Deadly Embrace is an excellent addition to books on diplomatic relations between countries particularly in the background of terrorism and non-state actors. Bruce Riedel’s Deadly Embrace speaks about the ups and downs of Pakistan’s complex relations with United States involving different non-state actors which both the countries first supported in Afghan war against Soviets and then opposed in Global war on terrorism following attacks in New York on September 11, 2001.
The book by Riedel was published before Operation Neptune Spear that killed Osama Bin Laden in Abottabad, Pakistan but still its an important addition to studies of how non-state actors and terrorism have been impacting the relations of states, particularly USA and Pakistan. Riedel’s assessment is critical in understanding the post Osama relations between Pakistan and USA. In the aftermath of Osama’s killing, Washington has increasingly become aware of the fact that its success in Afghanistan has a lot to do with its success with Pakistan. Through a hard experience, Washington has learnt that without Islamabad’s assistance, its impossible to completely extinguish terrorism because terrorist elements have been enjoying support from within Pakistan.
After 9/11, USA increasingly relied over Pakistan in its Global war on terrorism, to eradicate terror networks inside Afghanistan. For that matter, it also launched Drone Attacks that especially targeted Taliban members, however, America’s use of drone attacks increased only after 2007 when Bush administration reconfigured its Pakistan policy, as it deemed support from Pakistan in Global War on terror insufficient. After 2007, Drone attacks increased their scope and intensity while targeting terror elements inside Pakistan too.
Though the book doesn’t put too much blame on Pakistan for terrorism emanating from the country, Riedel’s main argument and focus remains on rescuing Pakistan against terror threat. For that, Riedel provides multiple scenarios. Including these scenarios is the possibility of a military confrontation between USA and Pakistan, which Riedel believes will be a nightmare, particularly because Pakistan is a nuclear weapons possessing state. This can turn into an India-Pakistan military confrontation and lead to a nuclear exchange that would have deteriorating effect for the entire region.
The centrepiece of Riedel’s argument lies in rebuilding trust between USA and Pakistan. Washington believes that Islamabad is pouring support to the terror elements engaging Washington in Kabul and threating its interests across the globe. This trust deficit can only be reduced by strong and vibrant democracy in Pakistan which Riedel believes US should fully support. For that matter, Riedel argues that historically, Pakistan’s relations with USA have been warm under democracies, particularly from the perspective of counter-terrorism. That the democratic governments in Pakistan were always more willing to act against terror networks inside the country, as compared with the military regimes, speaks volumes of where US needs to look in order to achieve its goals.
Riedel also prescribes the solution in the form of assisting Islamabad in its fight against terror networks particularly by strengthening Pakistan’s democratic institution. Towards the end of the book, Riedel supports a multi-dimensional strategy towards US engagement with Pakistan. He argues for dealing with the state and its institutions and not with certain individuals. He also argues in favour of building Pakistan’s strength and capacity to fight terror groups. In this manner, Riedel’s book can be taken as promotion of hard policy choices if needed but strictly following a course which would allow democracy to grow in Pakistan and not undermine it in the country.