The Strategic Culture of the Pakistan Army: Explaining Pakistan's Persistent Revisionism

Thursday, March 5, 2015
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM

Encina Hall (2nd floor)

  • Christine Fair

Abstract: I seek to explain Pakistan’s persistent revisionism towards India even though it has bequeathed mostly failures, brought international opprobrium upon Pakistan, and has imperiled the viability of the state. I argue that the answer lies in the strategic culture of the army. Drawing upon six decades of the army’s publications, I derive the lineaments of the army’s strategic culture to understand how it views its threats and the best means to manage them. I find that the army relies upon non-state actors under a nuclear umbrella and a highly stylized form of Islam to create and sustain a civilizational conflict with India, almost always posited as “Hindu.” The army uses Islam to sustain domestic support for this conflict, buttress the morale of the troops, and to contextualize the Pakistan army within the historical landscape of Islamic war fighting. From the army's distorted view of history, the army is victorious as long as can resist India's purported hegemony and the territorial status quo. I conclude that Pakistan is an ideological or greedy state in the parlance of Charles Glaser, rather than a purely or mostly security-seeking state. The international community must develop policy instruments to contain the myriad threats posed by Pakistan.


About the Speaker: C. Christine Fair is an Assistant Professor in the Security Studies Program within Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. She previously served as a senior political scientist with the RAND Corporation, a political officer with the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan in Kabul, and a senior research associate at USIP’s Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention.  Her research focuses on political and military affairs in South Asia (Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka).  Her most recent book is Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War (Oxford University Press). Additionally, she has as authored, co-authored and co-edited several books, including Pakistan’s Enduring Challenges (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015), Policing Insurgencies: Cops as Counterinsurgents (Oxford University Press, 2014); Political Islam and Governance in Bangladesh (Routledge, 2010); Treading on Hallowed Ground: Counterinsurgency Operations in Sacred Spaces (Oxford University Press, 2008); The Madrassah Challenge: Militancy and Religious Education in Pakistan (USIP, 2008), Fortifying Pakistan: The Role of U.S. Internal Security Assistance (USIP, 2006); and The Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States (Globe Pequot, 2008), among others.  Dr. Fair is a frequent commentator in print (New York Times, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The National Review among others) as well on television and radio programs (CBS, BBC, Al Jazeera, CNN, Voice of America, Fox, Reuters, BBC, NPR, among others).