Foreign policy has never been Pakistan’s strong point, but the situation seems to be particularly alarming this time around. Events since Donald Trump’s August 21 speech threatening Pakistan of dire consequences for its ‘continued support for regional terrorism’ have made two things certain: First, that the Americans are serious about using economic and military pressure on Pakistan to punish it for providing safe havens for Islamic militants; and second, that the Pakistani establishment is in no mood to heed to Trump’s warnings anytime soon. Like it or not, Islamic militarism has functioned as the mainstay for our deep state’s security policy for over five decades, and breaking such ties is never easy. Unwilling to let go of this policy, the Pakistani deep-state is projecting defiance by sending off Foreign Minister KhawajaAsif on a four-nation tour to China, Russia, Turkey and Iran. This move is to warn the Americans that Pakistan is not afraid to break its ties with the west and join the opposing camp of Asian powers. Whatever this policy might seem on surface, it lacks substance since switching sides at this stage is next to impossible for Pakistan. Although our policymakers have proved themselves to be incompetent many times in the past, I still doubt if they want Pakistan to become another North Korea, Myanmar or Iran without the oil. The BRICS declaration condemning Pakistan-based militant organisations such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) indicates that Russia and China are more interested in expanding their own economic interests, rather than defending Pakistan’s ‘strategic assets’. In another inconsequential hogwash, both houses of the Pakistani parliament condemned Donald Trump’s speech in harshest of terms, and urged the government to take a host of measures like blocking NATO supplies to Afghanistan and sending refugees back to Afghanistan. These resolutions included every irrelevant thing you could think of, except demanding the government to act against terrorist sanctuaries within our territories. Given how little influence the politicians have in national security matters, this resolution is nothing more than noise meant to appease some segments of our own society or to strengthen the establishment’s position as it renegotiates terms with the Americans. What the Americans are asking is probably too much for us to deliver. The Pakistani establishment does not want to lose its chance to install a friendly government in post-American Kabul by disowning the Haqqani Network. Handing over Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commanders to India would leave the establishment with no other levers to pull India into dialogue over Kashmir. Who will fight against Baloch separatists on the deep-state’s behalf if the ISIS leader ShafiqueMengal is put behind bars? The establishment needs militants to threaten politicians when they challenge it, or to intimidate bloggers who dare to mock the military. Our current and past foreign policy failures come from such myopic views held by our military. The fact remains that military-led national security policy is bound to end up in disaster. Militaries are trained for combat and view all situations in win-lose, live-die, fight-flight, friend-foe dichotomies. They are also trained to expect the worst of their opponent so they may plan for grave eventualities. Every move of the opponent is viewed with suspicion and mistrust, and contingencies are stacked to counter the enemy’s potential hostilities. Our need to maintain perpetual proxies to infiltrate India and Afghanistan to counter these neighboring nations is an example of wartime skills being applied in times of peace. Military-men find it difficult to sympathise with other non-security dimensions of inter-nation relationships such as economy, trade, culture, education, health etc. A multi-dimensional treatment of foreign policy by politicians is viewed with suspicion and they are often accused of compromising on security matters. A politician trying to normalise relationships with regional powers is seen either as dishonest or naïve. What the Americans are asking is probably too much for us to deliver. The Pakistani establishment does not want to lose its chance to install a friendly government in post-American Kabul by disowning the Haqqani Network Finally, militaries require unquestioned support from their citizens to win wars because soldiers would only lay their lives fighting an enemy if they know that the entire nation stands by them. This essential condition for wartime morale becomes problematic when the military takes on roles it is not meant to, like formulating national security or foreign policies. Any criticism is viewed as a direct attack on the military and all efforts are made to curb dissent, even if they require using religious extremists to threaten dissidents. In addition to creating an oppressive atmosphere in the society, this obsession with homogeneity of opinion reduces the accountability of policymakers. Lack of accountability then leads to further problems like misusing national security to protect vested interests, fostering more distrust of institutions in the society. Such blanket powers have allowed the establishment to label activists like Mehar Abdul Sattar of Okara, Baba Jan of Gilgit-Baltistan, or Akbar Bugti of Balochistan as terrorists for speaking out against the excesses of the deep-state. Every dissenter becomes a traitor and worthy of the severest reprimand without access to legal forums. Pakistan’s foreign policy problems are a direct consequence of army’s control over our internal and external security domains. The military’s current domination of the national discourse would not allow any input from the politicians, as we have witnessed with the hostile treatment of the infamous Dawn Leaks where politicians were found to be pleading to the military leadership to stop backing Islamic militants. As things stand, we are likely to be stuck in our self-destructing ways leading Pakistan to become a pariah state in the comity of nations. The writer is an Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Administration at Cleveland State University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His twitter handle is @RamblingSufi Published in Daily Times, September 7th 2017.