US Aid to Pakistan: Nation-Building and Realist Objectives in the Post 9/11 Era




Mollaun, Alicia Hayley

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The United States (US) has always used its aid program as a strategic lever in foreign policy. In the early days of aid, it was used to prosecute the Cold War. Now aid supports the United States in its effort to win the war on terror. Aid is used both to pursue short-term or “realist” objectives (e.g., to win support for US foreign policy goals) and long-term or “nation-building” ones (e.g. to strengthen governance). The trade-offs and tensions between these goals have been examined for the Cold War period (e.g., Seitz 2012), but not the post 9/11 one. This research takes a case-study approach and examines US aid to Pakistan. It is based primarily on interviews with the Pakistani and American elite collected in Pakistan between October 2011 and October 2013 and the United States in March 2012. The period of research (2011-2013) is one in which the Obama Administration tried to pivot its relationship with Pakistan away from a focus on realist objectives (principally, the war in Afghanistan) towards nation-building ends, for example, through a much larger civilian aid program to improve Pakistan’s governance and the economy. This thesis examines the success of that pivot, and argues it was limited, on three main grounds First, both groups of elite view Pakistan’s challenges are mostly nation-building in nature, and particularly related to its economy (and, in the case of the Pakistani elite, internal security needs). But both groups nevertheless perceive that the US still primarily wants cooperation on countering terrorism and in Afghanistan. Second, the leverage and goodwill that US aid provides is seen to be undermined by the pursuit of its realist objectives. Third, US aid is seen by many in the elite as targeted at the elite not the masses. Some interesting differences in views between the two groups of elite are observed. In general, more importance was attached to nation-building objectives by US respondents than by Pakistani respondents. For example, US respondents were more likely to think that the US was concerned with trying to improve Pakistani governance and was trying to influence public opinion in Pakistan, whereas Pakistani respondents viewed US aid as much less concerned with governance and more directed to the Pakistani elite. Despite these differences, which are suggestive of at least a genuine US intent to engage in nation-building, the findings of the thesis point to a failure by the Obama Administration to follow through on its nation-building objectives in Pakistan. Nation-building floundered, it is argued, because of ongoing disputes in relation to realist goals, especially in relation to the war on Afghanistan. Several published studies of US-Pakistan relations argue for a further nation-building push. In my interviews, I find considerable support for such a position in the US elite. However, I also find little sympathy for it on the Pakistani side. The Pakistani elite is concerned rather to regain equality in their relationship with the US. They see the need to put their own house in order, but have little appetite for US assistance. This calls into question the likely success of any further nation-building push on the part of the US in Pakistan. The academic contribution of this thesis is to establish the relevance of Cold War aid analysis for the post-9/11 era. The findings are consistent with much of the Cold War literature, though some nuances are provided to earlier conclusions. The policy contribution is to suggest that in cases such as Pakistan where short-term foreign policy goals are of great importance the US should put nation-building on the back-burner.



Pakistan, Pakistan studies, United States, US-Pakistan relations, Foreign Aid, 9/11, Nation-Building, Realism, US foreign Policy, Pakistani foreign policy, Pakistan military, Pakistan economy, Pakistan development, Foreign Policy, war on terror, terrorism, elite, civilian aid, Obama Administration, Bush Administration, India, Afghanistan, winning 'hearts and minds', public opinion, development studies, perceptions of foreign aid, elite interviews, USAID, State Department, wicked problem, Kerry Lugar Berman Act, motivations for giving foreign aid, objectives of foreign aid, aid conditionality, aid and leverage




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