Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


Three data points to ponder:

1. If I recall correctly, roughly ten years ago President Clinton and our European allies had to work very hard behind the scenes to prevent a full scale war between Pakistan and India from breaking out.

2. A few months after 9/11, I recall seeing a startling international poll of attitudes toward the aggressive U.S. position in Afghanistan and elsewhere. As you might imagine, continental European opinion was fairly bad; Britain was decent, Israel was quite strong (something like 88 percent expressed support/agreement with the U.S.), and the next highest level of support came from--India. No real mystery why.

3. I know from some sources in the region that Indian military officers have been relentless since 9/11 in telling our diplomats and military attaches that Pakistan is a big part of the problem, why don’t you let us have a go at Pakistan, we’re ready when you are, etc.

Afghanistan may be the least of Obama’s problems when he arrives at the White House in two months.

Discussions - 9 Comments

Once both sides got The Bomb, I figured it was only a matter of time before they finally decide to have a real go at one another. There is too much deep-seated hatred on both sides for either one to back down from any provocation. In addition, on the Pakistan side you have the government, military, and intelligence service riddled with fundamentalists, who believe that God/Allah is on their side, and therefore they will prevail in an all-out conflict.

If it comes to open war, it will be brutal, short, and Pakistan will probably cease to exist as a functioning country.

Just my $.02

DaveK, I have read that there is a tribal/family aspect to their politics in Pakistan that we in the West do not really understand. This is why, said the article I read, that Pakistan does not really function well as a country anyway.

Would war be good for India? Well, maybe given the situation in Bombay/Mumbai they already are at war.

The biggest threat from a Pakistan-India war, and the primary reason we should have such a vested interest in what happens, would be that the government of Pakistan will be unable to adequately secure their nuclear facilities, leaving the back door open for Bin Laden to swoop in and finally pick up the materials needed to do some really, really big damage...

Steve, your memory is correct. You are thinking of the Kargil War, a short but sharp conflict that occurred in the mountains of Kashmir in mid-1999. It was history's first direct ground conflict between two nuclear-armed states. Clinton called then-premier Nawaz Sharif to Washington as part of the process of ending it. The architect of the war was a certain Pakistani general named Pervez Musharraf. The war was an attempt by Pakistan to cut a strategic line of communications that India uses in Kashmir.

We should also remember that just 3 months after 9/11 Pakistan was involved in sending Kashmiri terrorists to make what was intended to be a mass-casualty car-bomb assault on the Indian Lok Sabha, or Parliament, complex in Delhi. The world owes a huge debt of gratitude to the brave Indian security personnel who gave their lives foiling that attack and holding its casualties to a minimum.

Pakistan views its nukes as, among other things, a shield from behind which it can launch continual asymmetric attacks against India and its interests (including Indian diplomatic outposts in Afghanistan, where Pakistan has traditionally been terrified of being outflanked by Indian influence). If Iran gets nukes, I would suggest that it can be expected to--at a minimum--try to leverage them against its own foes (that would be us) in a similar way. Pakistan has fought--and badly lost-several conventional wars with India (Kargil being only the latest), which explains the Pakistani military's love for asymmetric warfare.

Pakistan presents a terrible barbed paradox to our Afghan policy: Afghanistan is landlocked so we need Pakistan's cooperation to mount operations there. But Pakistan's interests in Afghanistan (as Pakistani generals and ISI honchos see them) are opposed to ours: At a minimum, they want chaos (ideally they want their Taliban clients back in control), and they hate and fear the Karzai government as essentially one tip of an Indian pincers meant to attack Pakistan from the rear. Hence the halfhearted efforts to stop the Taliban/al-Qaeda complex that has been digging in throughout the tribal areas along the Afghan border.

Damn straight, Race.

DaveK, good point. An all out war between India and Pakistan could (along with a nuclear exchange) spell the end of Pakistan's state. But it won't spell the end of Pakistan's population. The country formerly known as Pakistan and its tens of millions would devolve into (even more) poverty, chaos, and radicalism. It would be an even better breeding and training ground for Islamist terrorists. As a matter of self defense, the US would have to try to do with Pakistan what we are currently trying to do with Iraq and Afghanistan. The alternative would be absorbing ever more terrorist attacks from what had been Pakistani territory. The Pakistani state is problematic to say the least. But the lack of a Pakistani state would probably be even worse - and I'm not even counting the problem of "loose nukes".

Actually, no...if Pakistan 'dissolved' then its people would be far too busy surviving to engage in Jihad. It is a misconception to assume that abject poverty invites the export of political violence. I'm sure they'd fight amongst themselves, oh my yes, but living on the edge of subsistence has a wonderful way of focusing the mind on the here and now...not much time left over for dreams of conquest and glory.

Haji, sorry but not true. Post Soviet Afghanistan was a scene of chaos and poverty and became a base of Islamist terrorism. Terrorist groups can prosper from state sponsorship but also through the failure of a state. Sadly, no easy answers on Pakistan. Least of all thinking the rest of us would be better off if its people went into the economic stone age.

Have a go at one another? Here's to mangled corpses, crying babies, demolished villages. You talk about war like its a freeking soccer match you arm chair tough guy.

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