Eye on Pakistan

“In Pakistan,” C. Christine Fair, AM’97, explains in her perceptive new book, the army is “the supreme manager of the state’s affairs.” An erudite and original contribution to the literature about the region, Fighting to the End takes a close look at several decades’ worth of the Pakistan military’s defense publications to explore its shifting regional strategy and threat assessments. The enduring rivalry with India, she argues, has been at the core of the army’s most consequential decisions – and goes a long way toward explaining the state’s chronic instability.

Rooted in ideology rather than security interests, the army’s regional strategy is aimed at correcting a perceived power imbalance with its more dominant neighbor. This has led to repeated attempts to recapture Kashmir through direct and indirect conflict, support for Islamist and non-Islamist proxies and a nuclear weapons program that enables risk-taking. Fair, an assistant professor in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University, is not sanguine about the near-term prospects for change in the Pakistan military’s “strategic culture.” Her book offers a valuable corrective to policymakers and diplomats who advocate for engagement on the basis of strengthening security. We must, she concludes, “adopt an attitude of sober realism about the possible futures for Pakistan and the region it threatens.” 

Mark Sorkin


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