In the non-kinetic domain, Economic Warfare forms an important component of hybrid wars of chaos launched in the developing world. Economic Warfare thrives in an environment of rampant corruption by elite, bad governance, cronyism, poverty, outflows of money overseas, disenfranchisement of youth, unbridled media and increasing gap between the haves and have-nots.
If one looks at the Pakistan’s politico economic landscape, the factors mentioned above seem to be just in place like a text book. The elite continues to reap the bounties through a exploitative system of patronage and cronyism, the gap between haves and have-nots is increasing every day and common man, especially the youth of Pakistan is becoming disenfranchised. The masses are being bewildered due to political trash thrown out on TV screens on daily basis, party affiliation within the political activists are atomizing the society into sub groups, who are hell bent at clinging to goodies doled out to them by respective political elite, and sanity is becoming a rare commodity. Social media rage has negatively affected the minds of youth due to open usage of abuse and mudslinging; even the so called intellectuals and opinion makers are displaying lack of tolerance in their views in public. All stake holders and political parties have now patronized social media teams, well fed with money and fodder to swarm political debate, hiding behind the wall of irresponsibility. Social media rage generated by these teams gradually permeates into print and electronic media through sponsored surrogates and has badly polarized the society into political zombies.
Hidden behind this smoke screen of bewilderment created by chaos generators, the elite seem to be busy in pursuing the agenda of loot and plunder. Although the claims of economic progress may have some truth, it is half-truth as piling up of humongous loans and a spiral of Ponzi rotation of money is making it difficult to pay back every year. Piling up of last four years loans have crossed the Rubicon of sustenance and has disturbed the financial equilibrium to an extent that Pakistan now needs a new Marshal Plan.
If one looks at the Arab spring in Middle East and North Africa and chaos in Ukraine and Venezuela, the hybrid wars of chaos had one major component, economic warfare in an environment of increasing gap between the haves and have-nots. Unfortunately the elitists cabal in Libya, Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and Yemen did not realize that stuffing of overseas accounts with billions of dollars created serious security situation in their countries by accentuating the class gap on one side and allowing the powers that be to use the same oversees money to fund the chaos generators at home. The Libyans are now learning that part of Gaddafi’s oversees stuffed money, which amounted to tens of billions of dollars, was used to fund proliferation of arms and equipment used by Ben Ghazi militias, similar conclusions can be drawn for Ukraine, Iraq, Syria and Venezuela.
21st century hybrid warfare is a combination of non-kinetic and kinetic warfare and thrives in an environment of creative or natural chaos. Since economic warfare forms the linchpin of this hybrid warfare, it becomes very important to develop its true linkages with national security. When someone talks of this linkage and discusses Economic and Financial health of Pakistan so as to draw conclusions for national security, he or she is not affecting the turf of economic mangers. The battle lines of 21st century hybrid warfare are amorphous and criss-crossed all spectrums of national turfs from education, economy, socio-political trends and governance to kinetic threats from hostile neighbours and their agencies and fifth columnists. While the army bashers can keep shouting at top of their voice when the military hierarchy tries to links economy with national security, it may be appreciated that the officer cadre of defence forces is formally groomed in all aspects of hybrid warfare, no wonder the curriculum of National Defence University and even Staff Colleges was revised in last decade to accommodate the aspects of economic warfare. A complete package on economy and economic warfare is run through sustained discussions, presentations and war-games to make sure the officers destined for higher command develop expertise to understand nuances of hybrid warfare.
Gaddafi, Ben Ali, Saddam Hussain, Bashar al Asad and Viktor Yanukovych and their elitist cabal failed to grasp the nuances of 21st century hybrid warfare and thought that their strong armies would be able to defeat any rebellion; unfortunately it did not help. Have a glance at these sates and you will find these atomized into pieces with foreign sponsored tribal and sub nationalist entities controlling political landscape.
Pakistan’s challenges are much more demanding due to her geopolitical position and a hostile neighbourhood; we have one super power trying to control Afghanistan and maintain her presence while the future power of China asserting her position through strategic initiatives of OBOR and CPEC, while our arch rival India waits in the wings with scheming to harm the integrity of Pakistan at all cost.
Pakistan needs an open and informed debate through collective wisdom with one agenda, national interest of Pakistan. Since Pakistan faces an active and evolving hybrid War, all stake holders must put their heads together to develop joint strategy to safely steer Pakistan out of its economic crises as well as develop enough breathing space within a hostile neighbourhood. Our economic managers cannot remain in a state of denial on flimsy grounds of turf defence and domain issues. In 21st Century hybrid warfare, economic well-being of a state may be the first and last firewall against strategic chaos, we should not shy away from this reality.
The author is a freelance columnist.