Frontline Pakistan: The Struggle with Militant Islam

Article excerpt

Frontline Pakistan: The Struggle with Militant Islam by Zahid Hussain. Columbia University Press (http://www.columbia.edu/cu/cup), 61 West 62nd Street, New York, New York 10023, 2007, 256 pages, $24.95 (hardcover).

If any air warriors in the readership of Air and, Space Power Journal need convincing that the US foreign policy in the Islamic world is complex and dangerous, they can get a good view of it in Frontline Pakistan. Although readers accustomed to English will have difficulty with the Pakistani personal and place-names therein, the labyrinth of politics and religion in a region that hovers near anarchy will persuade just about anybody of the dilemmas facing decision makers everywhere.

Zahid Hussain appears well qualified to attempt to give us a picture of the situation. Ajournalist providing materials to the Times of London, Newsweek, and the Wall Street Journal, he has a good writing style and is an expert on the region, having had access to some hard-to-get-at sources. He organizes his work in topical chapters and in a more-or-less chronological order. The political landscape is cluttered with military, religious, power-seeking, nuclearsmuggling, and drug interests that yielded an almost impossible problem for former president Pervez Musharraf, who tried to survive in the midst of a number of mutually hostile domestic groups and the pressures of international politics.

I fear that the reader seeking a coherent picture of Pakistan and Afghanistan is doomed to frustration. Both countries have long seemed ungovernable, partly because the central governments have had very limited powers over regional and local interests. I suppose that the main idea of the book is that trouble probably looms ahead for the United States because of Pakistan's status as a principal ally during the global war on terror - largely because President Musharraf sided with America, a position that goes very much against the tide in his own homeland. …