A Hard Country
PublicAffairs, $35, 558 pp.
The American raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan has heightened suspicion of Pakistani double-dealing and laid bare the strained relationship between the two countries. Anatol Lieven’s new book Pakistan: A Hard Country, published just before the May 2 raid, takes up many of the questions raised in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death.
Lieven, a professor in the War Studies Department at King’s College in London and a senior fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C., does not address what Pakistan and its intelligence services may have known about bin Laden’s whereabouts, but he does depict the perceptions that influence Pakistan’s response to the U.S. war on terror, from the common suspicion that the United States, not bin Laden, was responsible for the 9/11 attacks to the widespread sympathy for the Afghan Taliban among all sectors of Pakistani society. Examining Pakistan’s relations with Islamist militant groups inside and outside the country, Lieven offers historical perspective and a coherent, nuanced picture of the strategic concerns, politics, and occasional paranoia underlying Pakistani actions. If the West views Pakistan as a reluctant and unreliable partner in the war in Afghanistan, Lieven’s book suggests that Pakistan could hardly be otherwise. The government of Pakistan has been pressed into supporting a war deeply unpopular with its own population and one it sees as at odds with its own interests.