Think MacArthur and Marshall

The United States fixed Japan in six years. It should use the same formula in Pakistan

On September 2003, in the first week of its existence, The Acorn wrote:

There is no point in giving any aid to Pakistan without simultaneously strengthening its democratic institutions and disarming its military-intelligence complex. It needs more of a MacArthur like intervention which reforged Japan into a dynamic modern nation. [Can Pakistan be saved?]

For much of the last five years, the United States did neither. And then in 2008 it was forced into withdrawing support for General Musharraf’s dictatorship. That only caused the military-intelligence complex to claw back.

Yet, the Obama-Biden transition website, has nothing much by way of change. It says “Obama and Biden will increase nonmilitary aid to Pakistan and hold them accountable for security in the border region with Afghanistan.” The United States continues to think that some variation of giving aid and supporting democratic institutions will somehow work, and the military-intelligence complex can be humoured, won over or simply left alone. Worse, despite being directly affected, India will continue to accept this.

The United States refuses to learn from its own history. Between 1945-1951, a period of just six years, General Douglas MacArthur occupied Japan, reconstructed its war-torn economy, demilitarised the state, fixed the education system and instituted a democracy that has endured since then. It should do the same with Pakistan—and it might not even have to drop two nuclear bombs either, for the Pakistan’s rulers know that much history. Hey, that’s what Robert Kagan was saying.

Update:: General MacArthur’s gameplan (linkthanks Pragmatic)

Flying in to Japan on August 30 a few hours after he had received from Washington the text of the initial policy he was to carry out, he paraphrased the actions he was to take:
First, destroy the military power. Punish war criminals. Build the structure of representative government. Modernize the constitution. Hold free elections. Enfranchise the women. Release the political prisoners. Liberate the farmers. Establish a free labor movement. Encourage a free economy. Abolish police oppression. Develop a free and responsible press. Liberalize education. Decentralize political power. Separate the church from state. [Winners in Peace/EScholarship]

Sounds just like the kind of agenda for Pakistan.

44 thoughts on “Think MacArthur and Marshall”

  1. Japan could perhaps be reformed as it had Budhism most peace seeking religion while no power in the world can reform Pakistan whose religion sanctions and celebrates ignorance and violence

  2. For an attack on India you are saying that the US should fix Pakistan. What should India do? Say that India’s patience is not infinite even one month after the attack?

  3. Dina & Venkat,

    Japan’s militarism in the 1930s and the 40s was something that is difficult for most people to associate with that country today. It was conflated with Shintoism, which was enshrined as the state religion. The influence of Buddhism and Taoism was rejected; Imperial Japan was a Shinto state. In today’s terms this would have been called radical Shintoism, or Shinto fundamentalism.

    So the analogy with Pakistan is not inappropriate at all.

  4. Well argued.

    Sadly, I feel the ground situ in pak maybe beyond MacArthurian redemption.

    One critical condition for MacArthur like polcy to sducceed in Japan was that Japan was, militarily as well as psychologically *broken*. Hiroshima followed by Nagasaki and the crystal clear intent in DC to do it over and over again made a lot of difference.

    Unless Pak is *broken* first, unless their pet fantasies of martial superiority and yankee/yindoo/yehudi duplicity and cowardice are buried in public view, even thinking in terms of a MacArthur II is pointless. Such an exercise, I fear, is rigged to fail.

    The way fwd is for India and the US to come together in performing the noble task of breaking Pak, physically if necessary (and IMO, it is) but primarily logically and psychologically.

    Just my 2 paisa.
    /Have a nice day, all.

  5. @Sud: “Such an exercise, I fear, is rigged to fail.”

    Can’t agree more, particularly because the rest of the world might die laughing at our hypocrisy. Has it not occurred to any of you that many of MacArthur’s prescriptions need to be implemented in the US and in India before trying them out in Pakistan or anywhere else?

  6. Nitin,

    Your arguments are all based on wishful thinking – the US has neither the authority nor the intention of implementing a Marshall plan for Pakistan. The Marshall plan followed a military defeat and was the strategy of an occupying power. Pakistan is not under any kind of occupation today. And the US has no intention of occupying it or even of attacking it. Obama’s centrist approach means you can expect little bold or daring actions especially in the foreign policy arena which he has made clear will not be his primary concern at the moment. At best, it is seeking to reform the Pak military to the limited extent of conforming to its goals in Afghanistan.

    Pakistan’s jihad against India is not the primary focus of the US. If the Pak military demonstrates sufficient savvy to keep the jihad under leash till the American project is completed, you can expect it to get away with it. India can at best count on the US to assist us in our endeavor to fight our war, not to fight it for us. So grow up and face reality.

  7. “One critical condition for MacArthur like polcy to sducceed in Japan was that Japan was, militarily as well as psychologically *broken*.”

    well, also, since Japan had a much stronger sense of nationhood than Pakistan it was a lot easier to “break” all the elements of the Japanese nation simultaneously. imho, a MacArthur like treatment of Pakistan would probably end up similar to the post 2003 situation in Iraq.

    Another big difference between Pakistan (and Iraq) and Japan is the existence of the transnational jihad movement. It was a lot easier to deal with countries like Germany and Japan both of whose militaristic philosophies were entirely based on their respective states.

  8. I know everyone wants a religious comparison, but Japan was trying to be an imperial power of the east. It has nothing to do with Buddhism or Shintoism. And what is fundamental Buddhism anyway? Indian born religions don’t work the way Abrahamic religions. Not in the way Islamic fundamentalists are terrorizing the world now.

    I am sure MacArthur plan will be implemented when US defeats Pakistan after it attacks the former. Till then nothing will happen. Even then, looking at 100s of billion spent on Iraq with nothing to show for it, I doubt MacArthur will be able to do much in Land of the Pure. Not if Pakis want Sharia law to be the law of the land!

  9. @Gautam sen

    Dude. If you can’t understand the difference between a rabid dog against a merely sick one, I suggest you try getting bitten by one each.

  10. @Udayan, I shall obviously have to defer to your vast experience at being both sick and rabid, rather rely on first-person experimentation. Your choice of metaphor is itself very revealing.

  11. It took the total defeat of Japan in the most brutal and bloody war in recent history for Japanese society to be put in a position to be “reformed”. Pakistan cannot be similarly remade, unless it faces a similar situation of total defeat and destruction. And the US is not the country that can or should remake Pakistan.

    One cannot reform a society which is unable to accept that it needs reformation and change, and that it is badly broken. Pakistan (and Pakistanis both living in Pakistan and abroad) does not recognize that it is a deeply messed up society. As is clear, Pakistanis are quite happy to play the victim and blame the rest of the world for the problems that they have created, and the monsters they have fed and grown. They fail to recognize that their society and culture is deeply prejudiced and distorted, even in its outlook towards their own fellow citizens. They are unwilling to accept the fact that their *nation* is based on a deep and abiding sense of bigotry and prejudice. They fail to understand that they live in a deeply unequal and feudal society, and that governments through the decades have done *nothing* to address this problem and ensure that more ordinary Pakistanis have a chance at a better life. They are happy to pretend that Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan is a consequence of the actions of a few misguided and power hungry people, rather than it being a natural consequence of the way Pakistani society has evolved.

    Pakistan is a country of 150 million souls. No foreign power can control a society of 150 million souls, in a sufficiently deep sense. Reformation and social change are almost predicated on the willingness of the members of society to accept and support such change. This support cannot be acquired through purely coercive means, unless one is willing to take the coercion to its logical conclusion-the comprehensive demonstration that their society and culture is fundamentally unable to protect and comfort the citizenry against external onslaught.

  12. @Gautam Sen,

    Not a bad idea. Take my word for it. And accept that your attempt at drawing and equivalence between sponsors and victims of terrorism was specious, and born out of ignorance of either.

  13. India has no power to even retaliate against Pakistan, let alone re-make it. The mighty US is reduced to pinprick drone attacks against Pak soil, for fear of offending it further.
    We seem to be dreaming of castles in the sky.

  14. Gautam Sen,

    I notice that you mention that the “the rest of the world might die laughing at our hypocrisy.” Really? The rest of the world is somehow better off than India or the United States? Or perhaps less hypocritical?

    That apart, ‘hypocrisy’ stems from morality. There is no morality in international relations, because states operate in an anarchy. As I’ve argued before John 8:7 doesn’t apply to states.

  15. Nitin

    “There is no morality in international relations because states operate in an anarchy.”

    [I notice that you have spoken of India’s “moral right” to address China’s human rights record in your John 8:7 posting, but let that not detain us.]

    I know this is a founding tenet of National Interest, but I profoundly disagree. States do not deal only with other states in an anarchy. They also deal with civil societies and public opinion. And both civil societies and public opinion often engage in moral reasoning, based on the moral evaluation of the actions of state and non-state actors, not merely on cost-benefit calculation. Public opinion does give moral standing to states and non-state actors, in effect treating them as individuals.

    This is why states make it their business to try and psychologically “manage” public opinion through the media. In the twenty-first century, the consent (whether manufactured or not) of public opinion is an important basis for the functioning of democracies or states claiming to be republics, precisely because the backing of public opinion gives states moral legitimacy. That is why even in faux democracies like the PRC and Singapore and Iran, even nonviolent dissent is not tolerated, because the state does not want a moral challenge to its authority. The human rights abuses in China and Burma are rightly singled out for moral opprobrium by other states, as well as nonstate actors such as human rights defenders.

    Have you not noticed the powerful moral revulsion that Israel’s actions in Gaza have attracted wherever people are able to mobilize to express their opinions? Have you failed to register the precipitous drop in the approval and respect that the United States government has within the country, and in almost every other country in the world, even in countries such as the one where I currently live, which regards itself as a US ally and is a part of NATO? Does all this happen in a moral vacuum? And will you now claim that shifts of public opinion, based as they are on moral evaluation, do not matter to states?

    This is not to suggest that international relations are ONLY subject to moral considerations. But states cannot persist for long in acting as if they don’t matter.


    “Equivalence between sponsors and victims of terrorism” – I was suggesting that it is ridiculous to attempt to bring liberal democracy to others (specifically Pakistan) before we set our own house in order. This would be true with or without the terrorism that the Pakistani state has been inflicting on us. Where in all this is the “equivalence” that you speak of?

  16. @Gautam sen,

    If Pakistan was not sponsoring terrorism then we couldn’t care less what system they followed. The reason we need to fix them is because if we don’t, they will kill us. Nobody is arguing that we don’t need to improve our own system, or at least it’s working. But if you have a fever and a rabid dog is in front of you, fangs bared, would you sort it out first or think about Crocin?

  17. Gautam,

    You avoided answering my first set of questions that directly challenged your assertion that ““the rest of the world might die laughing at our hypocrisy”. So who is this rest of the world that will laugh at us? Who are these morally upright beings who can not only laugh, but die laughing at our hypocrisy?


    And what exactly are they doing now, after Pakistan’s stout denials that it doesn’t sponsor terrorism?

  18. Thanks, Nitin, for supplying me with an example – why indeed is the world laughing at Pakistan’s denials? Because they are patently lies. In a similar vein, I would like my own country to sort out its own system for the many people for whom it is NOT working (contra Udayan, who claims it is, without saying for whom), before intervening with a Macarthurian reform program in Pakistan, and opening my country to the ridicule of “Doctor, first cure thyself!”

    My claim was not that the whole world was better or worse than us morally. It was that we would be judged to be hypocritical by world public opinion – not a prospect I relish for my country. Perhaps this doesn’t matter for you, just as certain sections of the US political class are impervious to world public opinion. However, I don’t look forward to the prospect of living abroad the same way most of my American colleagues do – with a sense of shame at the actions of their government, and wishing they were Canadians or New Zealanders.

    Udayan, “fixing” Pakistan cannot be achieved by doing a Macarthur on them, without conquering them first. I believe we can reject this option for now. Your mad dog analogy isn’t very useful here beyond rhetorical muscle-flexing. Because you either run away from a mad dog, or frighten it away, or shoot it dead. How do you intend to “shoot Pakistan dead”?

    Conquering them *in order to* bring them Macarthur would be even more ridiculous, attracting the same kind of ridicule and loss of respect the world has so far reserved for the US attempts to bring democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you have you learnt nothing from the US experience, then at least read through the discussion at the link provided by Anand (Comment 15) to find out how uncertain the outcomes are of a US-style democratizing project.

    Nitin, you seem to have been much exercised by my rhetorical point about the world dying of laughter. But I note you have evaded my response to your far more serious point about the absence of morality in international relations.

  19. Hello Gautam Sen,

    >>Public opinion does give moral standing to states and non-state actors, in effect treating them as individuals.

    >>Have you not noticed the powerful moral revulsion that Israel’s actions in Gaza have attracted wherever people are able to mobilize to express their opinions?

    Israel’s actions in Gaza are widely popular with Israelis. By the first claim of yours above, then, public support gives moral standing to Israel’s action.

    So what is this “moral revulsion” you’re talking about? How can something receive moral sanction while at the same time being morally repulsive?

  20. Hello Oldtimer

    You have confused “moral standing” (or “moral status”) with “moral sanction” or “moral approval”.

    Yes, of course it’s possible for Israeli actions to receive moral approval from Israeli public opinion, but be regarded as morally repulsive by world public opinion. In fact that’s already happening.

    But that’s not the point. I was trying to rebut Nitin’s point that international relations are conducted in a moral vacuum, and therefore moral judgments are misplaced and irrelevant in international relations.

    For instance, the very fact that Gaza has been banned to most foreign news agencies by the Israeli government suggests that Israeli fears the even greater revulsion that will follow when its atrocities among Gaza civilians become more widely known. As if what Israel has done there already since 1967 is not reprehensible enough!

  21. Hello Gautam Sen

    >>Yes, of course it’s possible for Israeli actions to receive moral approval from Israeli public opinion, but be regarded as morally repulsive by world public opinion.

    In which case, it seems to me that there is no single morality in the world, but multiple moralities.

    Nitin said that there is no morality in international relations; you’ve started by claiming there is — it turns out that you meant that there “are”.

    I see no big deal of difference between “no morality” and “multiple moralities”, for the consequence is the same: There is no overarching *moral authority* that dictates international relations; that the nations of the world look up to. The various actors either have no morality or are guided by mutually-conflicting individual moral compasses.

    By the way, I am fairly sceptical about your Israel vs “Rest of the world” formulation. Has this alleged “rest of the world” collective “set its own house in order” — to use your words — before getting all morally indignant about Isarel’s actions?

  22. Wow. Well argued, Oldtimer.

    Even then, I would take GS’s point to heart, at least partly.

    I find it tragic if true that the existence of a moral compass – of some sense of right and wrong – is considered non grata in international relations. Societies and nations consist of individuals. Absent morality in one, how does it not affect the moral compass of the other?

    And yes, I wish the same moral opprobrium that GS claims the ‘world’ thrusts on Israeli actions since 1967 (or even a fraction of it) could have had any effect on the 1971 Bangladesh genocide – conducted by Pak army regulars and jihadist razakars with the full support of the US establishment and parrtoted by their senior analysts and statesmen – of whom Henry Kissinger was recently received in Kolkata and Stephen Cohen who continues to spin away that immoral episode with prevarications.

    Don’t forget these lapses because even though history maynot repeat, it rhymes.

  23. Oldtimer,

    You are right, people or states usually don’t attain moral perfection before criticizing others morally. Just as many of the state governments accusing Israel of war crimes are themselves guilty of plenty of abuses and crimes of their own. But actions of states still need moral evaluation and justification, at least to the civil societies to which the states are accountable.

    Furthermore, the plurality of moral standards by which the actions of states and non-state actors are judged does not amount to an absence of moral standards. It simply bears out my point that state actions occur in a moral universe, and require moral standards for evaluation. The fact that we may not agree with those standards is another matter. My point is that international relations between states, between states and civil societies, and between states and non-state actors do not occur in a moral vacuum, as Nitin has argued.

  24. States, like individuals, are sometimes confronted with an extreme moral dilemma. In such situations, one has to go beyond morality, like Arjuna – who was advised by Krishna to go beyond the limits of Dharma.

    When there is a danger to Self-Existence itself, all moral questions become redundant.

  25. Dear Gautam,

    You are yet to answer my question—one that I have posed twice already—who the people who would die laughing at our hypocrisy? This is central to your argument—that there are a large number of non-hypocrites who would look down on our hypocrisy. So you must tell us who they are?

    Secondly, you say that the world is laughing at Pakistan’s lies…but at our expense. They’ll all have a jolly good laugh at how much of an “international migraine” Pakistan is, or how they’ve managed to thumb their noses at India, and die laughing perhaps. So what does that do for us?

    And btw, large parts of the world are not laughing at Pakistan at all. They are cheering.

  26. Much of all this discussion is off-topic. (a) This is too humble a forum to thrash out grand ideological debates in international relations. This blog does provide a forum to discuss (b) how India might set its own house in order, but not on this post. It regret not having pointed this out earlier. I suggest those who still want to argue on (a) and (b) either end that thread, or do one last post concluding their arguments.

    The op-topic discussion—on how the international community might transform Pakistan—could continue.

  27. Nitin,

    Please reconsider the “off-topic” rule, or make the open thread more visible and accessible and take a lead on it yourself.

    This disc is terrific, and Gautam was merely responding to you invoking Matt8:7

    And who are you kidding with that “too humble a forum” thingy 🙂 this is just right. Its the kind of cerebral talk that helps this forum.

    Pls allow me to welcome Gautam Sen to this forum. Reminds me its been a long time since I checked up on Dr.Binayak Sen.


  28. Dear Nitin

    I have already addressed, if not replied to, your questions in comment 21. I only wish to add that you are making too much of my rhetorical exaggeration that the world would die of laughter – taking it too literally. The essential point I wished to make (again, and for the last time) is not that the people accusing us of hypocrisy are morally superior or inferior to us, but that telling other people how to govern themselves when our own governance is as lacking as it is, invites ridicule and charges of hypocrisy, and ultimately a loss of respect that I do not wish my country to face. The US experience in this regard is instructive.

    Again, you have shied off discussing the role of morality in international relations. We would all stand to learn something from any objections you might think off. But hey, it’s your blog!



    @Jai, thanks for the welcoming remarks.

  29. Gautam,

    After a quick read of your blog, I rather temper and tone down my welcome. It looks to me like you have it all figured out, who the bad guys are. I find such certitude a little off-putting.

    Still, some of your concerns do resonate. I think Dilip D puts across some similar thinking in a less confrontational way. Best wishes for Binayak anyways. And I do think your input provides some much-needed contrast here but its subject to blog owner approval.

    Nitin sorry for the OT nature of this exchange.

  30. Jai,

    The open thread is prominently displayed on the sidebar. But keeping discussions on-topic is not only a rule, but a common courtesy to participants who want to discuss the particular post…not other issues.

    If the debate is on whether Realism is right or wrong, then this blog is not the platform for it. Some intellectual and academic journal perhaps?

  31. Dear Gautam,

    You write “the essential point I wished to make (again, and for the last time) is not that the people accusing us of hypocrisy are morally superior or inferior to us, but that telling other people how to govern themselves when our own governance is as lacking as it is, invites ridicule and charges of hypocrisy”

    That’s why I asked you to name those people. Because by your own argument, it is entirely possible to say that those laughing at India when their own governance is lacking are worthy of ridicule and charges of hypocrisy. So why should we care what they think or laugh at?

    This is not my argument. This is the logical corollary to your own argument.

  32. Nitin, touche! However, the world is not entirely ruled by logic. Just look at the examples of the US, UK and Israel, whose governments and political classes are constantly engaged in telling the rest of the world how civilized they are, and how their kind of civilization is superior, while they are engaged in what they themselves have defined as war crimes. Does this matter?

    Eventually, the moral judgments of public opinion do have an effect. Apartheid was rightly vilifed by public opinion, despite the prolonged refusal of the UK government to condemn it. The same goes for Zionism when it expresses itself as a form of racism, despite the support of the UK and US governments. The same goes for the brutal ways in which the Myanmar government deals with dissent.

    Let’s recall your original point: that accusations of hypocrisy and double standards are irrelevant in international relations, because moral judgments don’t matter. I maintain that not only are moral judgments (including hypocrisy and double standards) present, they matter even when all sides are guilty. I suppose you will say that it’s because all sides are guilty that moral judgments don’t matter. But I see them mattering precisely because human beings have always struggled with the problem of creating a better world, even when they have differed – often violently – about what kind of world that could be.

  33. Gautam,

    IMHO, the discussion has digressed into an ‘irrelevant’ (to this post) area – that of moral judgements.

    Nitin’s post is about the need to learn from History (MacArthur’s occupation admin and Marshall Plan), so that workable solutions can be obtained for an international migraine (Pakistan).

    Sud felt that such an approach is bound to fail unless Pakistan is dismembered/broken.But in essence he is also fine with the approach.He is only adding a prerequisite (break Pakistan) before trying it out.

    You agreed with Sud (that the approach will fail) but your rationale is that such an approach smacks of hypocrisy because India and US both have problems of their own that will need MacArthurian style reforms.

    Your point is well taken. Both India and US are imperfect democracies and have mechanisms (faulty though they may be in execution at times) for ensuring that the right choices are made in terms of national interest and common morality. Importantly, India’s internal problems are not leading to terrorist attacks on foregin soil.

    But Pakistan is a different animal altogether.Its internal failures are creating terror across the globe.And India especially has been suffering a lot.

    So, Pakistan is an issue that India, the US, or any country in the radar of Islamic terrorism needs to address.It may not be the only problem, but one of the major problems for sure.

    Where is the hypocrisy if on one hand we try to solve our internal problems(say human rights and poverty), and on the other hand, work with other targeted countries to resolve the problem of Pakistan? At different times, the mainstream discourse will highlight a particular problem because of the immediacy of some events. That is not to say, that Indians or Americans are not seized with other problems (of their own making).

    And I found it funny that you first say others would die laughing at us, and then go on to qualify it as mere rhetoric.Honestly, all I could discern from your posts is that you wish to discuss your pet topic, and not the one posted by Nitin.

    Have a good day, Sir !

  34. Foreign policy is not a popularity contest. Certainly not a popularity contest among people who have no stake in your survival or security.

    Unlike the Gautam Sen dude, I won’t begrudge Israel the right to do what it thinks is necessary to survive and secure itself. It is amazing how the international Left has become an apologist and cheerleader for radical Islamism. They would rather criticize India, US and Israel than so much as lift a finger against Islamist terrorism.

    Sen’s successful diversion of this discussion from fixing terrorism to a vague philosophical debate over ideologies is a case in point. It entirely consumed our energies into debunking his red herrings.

  35. I agree that this discussion went off-topic but I have to confess I enjoyed the provocative comments. Disagreement breeds stimulation.

  36. Well put Kumar.

    Sorry. No discourtesy intended. In bringing up the off-topic rule late in the game you did convey an impression that your side of the debate wasnt going too well (whereas its actually doing quite fine). I was trying to redress that. Am quite ok with the topicality rules.

  37. And Pakistani institutions and people are just going to lie down and be run over? Or, as GW might have put it, welcome the occupiers with garlands? Grand designs or delusions of grandeur?

    Even if the Americans actually intend to do any of this, what prevents this from turning into nation-building Iraq style, not MacArthur style? Can we also refrain from facile explanations about national character?

    Last but not the least, despite what many choose to ignore (not out of ignorance, I’m sure) is whether the US wants to solve problems it has been instrumental in fostering. They are convenient ‘allies’ now, sure, but beyond rhetoric, their actions over the last half a century do not show they can be trusted (realists will no doubt say this is a trivial point).

  38. Jai,

    You have been reading this blog long enough to know that it is laughable for me to invoke a rule merely to ‘win’ a debate.

    The rule is declared upfront and is enforced strictly. Warnings and deletion of off topic posts are common. The onus is on the commented to abide by the rules at all times.

    As for the impression the enforcement of the rule creates, I leave it to the subjective opinions of readers.

  39. Nitin,

    In the age of Television, internet – twitter, even – no one wants a patient rebuilding and no president will risk his 4 year term on it (unless 9/11 or Mumbai repeats in a Western country i.e., USA/UK on a large scale)

    Whether its with giving Kashmir away, or of Terror being demolished in 2 days – television/media “pundits”, and the people have grown to expect returns in the short term. And sadly governments seem rather content in providing that.

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