A review
"Our Defence Cause"

Thanks to Col (Retd) SG MEHDI, DJ has access to a
review done by AT CHAUDHRI of Our Defence Cause
written by late Lt Gen ATTIQUR RAHMAN in 1996

SARTRE'S dictum books do not make anything happen was refuted by Sir Basil Liddell Hart. The books and ideas of this military genius did make things happen. After the six-day Arab-Israeli war in 1967, the Israel Generals deluged him with letters saying Basil, we applied your ideas: and see how they worked. Earlier in 1940, the German Generals applied Liddell Hart"s ideas to pierce the defence of France and put his own country in jeopardy. Ironical, indeed.

Liddell Hart"s first masterpiece The Real War, which became the launching pad of his world reputation, and his last "Magnum Opus" the "History of the Second World War", which turned him into a guru" of military scientists, must have been digested by military analysts in Pakistan. But none has tried to emulate his example and make use of the available documents, diaries and personal witnesses to present an objective account of our two wars with India, in 1965 and 1971.

Here was a rare chance, and it would be lost a few years hence, to check and cross-check facts with those who fought these wars and write a history approximating to truth. But nobody in Pakistan conceived books like Brigadier Dalvis" Himalayan Blunder or Neville Maxwell"s India"s China War (1970). May be, no contemporary historian wished to explode fixed ideas of military science.


Unfortunately, defence has been treated as a sacred cow in this country - though in a democracy, and in the modern context of national defence, people must be involved in and allowed to understand and scrutinise, even criticise, the defence effort.

It is with this basic promise that Lt General M. Attiqur Rahman (White Lion Publishers, London 1976) has drawn back the heavy curtain on defence in his latest book "Our Defence Cause", which provides an incisive analysis of Pakistan"s past and future military role. One would look in vain in these 260 pages for a complete answer to the question why the Indo-Pakistan conflict of 1965 ended in a sort of draw, or why the Pakistan armour was blunted in the 1971 war. But unlike General Fazal Muqueem"s book The Story of the Pakistan Army the present work is more solid and objective and offers a remarkably synoptical and highly specialised study of the defence organisation.

The tone of the book is neither chauvinistic nor apologetic. It is chiefly nationalistic. Its main virtue lies in demolishing several myths and bringing out some glaring discrepancies in the old military doctrine and the new situation.

In the opening chapter, the author traces the historical background of our armed forces up to 1965 and the "good and bad points" inherited from the British Indian Army, notably its class composition. This may not impress those who have handled Dr. Nagendra Singh"s "Organisation of Defence in Indian Constitutional History", which came out in 1969 tracing the development of soldiery in this region from the days of Mahabharata through the Curzon-Kitchener period, down to the time of Partition. But General Attiqur Rahman"s observation on the past showing of the Indian army in the First and Second World Wars against the Germans and the Japanese are refreshingly non-conformist.


But the author should have pinpointed the fact that the strength of Muslims in the Indian Army was a factor to be reckoned with at the time of transfer of power by the British. One might mention here that at the height of World War II, Churchill had written to Roosevelt that since 75 per cent of the Indian troops were Muslims he would not take any political step that may alienate the Muslims. America also came to realise that the Muslim soldiers were deeply loyal to Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and opposed to Gandhi"s Quit India movement. Thus, Edgar Snow observed that the British did not make any settlement with the Congress because they knew that if they turned over the country to the Hindu Congress the Muslims might mutiny if Jinnah told them so.

Ultimately when the British decided to divide and quit the Sub-Continent, they had plans for a unified regional defence designed to balance out both Russia and China. But these plans were frustrated by the Quaid, who did not agree to have a common Governor General, and later by the leaders of the Pakistan Army who were eager to take command from the British officers in their homeland not due to Bonapartist ambitions but as a manifestation of their professional confidence and pride to quote from Stephen Cohen"s recent article in Asian Survey.

Instead of bringing out these facts to make the historical perspective more clear, Gen Attiq hastens to deal with the initial re-organisation of our Army after Independence. He is critical of the tactical concepts which were evolved in the first decade and which did not last more than 24 hours of the Pakistan-Indian War of 1965. This was because the higher officer corps lacked the moral fibre to oppose the obvious mistakes of their bosses. Again, the antagonism between the civil service and the military, the lack of coordination in the three Services and the political ambitions of some Army leaders - all this impinged adversely on the preparedness of the armed forces when it was pushed into the 1965 War.

After 1965, some lessons should have been learnt. And the Army did get down to re-organisation. It instituted a fine programme of study, planning, equipment and training. But discipline slackened; loyalty to persons, rather than institutions, became the passport to success and out-of-date drills and ceremonials distracted the soldiers.

Analysing the reasons which led to the debacle of 1971 and dismemberment of the country, the author refers to several plausible guesses and conjectures. But here he only traverses the familiar ground covered by G.W. Chaudhry in The Last Days of United Pakistan. However, his observations on (a) Pakistan"s pre-emptive air strike, which failed to damage the Indian airfields owing to lack of penetrating power, (b) the delay in launching the counter-offensive from the West, and (c) the lack of co-ordination in the direction of military effort, should be of particular interest to students of military science.

Speaking of the casualties in 1971, which totalled barely 2,698, but caused a near-hysteria in this country, General Attiq reminds his readers that the Algerians lost 10 per cent of the total population in their war of liberation and the Vietnamese over 9,26,000 in their epic struggle against a super Power. This is the price a nation has to pay when it fights for what it holds dear.


After dealing with the basic material, or human element, and the part played by men and arms in the Army - both fighting and supporting - the author makes some thoughtful and provocative suggestions on the High Command Organisation, Planning and Preparation for War and the fundamentals that hold the military services together and make them fight better. He boldly suggests that the numerical strength of the Army should be reduced, the Air Force increased and modernised and a Joint High Command created with the capacity to think in terms of the three Services and appreciate the relationship of defence needs and the economic resources of the country. In conclusion, he lays a marked stress on the development of what he calls an aristocracy of intellect in the armed forces as also a robust fighting spirit, and quotes Napoleon saying: In the end the spirit will always conquer the sword.

Few would disagree with the basic approach of General Attiq to the pressing problems of defence and the solutions proposed by him. Today, as a nation we are facing a new world in which the defence problem is more complex than before. Since the sixties even a super-power like the Soviet Union has effected changes in the military doctrine, military ideology and military art, which covers strategy, operational problems and tactics. The United States, too, has re-interpreted its defence policy in the wake of thermonuclear weapons.


In this age of total war, developing countries have also to mobilise the whole society so that civilians and soldiers may participate alike in national defence. And this has important implications for civil-military relationship - a subject which has been skipped over in Our Defence Cause. It is a subject which has engaged the attention of political thinkers right since the days of Plato who wanted his auxiliaries to be the friends and allies of the citizens. This question was also of great concern to the founders of British democracy, the Founding Fathers of America and the leaders of the first Socialist State. It is of particular interest to the nation builders of the Third World.

No writer on national defence can ignore the fact that today the military factor is central to all matters of national planning and policy. There is now an inter-dependence between policy and strategy which implies that the military should weigh the strategic implications of policy and civil authority should know the political implications of strategy. As General Upton observed: In time of war the civilian as much as the soldier is responsible for defeat and disaster. Battles are not lost alone in the field ... they may be lost in the Cabinet.

Thus nobody can now dispute the fact that a valid national strategy must embrace all national resources -human-material, industrial, scientific, political and spiritual. In this context one may recall what the Hoover Commission in the US had noted: "Military policy and preparations are vital, but they are only part of national security policy as a whole, which, if it is to succeed, must continuously integrate political objectives, military plans, economic strength... This is essential to survive as a nation and democracy in the last quarter of the 20th century.

Though Gen. Attiq has only cursorily dealt with this crucial issue he has nevertheless succeeded in breaking new ground. He has brought together a wide range of new ideas on defence and presented these ideas with intellectual honesty and remarkable objectivity. It is a book with a cause and in this lies its chief merit.