Has Pakistan been the target of a US-led hybrid war?

There are different ways of waging war, writes Shaukat Qadir

On the conceptual plane, Andrew Korybko’s recently published book Hybrid Wars: the Indirect Adaptive Approach to Regime Change is merely peddling an old theory in a new package, but it is in the application of the concept that his work becomes interesting.

Conceptually, it seeks to provoke asymmetric war in a host country, exploiting domestic ethnic, religious, historical, sociocultural and/or economic disparities. Historically, this has usually been the recourse of the weaker opponent – but in Korybko’s work, it is the US that takes recourse to this concept.

It is obvious that Korybko is heavily influenced by the strategist, Zbigniew Brzezinski. Game Plan, published in 1986, was written by Brzezinski on the assumption that the US and USSR were implacable enemies.

Essentially, it sought to create situations where the USSR would “over-reach” militarily and thus implode. Conceptually, the idea was flawless. A fact that was proved when, in the early 1990s, the Soviet Union collapsed for the very reasons that Brzezinski sought to create in his book.

I doubt if the US deliberately sought to execute Brzezinski’s plan, except perhaps when the Star Wars concept created an unacceptable dilemma for the USSR, forcing it to accelerate the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, SALT.

Korybko frequently refers to the “reverse Brzezinski”, wherein he outlines how the Russian desire to create a Eurasian economic corridor could be sabotaged by targeting Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. He similarly identifies targets along China’s Silk Route or the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, as it is referred to here. In both cases, Pakistan and surrounding areas are likely to be affected, directly or indirectly.

In his work, Korybko has spelt out the aim of all hybrid war: instead of seeking a gain, this war seeks to deny the enemy opportunities for growth.

Like proxy wars during the Cold War era, hybrid wars target satellite countries along economic corridors. Neither China nor Russia are direct targets of the US in Korybko’s plan, it targets countries along the Eurasian corridor and the Chinese Silk Route.

In theory, hybrid wars are intended to prevent wars. Theoretically, hybrid wars will pre-empt China and Russia from becoming economically capable of developing the military strength to challenge the US’s military might.

But, to quote Korybko: “The chaotic processes that are unleashed during postmodern regime change are impossible to fully control and could potentially engender the same type of geopolitical blowback against the US that Washington is trying to, directly or indirectly, channel towards its multipolar rivals”.

Due to the aforementioned concern, Korybko adds, “this is why the US won’t ever attempt hybrid war anywhere that it has interests which are too big to fail”.

Considering this statement, perhaps Korybko’s game plan is not as flawless as Brzezinski’s.

Korybko also seems to have been influenced by John Perkins’ Confessions of an Economic Hit-Man; in which the author confesses to having manipulated developing countries to act against their own national interests by massaging the loans they receive.

Korybko explains “the more oblique, yet presently and almost ubiquitously implemented methods of achieving this goal, and this surrounds the power that US has to affect certain budgetary functions of targeted states, namely the amount of revenue they receive and what precisely they spend it on”.

In military parlance, if hybrid war is the main tactic, then the manipulation of the target country’s economic resources through international institutions could be the secondary plan, supporting the main effort.

Interestingly, Korybko indicts the US claim to moral high ground by citing Ukraine and Syria as two countries currently targeted by US-led hybrid wars.

As I mentioned earlier, directly or indirectly, Pakistan and surrounding areas will feel the heat. ISIL is already making its presence felt in Afghanistan and, though at a relatively lower profile in Pakistan ISIL is present there too.

Now the final question: will Pakistan become a target of hybrid war? It is impossible to reply in the negative.

However, I am of the view that until early 2015, Pakistan and Balochistan in particular was a target of US-led hybrid war. I get the impression that, for reasons that deserve a lengthier explanation than possible here, the US changed its mind last year.

I can only hope I am right and it does not change course again.

Brig Shaukat Qadir is a retired Pakistani infantry officer