Jihad as Grand Strategy (Islamist Militancy, National Security, and the Pakistani State) by S. Paul Kapur, Oxford University Press: New York, 2017, ISBN 978-0-19-976852-3, 177 pp., $39.95 (Hardcover).
Although the United States was a long-term patron of Pakistan, there was not much US interest in Pakistan's unrelenting covert war and commitment to terrorism prior to the Al Qaeda terrorist attack against the United States in 2011. Since then, writing on the seemingly impenetrable maze that is Pakistan's shadowy support for "bad actors," has become a growth industry. Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid is one of my favorite authors in this genre, having written a series of insightful books on the subject. The 9/11 events were eye-opening for an American public that until then had been uncaring and unconcerned about Pakistan. However, the flood of reporting concerning this often-forgotten region confirmed once and for all, what South Asians and South Asia experts have long known, that Pakistan has supported Islamist militants from its inception and continues to do so today, regardless of its repeated assertions to the contrary.
With so many books to read, espousing so many different viewpoints, what can another book bring to the table? Why should anyone read S. Paul Kapur's contribution? There are a number of reasons why I can recommend this work. Perhaps first and foremost, it is a slim volume, clocking in at a mere 177 pages (including the extensive notes and index). This makes this book more accessible to a wider audience. Because it is so short, Kapur writes in a compact, straightforward style, eschewing the rambling, detailed discourses of tomes written purely for academics.
This is not to say, however, that Kapur's work is lightweight, not valuable, or meant only for non-South Asia specialists. He crafted the work to serve as an essential primer on a complex subject, while also contributing to theoretical literature meant for academics.
Jihad as Grand Strategy serves two valuable purposes. For the general reader, Kapur provides a condensed essential history of a long sordid story. He provides a succinct account of Pakistan's long support for a jihadist strategy that uses Islamist non-state actors to covertly carry out the Pakistani agenda. This is the essential data that Kapur provides to support his thesis.
Unlike other authors on this subject, Kapur does not engage in sensationalism or categorical value judgments. He evaluates the Pakistani strategy from an objective, realist standpoint. He argues that Pakistan had good reasons to embrace jihadism as a tool of national policy. From a realist standpoint, the strategy furthered Pakistan's national interests in important ways. Pakistan also took the realist stance that it need not be encumbered by moralization and value judgments and was free to manipulate Muslim religious sentiments for its own gain.
Split off from India in 1947, Pakistan was in every way the...