Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
Does the financial crisis mark the beginning of the end of American global dominance? And if so, what would the decline of American power mean for Afghanistan and Pakistan? It’s early days yet, but here are a few themes that are emerging from the maelstrom.
If you put aside the many arguments over whether the Americans were, or were not, guilty of latter-day imperialism, you can find consensus on two main points: that the U.S. model of free-market capitalism has been sorely challenged by the financial crisis; and that America’s reputation as a military superpower has been tarnished by its less-than-successful campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In this respect, there are obvious parallels with the collapse of the British empire after World War Two, starting with its departure from India in 1947. Although Britain likes to think it won the war, its postwar situation carried all the hallmarks of defeat. It was virtually bankrupt and with the fall of Singapore to the Japanese in 1942 it had lost the myth of invincibility that allowed it to rule an empire on which the sun never set. With neither the money, nor the credibility, to hold India by force in the face of a powerful Indian independence movement, it mustered as much dignity as possible for an emperor stripped of his clothes and left abruptly, partitioning the subcontinent into India and Pakistan on its way out.
Let’s assume for the sake of argument that this analogy works for the United States, and that it too begins to draw in on itself. The lessons of British imperial history suggest that when empires collapse, they do so not gradually, but in big leaps that create chaos for those left behind (for example in the estimated one million killed at Partition).