Saturday, October 01, 2011

It’s the Economy Stupid

By Adnan Gill

No one can ever blame Pakistani media for suffering from ‘Attention Deficit Disorder’, rather it often suffers from ‘Obsessive Compulsive Disorder’. Admittingly, most of their obsessions are not devoid of a good reason; nevertheless, every now and then it does indulge in mass-hysteria. An imminent American attack(s) on the Pakistani soil is the latest example of such hysteria. If you were to pick a Pakistani paper or observe its electronic-media, you would be deluded in believing whole world is holding its breath over the “Pakistani-American War”.

Hysteria aside, the odds of Iraqi modeled or even Libyan modeled American invasion are slim to none. For the curious minds, America will not invade for the following reasons: it cannot afford an invasion for three reasons: 1) Scarcity of funds. 2) Little to no public appetite for another military conflict. 3) Global recession.

American public debt is already tipping the scales around $14.7 trillion, which is almost as its GDP ($15.2 trillion). American Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the costs of both Afghan and Iraq Wars will be $2.4 trillion, or around one-sixth of the total American debt. Growth of American economy (approx. 1.4% GDP) is dismal at the best. Add the Libyan war costs and ever-rising oil prices, and you get a perfect recipe for a prolonged economical recession. Meaning, America is simply out of cash to start any new wars.

Unlike third-world despots, who couldn’t care less for the public opinion, American presidents still care and abide by the popular public sentiments. Currently, American public is no mood to support new wars. In a recent Washington Post/ABC poll, over 70% of Americans said they want President Obama to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. It’s not only American populace that are suffering from the war-fatigue, even the rank-and-file of the American military, most of whom are on their third or fourth tour of duty are increasingly voicing their frustrations with the longest war in the American history. According to a The Military Times survey, “Less than 50% of U.S. troops believe Afghanistan war is winnable.” If American military personnel are losing the will to fight the Taliban, then only a most foolish military commander would dare to push its men in a new Af-Pak quagmire.

In this age and time, no one nation can afford to wage a war unilaterally. Only coalitions have been able sustain full fledge wars. Even the closet American allies, Canada and UK have openly expressed their desire to pull out of both NATO led wars, Afghan and Libyan wars. Well over 80% of Canadians want their troops to be brought home, at the earliest. Even back in 2006, Bloomberg reported, in just 5 years, the financial cost to the UK of the Afghan war was more than £4.55 billion ($9 billion). Experts believe UK’s ailing economy can no longer sustain the Afghan war, not to talk of a new war with Pakistan.

Ironically, a typical gung hoe American political party, the Republicans tied their own hands from financing any new conflicts. Their Political strategy of downsizing the government and national debt has boxed it into opposing any significant military adventurism. Republican obsession with funding cuts was highlighted when its leader Eric Cantor said they would tie hurricane and earthquake Disaster Aid to spending cuts. By all accounts, the odds of appropriating funding for a war by a party obsessed with playing the financial card and that too in the middle election season are far and few.

However, despite all the odds against the war, like apprehensive public mood and tough American economy, doesn’t mean President Obama would not be tempted to order limited scope shoot-and-scoot military strikes well inside the Pakistani territory. America will attack Pakistani interests in the same manner that it had been doing for a while.

Smack within the rough presidential election year, President Obama who is suffering from the all time low approval ratings is in a desperate need of bunch of rapid victories, like the Osama-bin-Laden killing to prove his mantel as of a resolute Commander-in-Chief. What better way for President Obama to earn quick political mileage than bunch of small military victories via drone attacks and/or special operations strikes on Pakistani interests?

Unlike, Pakistani hysteria of imminent American invasion, one would be hard pressed to find a single person in the US who thinks America is about to attack Pakistan. Why not? Because it’s the economy stupid!


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