievement of stability in the broader Islamic world, argues a new book as the U.S. seeks to move beyond the decade of Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
Author David Rohde examines implications of U.S. involvement in the post-9/11 conflicts as well as new challenges arising from unfinished Arab Spring revolutions in the book entitled “Beyond War – Reimagining American Influence in a New Middle East.”
Rohde, a winner of Pulitzer Prize, says that Washington must partner with moderates and invest in entrepreneurial ventures for creating conditions that help the cause of enduring peace and stability in the broader Middle Eastern world.
The way forward for Washington in the complex new world – where once strongmen backed by the United States are being replaced by a variety of political parties – should see revival of “traditional American diplomacy,” which should be “persistently but quietly pursued.”
“A two-state solution in Israeli-Palestine and the easing of India-Pakistan tensions are vital to stabilizing the broader Islamic world.”
Rohde, a journalist, who has worked for Reuters and The New York Times, acknowledges that neither goal would be achieved quickly “but the United States should quietly and consistently work to resolve these conflicts.”
“We cannot ignore their (the two conflicts’) core roles in sowing tensions,” he underscores in the final analysis of the book.
Rohde’s statement appears to back the argument that peace and stability hinges on removing the two long-running root-causes of militancy and the unrest in the greater Middle Eastern region.
In the book, Rohde does not dwell on Pakistan-India tensions, perhaps to focus on the central theme of his book – options for the U.S. in its policy towards the Middle East. But the two South Asian countries have fought three full-fledged wars and several conflicts revolving around Jammu and Kashmir dispute, a UN-recognized issue. Besides, Islamabad and New Delhi have serious conflicts over water issues and the menaces of state terrorism in the Indian occupied Kashmir and Pakistan-based militant attacks on India. Analysts believe lasting peace and stability in South Asian cannot be achieved without settlement of political and security issues between the two nuclear neighbors.
While working on a book, Rohde along with his two local associates escaped Taliban captivity eight months after the militants kidnapped him in November 2008 from Kabul. In the book, he thanks the Pakistani military officer, who allowed him onto his base in the middle of the night and helped him contact his family on phone, after Rohde and his Afghan associate escaped.
Particularly, Rohde looks into the U.S. engagement with Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan and faults American policy for excessive reliance on military means and drone strikes as counterterror tools.
In the chapter ‘The Rise of the Drone,’ the author draws attention to repercussions of the Obama Administration’s frequent employment of drone operations in pursuit of militant targets in Pakistan’s tribal areas and points out how they harm America’s image.
He touched on some of the themes at a presentation at the Washington’s Politics and Prose Bookstore, calling on the U.S. Administration to move away from what he calls its antiquated and militarized policies. Drones, he said, should be used only as a last resort.
The U.S., he advocated, should bring transparency to drone program, acknowledge civilian casualties when they occur and compensate the losses. “We are shooting ourselves in the foot” with these drone strikes, he told the audience in reference to harm the unilateral actions do to American interests.
As for the narrative in the United States, he feels, the media should also take adequate note of the work of moderate people in the Middle Eastern societies.
The book also looks at the emerging situations in the Middle Eastern hotspots including Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, and Libya in the context of U.S. policies toward them.
Across the region, he writes, trade and investment should be wielded as tools of long-term American influence. “Predominantly Muslim countries should no longer be viewed solely through the lens of counterterrorism.”
Instead, U.S. policy makers should adopt Acumen Fund’s concept of “patient capital” and a “third way,” he says, arguing that poverty cannot be eliminated by the market alone and nor can government solely eradicate it.
Rohde notes in the book that in the end, the gravest threat to American security is “Washington’s partisanship, feeble civilian institutions, and failure to match its ambitions with its actual resources and capabilities.” And he cautions, “the world is changing, but Washington is not.”
The writer punctuates his observations with a series of actual events, conversations, descriptions, crises, and diplomatic developments as a way to throw light on drawbacks in both the leadership of the Muslim countries and the U.S. approach to dealing with new emerging realities.
“The central lesson that emerges from America’s decade in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan is that sweeping change is not possible without reliable partners in local governments. Even if the United States perfectly executes its policies and program, they alone will not stabilize countries. Nations must carry out these reforms themselves.”