When I read that Pakistan is going to spend $4-5 billion to buy submarines from China, it got me thinking about how an ancient (and Western) model of military organization stupidly rules all over the world. And how U.S. military aid to Pakistan helps it prepare for a war with India that the world hopes never to see.
The geostrategists in this theater of war-reporting will talk about money and technology and arms race and Chinese encirclement and even balance of power, throwing in pirates and maritime sovereignty for good measure. To me though, the real issue is that billions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Pakistan free up the Islamabad government to spend "its" money on war with India.
Here's how it works: Washington justifies military aid as enhancing "peace and security" and strengthening Pakistan's counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics activities, a pay-off of sorts to get it to focus on what the permanocracy thinks is important. But Pakistan's military is based upon the British model—with Army, Navy, Air Force, etc., all in the same crisp-looking uniforms, with the same ranks, even with its own "West Point" in Osama bin Laden's final resting place of Abbattobad, which was modeled on Britain's Sandhurst Academy. Big Western Powers have submarines in their navies. They use them to rule the seas and spy, play war games and be big boys. Pakistan just has to have some too.
And just as in the U.S. military, the amount of money that gets allocated to each service is often swallowed up in endless pie-making and -cutting, priorities (or even security) be damned. Each slice becomes as critical as the next, each phase of modernization a given because what's the point of have a submarine if it isn't the latest technology? For Pakistan (or any country) to break the mold is near impossible. But the arms sellers—whether American or Chinese—don't care: It's all theater.
And then there's the even more fake and unproven element of American "strategy," where the theory goes that if even more military aid is granted to Pakistan, more influence will be bought. Yet with a near unilateral U.S. hunter-killer counter-terrorism campaign inside Pakistan and a wildly porous border (after a decade-plus of payouts), can anyone really argue that the aid is achieving its central goal? You might think that this logic is obvious, but I submit no one is really looking at or challenging the systemic influences that not only keep things static but actually make them worse.
Virtually every country on the planet is stuck in some colonial model of military organization, whether it be the British, French, U.S., Russian, or even Chinese way of war. The age of the Third World and the non-aligned movement might be over, but it certainly would be interesting for someone to design a military structure that fits the actual needs of middle-sized powers and even smaller nations. Pakistan "needs" five billion dollars worth of submarines? Even Canada, with its vast Arctic ocean territory to patrol, has spent decades trying to justify such an expenditure.
Pakistan thinks it needs those submarines so that it can better wage war against India. But that would be a bloody ground war, not one that would be decided at sea. The travesty is that Pakistan could spend that same $5 billion on actual security needs (or even civil needs!). Proper allocation either way could result in real reductions in terrorism and a more healthy society. But instead it has to look like (and be) the model of the very countries that most of its citizens despise.
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[Photo: Top U.S. Navy Adm. Jonathan Greenert crosses the brow and boards a People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Type-39B submarine for a pierside tour on Lushun Naval Base, July 14, 2014. This is just the type of submarine China is selling to Pakistan; one big happy family. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Peter D. Lawlor.]