“When Realities Collide: Differing U.S.-Pakistan Threat Perceptions”

Abstract:

For more than half a century, Pakistan and the United States have found themselves partners in common crises. The U.S.-Pakistani alliance is strange, however, because both sides maintain fundamentally different and often mutually exclusive understandings of their national interests. While the United States has grown increasingly suspicious of Islamist movements, Pakistan’s ethnic diversity and a history of separatist movements have forced Pakistan to consider these movements the greater threat. Wars in Afghanistan have escalated the bilateral tension surrounding the differing threat perceptions and increased mutual distrust not only between governments, but on the popular level as well. Because Pakistan and the United States diverge so greatly on issues of national security, there is no possible compromise between the two in Afghanistan. This will lead the conflict between Pakistan and the United States to isolate until one side or the other wins its proxy war in Afghanistan.

Excerpt from chapter, “When Realities Collide: Differing U.S.-Pakistan Threat Perceptions” by Michael Rubin 

The diplomatic relationship between Pakistan and the United States is like no other: Seldom have two countries with such divergent interests, threat perceptions, and goals found themselves thrown together repeatedly in alliance. For the first decades of Pakistan‘s existence, for instance, the U.S. government saw their South Asian ally only through a Cold War lens. Successive U.S. administrations demanded Pakistani assistance against the Soviet Union, the chief U.S. security concern, but dismissed Pakistan‘s own concerns about India.

Likewise, U.S. and Pakistani leaders came to different assessments about the role of religion. Pakistan was founded upon a religious rather than ethnic identity. Even before the massive transfer of population that accompanied partition, Pakistan was remarkably diverse: Punjabis, Pashtun, Sindhis, and Baloch in West Pakistan, and Bengalis in East Pakistan. Whereas U.S. policymakers and intelligence analysts viewed political Islam with suspicion as early as 1946, Pakistani authorities saw political Islamist movements as less threatening to the Pakistani state than ethnic separatist and regional movements.

Because of these different threat perceptions, Washington‘s relationship with the Pakistani government is marked by a distrust more often reserved for rogue regimes than for allies and partners. The average Pakistani‘s attitude toward both the United States and Americans is little better. The gap between public attitudes and official policies exacerbates both Anti-Americanism in Pakistan and the suspicion with which U.S. society views Pakistan. As the war in Afghanistan continues and further exposes a fundamental divergence in interest, the relationship between the United States and Pakistan will only worsen.

This chapter is featured in Usama Butt and Julian Schofield, Pakistan: The U.S., Geopolitics, and Grand Strategies. (London: Pluto Press, 2012)

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Michael
Rubin


  • Michael Rubin is a former Pentagon official whose major research areas are the Middle East, Turkey, Iran and diplomacy. Rubin instructs senior military officers deploying to the Middle East and Afghanistan on regional politics, and teaches classes regarding Iran, terrorism, and Arab politics on board deploying U.S. aircraft carriers. Rubin has lived in post-revolution Iran, Yemen, both pre- and post-war Iraq, and spent time with the Taliban before 9/11. His newest book, Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engagement examines a half century of U.S. diplomacy with rogue regimes and terrorist groups.


    Follow Michael Rubin on Twitter.


  • Phone: 202-862-5851
    Email: mrubin@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Ahmad Majidyar
    Phone: 202-862-5845
    Email: ahmad.majidyar@aei.org

What's new on AEI

image Dad and the diploma: The difference fathers make for college graduation
image A better way to finance that college degree
image Fracking for bigger budgets
image Earth Day: Hail fossil fuels, energy of the future
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
    MON
  • 22
    TUE
  • 23
    WED
  • 24
    THU
  • 25
    FRI
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Graduation day: How dads’ involvement impacts higher education success

Join a diverse group of panelists — including sociologists, education experts, and students — for a discussion of how public policy and culture can help families lay a firmer foundation for their children’s educational success, and of how the effects of paternal involvement vary by socioeconomic background.

Thursday, April 24, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Getting it right: A better strategy to defeat al Qaeda

This event will coincide with the release of a new report by AEI’s Mary Habeck, which analyzes why current national security policy is failing to stop the advancement of al Qaeda and its affiliates and what the US can do to develop a successful strategy to defeat this enemy.

Friday, April 25, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Obamacare’s rocky start and uncertain future

During this event, experts with many different views on the ACA will offer their predictions for the future.   

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.