In This Review

Avoiding Armageddon: America, India, and Pakistan to the Brink and Back (Brookings FOCUS Book)
Avoiding Armageddon: America, India, and Pakistan to the Brink and Back (Brookings FOCUS Book)
By Bruce O. Riedel
Brookings Institution Press, 2013, 220 pp

This is a riveting account of cynical maneuvering in Washington’s tormented relationships with India and Pakistan. A former CIA analyst and frequent presidential adviser, Riedel focuses on the Cold War and after. He shows that the American desire for simultaneous good relations with both rival powers has been doomed by the three countries’ fundamentally incompatible security needs. Resenting its colonial past, India is determined to remain independent of any great-power entanglements. Pakistan, as the weaker of the two rivals, has frantically played a double game with the United States and India -- and also with Afghanistan, China, and domestic and foreign terrorist groups. It is hard to know what a coherent security strategy for Pakistan would look like, but it is clear that Pakistani elites do not have one. This makes it hard to be optimistic about Riedel’s suggestions at the end of the book for how to stabilize Pakistan by pushing it to resolve its problems with India.