The US tells Pakistan to pick a side. Or else…

Summary:  A look at a good research note about the war in Pakistan, and how it shows the West’s difficulty in understanding and adapting to the new world of the 21st century.  Failure in our Middle East wars might result from failure to do better at this.

Intelligence Research Ltd is a sharp group providing some valuable products, one of which is AsiaInt Weekly Alert — a product of their Asia Intelligence division.  Here we see an excerpt that illustrates how our changing world requires even the best of analysts to change their assumptions — their worldview.  Global power is shifting away from the great western powers, and one aspect of this is the rise of 4th generation methods as the dominant mode of warfare — rendering conventional military forces far less effective.  Failure to see this leads even top analysts to write nonsense.

“U.S Tells Pakistan to Pick a Side”, AsiaInt Weekly Alert, 1 May 2009 — Red emphasis added.  Excerpt:

The thrust and counter-thrust of Pakistan-Taleban relations has taken on the air of a performance.  Last week the Taleban moved closer to Islamabad; the United States complained; the Pakistani army was dispatched; and the Taleban made a token withdrawal.  This ritualised display forced the Obama administration to reflect on a question first asked 8 years ago:  is Pakistan with the US, or against it? There are signs that the latter view is taking hold in Washington.

… The United States responded by issuing its most direct threat yet, not against the Taleban but against the Pakistani state itself. Appearing before the US Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee on 22 April, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said …

Despite the Taleban’s staged withdrawal, the army claims to have killed some 50 militants over the past week in “search and cordon” operations in Buner and Lower Dir, including some high-value targets.  The army has presented the operation as a swift and decisive victory.

However, it has not dispelled the impression that relations between the Taleban and the Pakistani state are to some extent choreographed.  This impression is dangerous to Pakistan.  The country has received tens of billions of dollars over the past 8 years to fight the militants, most recently at April’s “Friends of Democratic Pakistan” conference in Tokyo.  Over the same period the Taleban has become steadily more powerful; the relationship is beginning to look mutually beneficial.  If this suspicion turns into certainty in Washington, Pakistan will find itself facing a far more powerful military threat than the Taleban.

For details about Secretary of State Clinton’s words to the House (not Senate) Committee on Foreign Affairs see here.

There are several problematic aspects to this brief analysis.  These go to the core of America’s relationship with the world — its grand strategy.

(1)  What is Pakistan?

This is a complex struggle between groups in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.  It is an internal conflict, in which the Taleban is not fighting “Pakistan”.  The Taliban is a part of Pakistan.  This is the also  a fallacy of ambiguity (aka reification, hypostatisation or concretism), when an abstraction is seen as a real or concrete entity.   It is more accurate to say that the Taliban, a predominately Pashtun Sunni Islamist group, is fighting other groups which collectively control the State machinery of Afghanistan and Pakistan.   The existence of a State depends on its legitimacy in the hearts and minds of its people, and the vitality of its State machinery.  Afghanistan has a weak basis in terms of these criteria; Pakistan is stronger but hardly strong.

(2)  Who are the Taliban?

From “Planning Victory in Afghanistan“, Frederick W. Kagen, 9 February 2009:

There is no such thing as “the Taliban” today. Many different groups with different leaders and aims call themselves “Taliban,” and many more are called “Taliban” by their enemies. In addition to Mullah Omar’s Taliban based in Pakistan and indigenous Taliban forces in Afghanistan, there is an indigenous Pakistani Taliban controlled by Baitullah Mehsud (this group is thought to have been responsible for assassinating Benazir Bhutto). Both are linked with al-Qaeda, and both are dangerous and determined. In other areas, however, “Taliban” groups are primarily disaffected tribesmen who find it more convenient to get help from the Taliban than from other sources. In general terms, any group that calls itself “Taliban” is identifying itself as against the government in Kabul, the U.S., and U.S. allies.

Also, how much the the Taliban’s opposition to us results from our presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan?  It is easy to see ourselves as good guys — and ignore how others see us.   In this case, many see us as infidel foreigners supporting illegitimate puppet governments — invading their culture with ideas antithetical to their deepest values.

This goes to one of the chief sources of irrational American foreign policy:  simultaneous belief in the diametrically opposing ideas of human rights and multiculturalism.  From Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind (part II, chapter 5 — Culture):

Here we live with 2 contradictory understandings of what counts for man. One tells us that what is important is what all men have in common; the other that what men have in common is low, while what they have from separate cultures gives them their depth and their interest. … {T}he Ayatollah was initially supported by some here because he represented true Iranian culture. Now he is attacked for violating human rights. What he does is in the name of Islam.  His critics insist that there are universal principles that limit the rights of Islam.

… Why can’t there be a respect for both human rights and culture? Simply because a culture itself generates its own way of life and principles, particularly its highest ones, with no authority above it. If there were such an authority, the unique way of life born of its principle would be undermined.

(3)  America the all-powerful, whom Pakistan should fear

The Asia Intelligence excerpt raises many questions.

  • Should Pakistan fear the military threat of America?
  • Should this fear affect how they settle this civil war?
  • How might America use its military force against Pakistan, if we decide that Pakistan has “picked” the wrong side?
  • What side should Pakistan pick?  Should Pakistan putting their own interests first — be on its own side?
  • Would using force against Pakistan risk atomic war?
  • How many villages might we destroy before risking retaliation?  A legal retaliation in reply to US attacks
  • Could the US get UN authorization to wage war on Pakistan?
  • If not, would this definitively wreck the international system build with such effort by generations of US leaders?

Last but not least, what are the limits of America’s military resources?  Mainstream geopolitical analysts often write as if US resources were without limit.  That seems an odd assumption for a nation with an over-extended military, chronic and growing government deficits, a chronic (if cyclical) balance of payments deficit (i.e., persistent foreign borrowing), and an almost $60 trillion government liability.  Esp with our ever-broadening wars:

  • Iraq:  population 31 million, area 170 thousand sq miles.
  • Afghanistan:  population 33 million, 252 thousand sq miles.
  • Pakistan:  population 166 million, area 340 thousand sq miles.

Is there a coherent and thought-out grand strategy at work here?  Or just hubris and paranoia?  Some may consider this a heretical thought, but might there be another way to deal with the world other than force?


Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 words max), civil, and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

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To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of esp interest these days:

Posts about America’s grand strategy:

  1. The Myth of Grand Strategy , 31 January 2006
  2. America’s Most Dangerous Enemy , 1 March 2006
  3. Why We Lose at 4GW , 4 January 2007
  4. America takes another step towards the “Long War” , 24 July 2007
  5. One step beyond Lind: What is America’s geopolitical strategy? , 28 October 2007
  6. ABCDs for today: About Blitzkrieg, COIN, and Diplomacy , 21 February 2008
  7. America’s grand strategy: lessons from our past , 30 June 2008  – chapter 1 in a series of notes
  8. President Grant warns us about the dangers of national hubris , 1 July 2008 – chapter 2
  9. America’s grand strategy, now in shambles , 2 July 2008 — chapter 3
  10. America’s grand strategy, insanity at work , 7 July 2008 — chapter 4
  11. Justifying the use of force, a key to success in 4GW , 8 July 2008 – chapter 5
  12. A lesson in war-mongering: “Maritime Strategy in an Age of Blood and Belief” , 8 July 2008 — chapter 6
  13. Geopolitical analysis need not be war-mongering , 9 July 2008 — chapter 7
  14. The world seen through the lens of 4GW (this gives a clearer picture) , (10 July 2008 — chapter 8
  15. The King of Brobdingnag comments on America’s grand strategy, 18 November 2008
  16. “A shattering moment in America’s fall from power”, 19 November 2008
  17. Is America a destabilizing force in the world?, 23 January 2009
  18. The US Army brings us back to the future, returning to WWI’s “cult of the offense”, 13 February 2009

16 thoughts on “The US tells Pakistan to pick a side. Or else…”

  1. This is an excellent post, highlighting the flaws of American “thinking” on foreign policy. Much of it is, I think, wishful thinking, ad hoc responses to situations we don’t fully understand, defending interests which we haven’t thought through.

    Bringing Bloom into the discussion doesn’t clarify it much. Our belief in human rights ranks about fiftieth in the list of factors which determine foreign policy; and respect for other cultures?? You wouldn’t pass the entrance civil service exam if you professed anything like that!
    Fabius Maximus replies: I suspect people overestimate the degree to which US officials — and, more broadly, our ruling elites — rely on realpolitik. On all levels, from the memorandum before the fact and the autobiographies long afterwards, there are repeated references to the underlying morality play(s). These give American foreign affairs is drive and force.

    On another level, foreign policy — like any government action in the US — must be sold to the public. It’s is usually (not always) told as a morality play. Not that we must kill a certain group, including innocent bystanders, in order to benefit our banks, oil or fruit companies. But to bring peace, women’s rights, democracy, freedom, or whatever to the world. It’s easy for the intelligensia to sneer at this (as these tales differ from the equally absurd ones that make their hearts beat faster), but it is nonetheless a substantial part of our political dynamic.

    By the way, I did pass the entrance exam for Foreign Service Officers. Gave up when I learned about the salary and working conditions.

  2. Robert Petersen

    One feature about Washington politics that never ceases to make me wonder is the certain belief – actually still entertained in many places outside the United States – that the United States can do everything and despite some minor setbacks is destined to win in the end. Even though it becomes more and more unclear what even the definition of victory is any longer in the war on terror, the war on drugs etc(any ideas?) The idea of American triumphalism can’t apparently be shaken even by the war in Iraq and Afghanistan or the financial meltdown. Even the Soviets couldn’t in the end pretend that communism would win despite the failure in Afghanistan, an economic collapse and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

    The key to understanding this mentality is a quote by former vice president Cheney: “Deficits doesn’t matter”. It is not an especially important quote, but it gives you a key insight to the mentality of the leaders inside Washington DC. International laws, financial constraints, limits to military power – none of this applies to the United States, because somehow – in the end – the United States will prevail. An example: Massive spending created the financial meltdown and in the bizarro world in Washington DC even more massive spending is going to solve the crisis. Does that make any sense?

    Actually this is not all bad. Under different circumstances this naive mixture of optimism and self-assurances was a key to success and the making of the American Century (roughly speaking from 1917 until today). But today it makes the American leadership blind to clear dangers.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I agree on all points. This is something I’ve wondered about, recently with more frequency. I am posting a series of excepts by Lewis Lapham about this subject.

  3. Grand strategy: Taking on Pakistan is heavy and if we once fail to be the strong boss, we say we are, they all will come after us. So this comes long before healthcare, and financial debt! That’s the game.

    What do we do in Pakistan, is hard to explain. There are more Talibans on this side than on the other. That’s all we know, and it is obviously too little.

    My view:

    We live dangerously any way we play, for a considerable stretch in the future, we should certainly not court nuclear war and avoid loosing face.

    What are the aims of the Afghans and Pakistani, is clear, they fight a many sided civil war and a war of independence(against us) at the same time, similar to the war in Russia 1919-23. There is a genuine Afghan movement embracing the moderne, that is still existing undercurrent. Support them, at the same time stop to support the feudal Pakistani rulers. You get rid of the taliban. It would be not easy, not instant, but we would avoid being tested as the strong boss, we would face not the whole of Pakistan and not alone, Russia, India, China would support this move. The only open question, if the Pakistani Army would support this. There is a fair chance.

  4. Major Scarlet

    I thought the world was going to love us again if we elected President Obama. Talk about wishful thinking.

    So FM, you are saying that the ruling elites use realpolitik to craft policy and then sell it to the public wrapped in mushy things like American values? I can agree with that theory with only one difference. I think W actually believed his own Wilsonian nonsense. At the very least, he didn’t let the planners of the war/reconstruction in on his diabolical realpolitik plans.

    As for the article, bluffs like this are very problematic if the other party calls your hand. I fully expect Pakistan to do so. Give the fact that I doubt the resolve of our State Department to actually try and punish someone in a meaningful way. Look at how the sanctions on Iran were constructed. It targeted only the industries that support the nuclear program and put no real teeth in preventing other countries from dealing with Iran. China goes in and signs a multi-billion dollar contract to explore for resources and the Mullahs profit from our sanctions. Nope. I doubt our government can handle the rigors of true diplomacy.
    Fabius Maximus replies: That’s not correct. Obama was quite clear that he would expand the war in Afghanistan, without regard to either limits or borders. For details see —
    * How long will all American Presidents be War Presidents?, 21 March 2008
    * These days all American Presidents are War Presidents (part 2), 13 September 2008

    “you are saying that the ruling elites use realpolitik to craft policy and then sell it to the public wrapped in mushy things like American values? ”

    No, I said the opposite. “I suspect people overestimate the degree to which US officials — and, more broadly, our ruling elites — rely on realpolitik. On all levels, from the memorandum before the fact and the autobiographies long afterwards, there are repeated references to the underlying morality play(s).” The reference to selling policy was in the following paragraph.

  5. Again, highly recommend this article, even though it is only a review of a book. The situation is complex with many of the US’s role in creating many aspects of the current dynamic often opaque – especially if too many in the US planning & operations echelons believe their own propaganda as was clearly the case during the Iraq occupation.

    “Placing Pakistan at the heart of the problem, Fitzgerald and Gould contend that the only way for Afghanistan to obtain its real independence is for it to be freed from their domination. As such, they advocate strongly against negotiating with the Taliban:

    Well-meaning peace activists have recommended reviving the practice of parsing between al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Some recommend engaging the Taliban as the [US] engaged the Soviet Union, Communist China … Aside from not delineating between Pakistani Taliban and Afghan Taliban and that both use terrorist methods, such recommendations ignore the reality that the Taliban were expressly created “as a kind of experimental Frankenstein monster”, by the CIA and Pakistani ISI to invade Afghanistan. That mission has not changed. More importantly, such recommendations wrongly paint the Taliban as an indigenous tribal force bent on bringing peace to a troubled land. (p 323)

    Far from negotiating with the Taliban, “If any negotiations are to be conducted, they must begin with the state within the state sponsors of this Taliban terror, Pakistan’s army and its [ISI] branch. It is this institution, which from 1973 on has played the key role in funding and directing first the mujahideen battle plan and then the Taliban … Nothing can be accomplished without neutralizing them as a subversive influence and turning them toward the task of nation building.” (p 324)

    The problem, as Fitzgerald and Gould note elsewhere, is that the US and its NATO allies have, since the invasion of 2001, played a dual game where they carry out “a policy whereby [Pakistan] pretends to hunt for extremists while the US pretends to believe [them] “, (p 298) while at the same time providing the Pakistani military with billions of dollars in aid. Meanwhile, everyone knows that the ISI continues to provide support to the anti-occupation insurgency.”

    The reason behind the name ‘Pakistan’ is that from the get-go their long-term ambition was to include Afghanistan/Pashtun zone. It seems that is still the case. In that context, what are the US goals in the region? Perhaps we should simply support Pakistan and their Taliban offspring to effect a total takeover and be done with it on condition they no longer foster Al Q (another CIA creation engendering blowback).

  6. Major Scarlet

    FM.. the thing about Obama was sarcasm.

    I guess I’m confused about what you meant with the following paragraph. Who is doing the selling (other than the media)?
    Fabius Maximus replies: The historical record shows no evidence that Fabius Maximus had any sense of humor. Unfortunately, that’s true of me also. More important, your comment was literally correct. Obama said he would expand our Middle East wars, but many of his supporters did not believe him.

    The media are a conduit, used by powerful forces to sell their policies. Sometimes differernt factions fight out their differences in the public space, using the media to volley salvos at each other. Typically these PR wars are fought in terms of alternative morality plays, not realpolitik.

  7. ““I suspect people overestimate the degree to which US officials — and, more broadly, our ruling elites — rely on realpolitik. On all levels, from the memorandum before the fact and the autobiographies long afterwards, there are repeated references to the underlying morality play(s).”

    Fascinating comment. I sort of lean to a reverse interpretation with the caveat that sometimes ‘realpolitik’ is actually ‘unrealpolitik’, but not because of morality script confusion, rather adolescent vision of goals, capabilities etc. Have to think about this especially since it is my personal impression that beliefs are far more powerful than fact in terms of how views, and therefore policy, is crafted and implemented so maybe you are right: maybe ‘they’ really DO believe their own propaganda! That had never occurred to me before!

  8. anna nicholas

    I just dont see what business it is of the US at all .
    If you want oil , fruit , copper why not buy it/swap it / go fetch it and pay for it , like the Chinese / big global companies do .
    If you want to be the worlds police force , look to Vanni , Gaza . But the UN could do this better ( move headquarters from New York to Iceland , or Second Life , to refresh )
    If you want Womens Rights , look to Saudi Arabia , but allow societies time to change .
    If you want to stop political terrorism against the US , stop interfering in other countries .
    If you want to stop criminal terrorism ,is there a beam in your own eye before dealing with the mote in your brother’s ? work out the answer to gun and drug demand at home first .
    If you want to stop religious terrorism , get the clerics debating , make this a worldwide public issue of interest .
    ( ” The confrontation that we are calling for with the apostate regimes does not know *Socratic debates ..Platonic ideals…Aristotlian diplomacy ..” start of the so-called Manchester Manual . )
    (* er ,me neither.)

  9. “Fitzgerald and Gould contend that the only way for Afghanistan to obtain its real independence is for it to be freed from their (Taliban) domination.” (Erasmus)

    My impression is that independence is a fairly meaningless concept when applied to AFghanistan. It’s never had it, there’s no single entity there that demands it — it’s rather a fiction of the American way of looking at things, a fantasy state used to justify our interventions. By independence, we really only mean stability as a trade partner.

  10. Roberto Buffagni

    Following this link, you can read an interesting analysis (in French) by Philippe Grasset, a belgian essayist, about a tenet of American psychology and ideology which he calls “inculpabilité”, i.e. “impossibility to be guilty”.


    “Il n’y a pas de machiavélisme, ou d’autres sentiments aussi élaborés où la contradiction est instrumentée, — goût de la provocation, goût du paradoxe absurde, etc., — chez les Américains lorsqu’ils procèdent dans leurs actes de politique extérieure, et, particulièrement, dans le cas décrit ici. Les contradictions ou les absurdités, les soi-disant hypocrisies, trop énormes pour être de l’hypocrisie qui par définition se dissimule, ne sont pas le fruit d’un calcul ; elles ne sont qu’en apparence, pour nous, des “contradictions ou [des] absurdités, [des] soi-disant hypocrisies, trop énormes pour être de l’hypocrisie…”.

    • La puissance d’influence considérable de l’américanisme est fondée sur sa sincérité, souvent décrite et/ou expliquée, à tort nous semble-t-il, comme “naïveté”, comme “infantilisme”, etc. Il n’y a aucune raison de revenir sur ce constat de la “sincérité”. Il vaut également pour le cas présenté ici. Notre hypothèse est que les négociateurs américains, comme ceux qui leur donnent des consignes, sont pour la plupart, disons pour le “modèle standard”, complètement sincères. (Cela ne signifie pas qu’ils disent la vérité mais qu’ils parlent sans dissimuler. La sincérité est « l’absence de trucage » [Robert], qui signifie qu’on parle sans dissimuler et qu’on dit ce qu’on pense et ce qu’on croit. Cela ne signifie nullement que ce qu’on pense et ce qu’on croit soient la vérité et la vertu.) ”

    … Une première hypothèse est que l’histoire américaine selon la définition habituelle de “l’histoire” n’existe pas pour la psychologie américaniste. C’est l’idéologie américaniste qui “fait” l’histoire de l’Amérique, — nécessairement une nouvelle sorte d’histoire, décisivement différente de l’Histoire générale. Dans ce cas extraordinaire, l’idéologie n’est plus une opinion, un produit de la propagande, une foi, une passion, une maladie, etc., toutes ces choses qui participent à un moment ou l’autre au développement de l’Histoire, voire à sa modification décisive ; elle est l’Histoire, et une Histoire objectivée par sa vertu même ; par conséquent, elle est la psychologie américaniste. …”

  11. From the AsiaInt Weekly Alert:

    The country has received tens of billions of dollars over the past 8 years to fight the militants, most recently at April’s “Friends of Democratic Pakistan” conference in Tokyo. Over the same period the Taleban has become steadily more powerful; the relationship is beginning to look mutually beneficial. If this suspicion turns into certainty in Washington, Pakistan will find itself facing a far more powerful military threat than the Taleban.

    While attempting to diagnose the USA’s own underlying obsessions and how they relate to our foreign policy, I think it might be a good idea to remember that the USA is not the only country with a nutty foreign policy obsession. Pakistan has its own world-picture, and the USA isn’t in the center of that picture. From what I’ve read, Pakistan is very, very focussed on India.

    If this is true, and if Pakistan sees everything through the lens of its ongoing cold war with India, then I wonder if the US can really force Pakistan to pay more attention to the Taliban through threats. Would Pakistan just fit these threats into its own obsessive world-picture, perhaps making us an accessory to its mortal enemy?

  12. I’m thinking that the real question that confronts the Obama administration isn’t “will we win in Afghanistan?”, but instead “Will we manage to avoid the collapse of Pakistan, and the attendant lethal consequences of such a collapse?” I have the impression that whatever sensible government left in Pakistan is hanging onto the edge of a cliff by its fingernails, and we are busily pounding away at those fingers with a mallet.
    I can only say that Obama’s foreign policy does not seem one whit more informed nor more intelligent than that of George W. Bush. Regardless of whether, like his predecessor, he is about to start a totally unnecessary war—this one against Pakistan—or whether he merely brings about the destruction of that country by undermining its legitimacy with cross-border missile attacks and earnest tongue-lashings, the result will be equally disastrous.
    Unless a sudden epidemic of good sense sweeps Washington, events will soon come to a pass where the only option open to us will be to ally with India, and launch a joint strike against Pakistan—preferably attempting to eliminate the Pakistani nuclear strike capability first. To put it delicately, this is not a good plan; it’s just that the alternative—giving the fractious “Taliban” rulers of the New Pakistan control of a nuclear arsenal—will be somewhat worse.
    Come to think of it, I doubt whether the Indians, despite their hostility to Pakistan, would agree to such an alliance. Not even if we promised them all of Kashmir.
    Fabius Maximus replies: This generates nothing but questions.

    * Why do you believe that “sensible government left in Pakistan is hanging onto the edge of a cliff by its fingernails…”?
    * Is Iran’s government not sensible, esp compared with ours?
    * Would a division of Pakistan, or a fragmentation of Afganistan and Pakistan into 3 more ethnically homogenous nations, likely to be worse than the current corrupt and unstable governments?
    * What basis is their to believe that the Tailiban has any substantial strength outside is Pastun tribal base? If not, how can it concquor Pakistan?

  13. FM: Why do you believe that “sensible government left in Pakistan is hanging onto the edge of a cliff by its fingernails…”?

    Because the opposition (Taliban, or whatever you want to call them) was occupying a town about 60 miles from Islamabad recently. Because there is heavy popular support for fundamentalist Islam, as shown by the riots surrounding the “Red Mosque” affair, and on many other occasions. Because they have problems with us along the Afghan border, and problems with India along that border. Because they have an abundance of groups who are excellent practioners of “4th generation” war, and who have been blowing things up and shooting masses of people both within the country and in India. Because the Army is not particularly fond of the elected government, and nobody knows what side the I.S.I. is on. Oh wait, were you saying that the elected government isn’t sensible? You may have a point there, FM!
    FM: Is Iran’s government not sensible, esp compared with ours?

    I don’t think I mentioned Iran. But since you bring it up…their government is probably no less sensible than ours. Now doesn’t that make you feel good?

    FM: “Would a division of Pakistan, or a fragmentation of Afganistan and Pakistan into 3 more ethnically homogenous nations, likely to be worse than the current corrupt and unstable governments?

    You might get some nations, but you won’t have states. In any case, the elephant in the room is: who gets to control the nukes? Unless the partition of Pakistan takes place under peaceful conditions where all parties agree to give the nukes to a third party (say those nice Indians next door), this is not going to be pretty. I would say that if Pakistan looks like it will break up, the Indians will have to move out of self preservation. They cannot afford to have nuclear armed Moslems on their border.

    FM: “What basis is their to believe that the Taliban has any substantial strength outside is Pashtun tribal base? If not, how can it concquer Pakistan?

    Conquer? Who said anything about conquer? That would be the unbelievably good scenario! I said “collapse”. That’s not the same thing, FM. Are you playing advocatus diaboli again? I thought I warned you about that!

    Seriously, it’s all about the unintended consequences. We want to fight the Taliban. The Pakistanis want a lot of different things, not least among them survival. We are pushing them into a corner where the entire state may collapse. If that happens, what do the freaking clowns in Washington think India is going to do?
    Fabius Maximus replies: Thank you for the warning, as I might not have realized this was humor. It is quite funny, as ignoring much of what we know about the region, the strength of the Pakistan military, the relative population of Pakistan’s tribes, the degree of support of fundamentalist Islam among Pakistan’s people, and so forth. But this is the funniest line:

    “They {India} cannot afford to have nuclear armed Moslems on their border.”

    Not like the status quo, with the folks from Mars running Pakistan. Just in case you mean some of this, can you cite any actual regional experts to support your fears? I don’t the great story-tellers of our time, US “national security” experts, nor Ms R-Clinton. Real area experts.


    Hmmm. I’m under the impression that I’m saying blindingly obvious things, and you, FM, are saying really dumb things. I have learned that this is usually a sure sign that I’m failing either to communicate what I think I’m saying, or failing to understand what you are saying. I propose we step back, take a deep breath and try to understand each other. Assuming, of course, you have the saintly patience to put up with me on your forum.

    Obviously, when I said “…cannot afford to have nuclear armed Moslems on their border…” I meant to say that India cannot afford to have a chaotic non-state on their border, a region that contains Tribal or possibly ideologically militant Moslem organizations armed with nuclear weapons, or contesting the possession of such weapons. I think that’s kind of self evident. It would be something like if Mexico were a nuclear power, and the narco-cartels demonstrated that they were capable of seizing those nukes. From our perspective, any state government in Mexico would be far, far preferable to none. And if it looked as though the Mexican government were about to fall, rapid and decisive military intervention to secure those nuclear weapons would be highly advisable. I am merely saying that if the present trend continues, the Pakistani government will become destabilized to the point where Indian fear of nuclear retaliation will be outweighed by the certainty that the Pakistani nuclear arsenal will become the peanut in an inter-tribal shell game. Prudence will demand action.

    If you think that’s wrong, please tell me why. (No, I haven’t consulted any experts. I hardly ever consult anyone besides myself…but I’m consulting you.)
    Fabius Maximus replies: So far I have not found any actual area expert endorsing your fears. They, including many leaders of Pakistan, all support the other side of the debate. Many of the “Pakistan as failed state — worry about the nukes” were also warning about Saddam’s imaginary nukes, which makes them difficult to take seriously.

    As for your statement about India, I do not know what you mean — just what you say. What you said and what you now say you mean have little overlap.

  15. “As for your statement about India, I do not know what you mean — just what you say. What you said and what you now say you mean have little overlap.”

    You are correct, and I apologize. After rereading what I wrote, I realized that all that would have been required for you to take my meaning would have been prescience and telepathy!
    Perhaps my fears that if the U.S. keeps leaning so hard on Pakistan, this might cause that state to collapse are indeed nothing but nightmarish fluff. Or perhaps such a collapse would not bring with it the nightmarish possibilities that I fear. As I’m the only one getting worked up about this, it’s probably time to move on.

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