Review by Jon P. Dorschner
Magnificent Delusions (Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding) by Husain Haqqani, Public Affairs: New York, 2013, ISBN 978-1-61039-317, 432 pp., $28.99 (Hardcover), $14.99 (Kindle).
Pakistan is increasingly identified in American minds as an enormous headache. This has spawned a mini industry of books and articles sounding the alarm and pointing to all the problems originating from Pakistani soil. We are provided with a daily litany regarding terrorism, violence, intolerance, nuclear proliferation, corruption, economic failure, and religious extremism.
This was not always the case. There was a time when Americans viewed Pakistan with great fondness and condescension. At one point, Americans viewed Pakistanis as their fellow warriors fighting side by side to defeat communism.
Now, many Americans view Pakistan and Pakistanis with suspicion. Few believe Pakistani policymakers and their promises. While the policy establishments of both countries work assiduously to cultivate the image of two allies working hand in hand, this time to defeat terrorism rather than Communism, the populations of both countries grow increasingly hostile. Americans have come to see Pakistan as a country trying to play a two-sided game, accepting billions in aid from the United States to combat terrorism, while patronizing anti-American extremists. Americans now often dismiss Pakistan as a failing state at the epicenter of terrorism and nuclear proliferation. Likewise, most Pakistanis cultivate a virulent strain of anti-Americanism, blasting the United States as a faithless ally plotting with Israel and India to destroy Pakistan.
Those of us who have spent our entire adult lives working on Pakistan have seen this gradual shift in attitude, scratched our heads and wondered how policy-makers in both countries could have made so many colossal blunders. In Magnificent Delusions, Ambassador Haqqani tries to explain the seemingly inexplicable. Unlike the many academics who have taken on this challenge, Haqqani is a practitioner. Deeply involved in Pakistani policy making for a long time, he knows the Pakistani and American power players personally, and has himself tried to steer the US/Pakistan relationship in a more rational direction. Unlike the academics, Haqqani has faced prison and death threats for his efforts.
While Pakistan drifts further and further into religious extremism and becomes...