On pragmatism

Pragmatism in politics is generally invoked when one is describing a policy that one is already favourably disposed to or at least neutral to. For this reason, it usually ends up being applied inconsistently, which is not a big deal, but something that should be pointed out when people (usually Pakistanis defending Pakistani proxies in Afghanistan and Kashmir) throw the “well I am only advocating what is inevitable and practical!” justification. More often than not, invocations of pragmatism tend to be one-way. The same group of people advocating a policy in the name of pragmatism often surprise me with their vehement and emotional opposition to other, less favorable (from their perspective), policies and justify their opposition with an invocation of some system of morality despite their earlier claim that there is no morality in international relations.

It’s just something I’ve been thinking about regarding Pakistani hawks and their interesting shifts between pragmatism (the US must inevitably give in to Pakistan pressure to support the Afghan Taliban) and moral outrage at US encroachment on Pakistan’s territorial integrity. (I guess the pragmatism argument doesn’t work when it comes to drone attacks).

Another explanation for this one-sidedness is freedom from moral responsibility. No one wants to be seen as an advocate for Mullah Omar. The invocation of the pragmatist argument for the Afghan Taliban is a way of avoiding the negative stigma of being seen as an actual supporter.

By the way, just so that this blog post isn’t completely useless, check out this 300 page long collection of essays on Afghanistan


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