- The Greedy Warrior State
There has been a spate of books on Pakistan and its military in recent years. Of these, T.V. Paul’s The Warrior State: Pakistan in the Contemporary World and C. Christine Fair’s Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War stand out for their originality, theoretical elegance, and, especially in the latter case, empirical depth. Both authors deal with different, if related, aspects of the Pakistani state’s anachronistic national security policies, which are defined by a gross mismatch between its capabilities and revisionist strategic goals vis-à-vis archrival India. Similarly, both stress the important role of elite strategic ideas or culture in shaping state security preferences. But whereas Paul locates the structural source of the country’s maladies in its geopolitical location, Fair casts her analytical gaze at the military institutional level.
In the persuasive Warrior State, Paul seeks to explain why Pakistan remains an economically underdeveloped garrison state when former military-ruled states in Asia and Africa have embraced democracy and reaped the dividends of free trade and globalization (p. 2). The main culprits in his story are Pakistan’s civilian and military elites. According to Paul, the ruling elite had both the motive (or what he calls a “hyper-realpolitik” ideology with a religious bent) and the opportunity (the territorial rivalry with India) to pursue a ruinous military-first approach to security at the cost of social and economic development, enabled by U.S. geostrategic rents that obviated the Pakistani military’s need to pursue democracy or development (pp. 3, 5, 18, 28).
While these factors are well-known, Paul’s key contribution lies in his thoughtful application of important social science theories to the Pakistani case. First, he draws on Charles Tilly’s “war-making as state-making” thesis, namely the argument that the needs of warfighting forced Western European elites in the seventeenth century to strengthen the state’s extractive capacity to raise standing armies. Hence, fighting other states should spur domestic development in other contexts as well. But when applied to the Pakistani context, warfare and national consolidation have been conflicting rather [End Page 152] than complementary logics. As Paul rightly observes, the country’s heavy investment in the military for over six decades has brought neither security nor prosperity. This paradoxical outcome leads him to infer that excessive war-making efforts can induce political and economic stagnation in developing contexts by diverting scarce resources from social welfare to defense (p. 2, 15, 157, 188–89). Citing the examples of the East Asian tigers South Korea and Taiwan, Paul contends that states can still harness the salutary effects of war on national development only if elites can “control or compartmentalize” it to achieve rapid economic growth (pp. 15, 175–80). Ultimately, and given the right strategic environment and resources, what matters most is whether elites are pragmatic or dogmatic. Unfortunately, in Paul’s view, Pakistan’s elites have been “devoid of prudence” (p. 3) and a “developmental outlook” (p. 5). Hence, they have opted for the unrestrained pursuit of narrow militarized security resulting in state weakness and economic decay (p. 15).
The book dismisses the conventional wisdom that the threat from India independently explains Pakistan’s evolution into a garrison state. Instead, the author claims that the “policy choice to respond militarily was largely Pakistan’s own” (p. 4). After all, as he reminds us, countries like Taiwan and South Korea faced “similar conflict situations,” but they never became obsessed with security and their elite adopted developmental state policies. Similarly, from his comparison of Pakistan with Turkey, Indonesia, and Egypt, Paul concludes that even Muslim-majority “national security” states have overcome the warrior urge because of...