Harry C. Blaney III


Yes, we are living in a world where there are no easy answers to the most difficult challenges we face beyond our borders. These include Syria, North Korea, Iran, the continued unrest in the Middle East not least including dealing with Egypt’s turmoil, the Israeli-Arab peace negotiations, and the whole Arab Spring. Not least also is the pernicious impact of the gap between the very rich and those living in poverty around the world.


One of the great nexus of danger and difficult is the triangle of Pakistan-India-Afghanistan. This is highlighted by the current visit of the Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharih to see President Obama. They will have a very full agenda since relations with Pakistan are in grave difficulty partly due to the continued efforts by the Pakistan military in support of the Taliban who are fighting us in Afghanistan but are given support and sanctuary in Pakistan. We have had a long standing “love-hate” relationship since Pakistan has been cooperating with us on a number of issues and yet duplicitous also in their dealing with us and Afghanistan. Not least has been their anger over the U.S. drone attacks and our killing of Bin Laden. Yet both nations have strong reasons to cooperate and each needs the other in a host of different issues and problems areas.


But the reality of Pakistan is very complex and contradictory. Most important they are a nuclear weapons yet unstable and violence prone state, which has been in conflict with its larger neighbor India who also is a nuclear armed state. Kashmir was been the focus of much of the enmity and distrust and efforts to solve this problem have only resulted in leaders on both sides getting hurt domestically. Terrorism has been especially a weapon in this dispute aimed mostly at India. Yet Pakistan is more threatened by home grown extremists. Both Pakistan and India are competing for influence in Afghanistan while that country continues to be a unstable pawn in the many aspects of regional rivalries.


Why should we care? The most urgent issue in this triangle is not Afghanistan which is mostly a secondary but difficult problem compared to the impact on global security and stability in the region of the India-Pakistan strife. Pakistan is the main problem and the India-Pakistan conflict is far more dangerous on a global scale. India has more than a billion people and a strong army and nuclear weapons but it too has political divisions between two main parties and an election coming up next May. But the road to some agreement to solve the conflict between these bitter rivals is a very hard one and has had many disappointments.

 What clearly is need is restraint first on the existing arms race which contributes to insecurity on both sides. Here we should try to help if possible through diplomacy and perhaps some inducements to cooperation. The effort to open up trade between the two countries has stalled but advances in mutual trade could help not only the failing economies of both but also bring them closer to other areas of cooperation. The time also has come to at least dampen down the Kashmir question and find some step by step means to first reduce attacks by both sides and to set up some process that gives assurances for both sides. Already efforts are at work to recreate some kind of cease-fire, but beyond that a durable reconciliation process is needed.

 For America the paths to solving these difficulties are not clear. U.S. aid to Pakistan is seen by India as a threat and vice versa. The militaries of both sides see advantages in continued antagonism. Yet some kind of a wider regional “agreement” or regional “understanding” which protect the interests of all actors in the region might help this process creating more stability, economic growth, and a concerted effort to end terrorism.

 It is on this concept of a wider understanding that America and president Obama and Secretaries Kerry and Hagel might have some leverage and influence. It would be however very heavy lifting given the animosity by all sides. But in the end Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan leaders, political parties and military will need to see the advantage of a wider compact of cooperation and mutual security understandings. The alternative is continued unrest, economic stagnation with loss of trade and investment, growing poverty of the people most impacted, and most dangerous, war by nuclear weapons states and continued threat to all of stability by growing unrest and terrorism.

 We welcome your comments!



  1. Harry Blaney November 18, 2013 / 12:17 PM

    In reply to Robert, on the point of “stronger world” The full thought was ” But we must remember that creating a stronger world at this time requires wisdom and commitment of nations to acts which will address human needs and horrific conflicts. ”

    Stronger means, in this context, means a world that can respond to the challenges it faces effectively and with responsibility…….today this includes climate change, nuclear prolfieration and other WMS, global poverty and inequality, and serious conflicts that impact whole regions and populations. It does not always mean America alone acting in a military way or acting in a way that makes things worse as we have. But we always do need to remember that America did and can act in ways that make things better as cited in my post. For eight bitter years we did not do so but that not should make us inured to the world’s crises or humanitarian needs or feeling powerless before major challenges.

    What we can do is strengthen our multilateral institutions so they are able to respond to these challenges. For eight year the Bush II administration did all they could to destroy these organizations. Now thanks to the “sequester” cuts we are not able to provide assistance where we should due to the Republicans in the House, who seem like Bush and th neo-cons, at war with the U.N. and other key international efforts to make this world a safer place for humanity.

    One example is the relatively weak international response to the horrific damage done to the Philippines by Typhoon Haiyan. Britain just offered initially only 10 million pounds, a pittance. But their Conservative Party leaders are also undermining their own National Health Service capacity while I was in London. That means more British deaths and more money for the very rich and less for health for the rest. Austerity policies in Europe and clearly in Britain mean, in reality, less for ordinary people and more for the rich as shown by studies I read in London. A culture of indifference has an impact both at home and abroad.

    We finally, have not created the kind of international fast response network and capacity that was ready to act effectively in hours rather than in a week or tow or more. The same can be said about the global response to Syria that needed a strong early peacekeeping/peacemaking international action. But in this latter case the fault also lies with Russia and China for their vetoes for early intervention by the UN.

    Here in the U.S. and in Britain which I just returned from, our peoples, our political leaders, and the media have much to be blamed for by their reaction, statements, and coverage. When last did any of us see, as we did earlier, the media show on their front pages or newscasts the continued devastation of Syria and its people? More on this in a later post!

  2. Robert Lamoree November 8, 2013 / 3:06 PM

    No easy answers risks understatement, but we might try getting ahead of the game if we asked some questions like . . . what are we doing that we shouldn’t be doing, or what are we really trying to accomplish, peace or control? Of course, we would need to pay heed to the answers.
    What is a “stronger world,” the term used in Mr. Blaney’s reply. Does not ‘stronger’ imply power? We call the U.S. the most powerful nation ever, and what has it wrought . . . continual war, debt and animosity. Ike was right, “Beware of the military industrial complex.”

  3. Harry C. Blaney III October 25, 2013 / 1:51 PM

    Chuck and Paul,

    We have here some very diverse views of the world and America’s role in it. I do not agree with the idea that we are faced with a world where global problems are “virtually unresolvable.” I worked for 25 years trying, inside government, to do that as did many of our leaders (not all) and my Foreign Service colleagues. I favor strongly giving more powers to international organizations to help to address the problems we face.

    Witness alone that the “Cold War” passed without a nuclear war. Europe emerged from the ashes of World War II a strong democratic and peaceful space with the EU leading the way but with U.S. support. Errors were made but any human effort will make mistakes even organizations like the UN.

    But to stand by to await that golden moment of no sovereign countries and do nothing is NOT responsible and I believe that nations in many ways have shown in the past that they can act to make the work safer and more sane. Witness the creation of the United Nations which was largely an American creation as was the Marshall Plan. Also nations with America leading in the creation and development of human rights international organizations including those that offered protection of vulnerable populations. Without American and other countries’s assistance these efforts would falter from lack of resources. But we must remember that creating a stronger world at this time requires wisdom and commitment of nations to acts which will address human needs and horrific conflicts.

    Second. in response to Paul, what I have said above stands as reasons why America should care about the “macro” events around the world that impact human existence, this includes the spread of nuclear weapons, hunger and poverty, the spread of diseases, the protection of democracy and human rights and stopping wars. All of these have been and should continue to be our concern as they impact all mankind included us who are not living in some “special fortress” apart of mankind. Always, we need to judge these things within the reality of their context and ability to address them effectively. But, as I have noted in this blog, these should wherever possible be done in a multilateral way rather than just one nation alone. Witness as a key example climate change and what it is doing to all countries.

  4. Paul Sack October 24, 2013 / 2:08 PM

    You have not made a good case for why we should care about the rivalry between India and Pakistan or why we should continue arming Pakistan. Yes, they both have nukes; but even if they decide to use them against each other, we have no serious interests that would be affected.

  5. chuck woolery October 22, 2013 / 11:39 PM

    Seen only from the context of national sovereignty these (and other) global problems are virtually unresolvable. (Like trying to maintain one’s health only by ensuring access to Obama Care or its complete elimination?). As long as we put the protection of national sovereignty above that of the potection of human lives and human rights…the answer is not that there are no easy solutions. There’s simply are no solution. Unless one believes in Biblical prophecy…which some would claim to be the direction we’re heading.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s