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"The stakes here are huge."
October 26, 2011 10:19 AM   Subscribe

What happens in Pakistan may yet be the most enduring legacy of 9/11 and the hunt for Bin Laden. 'President Obama ordered a review of all intelligence on the region by a veteran CIA officer, Bruce Riedel. "Our own intelligence was unequivocal," says Riedel. "In Afghanistan we saw an insurgency that was not only getting passive support from the Pakistani army and the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, but getting active support."' ISI the Pakistani intelligence agency is actively training and transporting suicide bombers into Afghanistan.

'Pakistan has repeatedly denied the claims. But the BBC documentary series Secret Pakistan has spoken to a number of middle-ranking - and still active - Taliban commanders who provide detailed evidence of how the Pakistan ISI has rebuilt, trained and supported the Taliban throughout its war on the US in Afghanistan.'

'US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during a recent visit to Pakistan: "The Pakistanis have a role to play, they can either be helpful, indifferent or harmful."

But there are those like Mr Riedel who fear that the forces unleashed in 10 years of war may yet come to haunt the whole world:

"There is probably no worse nightmare, for America, for Europe, for the world, in the 21st Century than if Pakistan gets out of control under the influence of extremist Islamic forces, armed with nuclear weapons...The stakes here are huge."'
posted by VikingSword (68 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Shit.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:23 AM on October 26, 2011


Real men go to Islamabad.
posted by Trurl at 10:24 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


15 days training to be a suicide bomber. Really?
posted by episodic at 10:25 AM on October 26, 2011


This should not really surprise anyone.
posted by Artw at 10:27 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is this the part where we all go stupid and pretend we never saw this coming? Like how this isn't the way US wars typically turn out?

Equally depressing Afghanistan would side with Pakistan in war with US, says Hamid Karzai.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:28 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


15 days training to be a suicide bomber. Really?

There was an FPP the other day that mentioned how companies are having trouble finding qualified help.
posted by Trurl at 10:33 AM on October 26, 2011 [11 favorites]


It's been pretty clear over the last six months that the administration has been trashing our alliance with Pakistan. A steady drumbeat of articles in papers of record (WP and NYT) has quoted administration officials saying some very candid and negative things about Pakistan. So it's not like we couldn't see this coming.

At this point, when it comes to Afghanistan, I'm really confused about what our primary mission is. Are we trying to defeat the Taliban, or bolster Karzai, or create a democratic regime? Sometimes it seems we're trying to do all three, and sometimes we work at cross purposes with some of these goals. I think that the article implies a very good point -- Pakistan is a lot more important than Afghanistan. Although the Pakistanis may be untrustworthy and dangerous, so are we, and we need to maintain a cordial relationships lest they go down the North Korean road. So let's get out of Afghanistan, because that seems to be complicating what is actually the more important relationship. Not to say that we should be all buddy-buddy with Pakistan, but increasingly Afghanistan is looking like a big whatever that's complicating important stuff.
posted by Edgewise at 10:36 AM on October 26, 2011


As I understand it, it would be more accurate to say elements in the Pakistani state are backing the Taliban, as it's not a coherent body with one set of aims, though there's arguments for both scenarios.
posted by Abiezer at 10:36 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


At this point, when it comes to Afghanistan, I'm really confused about what our primary mission is.

To project military power in Asia, thus insuring American corporate access to the region's resources.

Hope this helps.
posted by Trurl at 10:40 AM on October 26, 2011 [15 favorites]


We've spent ten years pretending not to notice the lies and dissemblance from our Pakistani "allies." Now I guess it's their turn to pretend we aren't just blithely ignoring their sovereignty.

Not that I have any better ideas.
posted by General Tonic at 10:40 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


General Tonic: "Not that I have any better ideas."

Immediately halt all military aid, and give everything that had been budgeted as aid for Pakistan to India instead. Then make some popcorn.
posted by mullingitover at 10:42 AM on October 26, 2011 [14 favorites]


Border Fence. We could get some really good A&E reality shows out of it.
posted by spicynuts at 10:44 AM on October 26, 2011


15 days training to be a suicide bomber. Really?

It's a pass-fail class.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 10:46 AM on October 26, 2011 [18 favorites]


15 days training to be a suicide bomber. Really?

They don't have adequate training materials, I guess. prev
posted by sswiller at 10:47 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


To project military power in Asia, thus insuring American corporate access to the region's resources.

I do not entirely dismiss such reductive explanations, but at the same time, I don't readily accept them, either. How is this going to work in Afghanistan? What are the resources that we didn't have access to, or were in danger of losing access to? And how does the occupation help this? It's kind of a glib explanation but, to me, it creates more questions than it answers.
posted by Edgewise at 10:47 AM on October 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


It's been pretty clear over the last six months that the administration has been trashing our alliance with Pakistan. A steady drumbeat of articles in papers of record (WP and NYT) has quoted administration officials saying some very candid and negative things about Pakistan. So it's not like we couldn't see this coming.

I have dim recollection of some presidential candidate once offering to "bomb them all to glass plate" or some such, even an FPP discussion... did this candidate finally win the election, do you know?
posted by infini at 10:49 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


How is this going to work in Afghanistan? What are the resources that we didn't have access to, or were in danger of losing access to?

Oh, I'm sure there's something worthwhile there.
posted by Naberius at 10:50 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Gust Avrakotos: There's a little boy and on his 14th birthday he gets a horse... and everybody in the village says, "How wonderful. The boy got a horse!" And the Zen master says, "We'll see." Two years later, the boy falls off the horse, breaks his leg, and everyone in the village says, "How terrible!" And the Zen master says, "We'll see." Then, a war breaks out and all the young men have to go off and fight... except the boy can't 'cause his legs all messed up. and everybody in the village says, "How wonderful."

Charlie Wilson: Now the Zen master says, "We'll see."

posted by dry white toast at 10:51 AM on October 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


I was talking to my wife's co-worker, who is from India, and she gently reminded our group that the U.S. didn't support India for quite some time. The US connected India with the wrong side of the cold war, and backed Pakistan.

And now we're really reaping the fruits of our labor.
posted by glaucon at 10:53 AM on October 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


Sorry, that quote needed something resembling a citation.
posted by dry white toast at 10:53 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


The First Anglo-Afghan War (also known as Auckland's Folly) was fought between British India and Afghanistan from 1839 to 1842. It was one of the first major conflicts during the Great Game, the 19th century competition for power and influence in Central Asia between the United Kingdom and Russia, and also marked one of the worst setbacks inflicted on British power in the region after the consolidation of British Raj by the East India Company.[4] It is considered one of Britain's worst disasters in Asia before Japan's "invasion of Malaya and capture of Singapore" during World War II.[5] Often unemphasized is the fact that most of the British troops and casualties were Indian.[5] Via

History, doomed, repeat, rinse, lather etc

The country sits at an important geostrategic location that connects the Middle East with Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent,[11] which has been home to various peoples through the ages.[12] The land has witnessed many military conquests since antiquity, notably by Alexander the Great, Chandragupta Maurya, and Genghis Khan.[9][10] It has also served as a source from which local dynasties such as the Greco-Bactrians, Kushans, Saffarids, Ghaznavids, Ghorids, Timurids, Mughals and many others have established empires of their own.[13]
via

The initial Soviet deployment of the 40th Army in Afghanistan began on December 24, 1979 under Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev.[16] The final troop withdrawal started on May 15, 1988, and ended on February 15, 1989 under the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Due to the interminable nature of the war, the conflict in Afghanistan has sometimes been referred to as the "Soviet Union's Vietnam War".[17]
via
posted by infini at 10:55 AM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


How is this going to work in Afghanistan?

I didn't say it was going to work.
posted by Trurl at 10:55 AM on October 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


The Taleban were created by the ISI to turn Afghanistan into a vassal state (some history as to why).

Then they were used as tools to keep the US locked in perpetual war - as the US pays very handsomely for the rights to run their supply convoys and operate their airbases, and resentment against American troops makes their right-wing supporters more popular and hence more powerful within Pakistan... to the point where they're openly in defiance of the elected government and main-line military leadership, sometimes violently so.

Now the jig is up. The Bush administration was delusional, the Obama administration less so. I'm not certain what the next phase is, as the ISI were clearly guilty of harboring and protecting Bin Laden, which is why we invaded Afghanistan in the first place, and of being an ally to the Taleban.

The smart play would be to break off foreign aid and impose sanctions until the military is under civilian control, and the ISI disbanded, and frame it as part of the US and Europe's ongoing support for the Arab Spring movement. Some serious political capital since the fall of Gaddafi...
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:56 AM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Remind me again why we give this country so much money...
posted by VicNebulous at 11:02 AM on October 26, 2011


Remind me again why we give this country so much money...

It's so they love America, remember? Geesh, folks - it's obvious.
posted by glaucon at 11:13 AM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


We've got to do something with all those troops returning from Iraq. The economy here is not good enough to absorb them all...
posted by eas98 at 11:18 AM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


The smart play would be to break off foreign aid and impose sanctions until the military is under civilian control, and the ISI disbanded, and frame it as part of the US and Europe's ongoing support for the Arab Spring movement.

That's the smart play, is it?

First of all, Pakistan is currently under as civilian a government as it ever has been in its history. How are you further going to reduce the role and prestige of the military while simultaneously safeguarding the nuclear weapons and allowing Pakistan to maintain central government control throughout the country?

As for disbanding the ISI, well you can try. Remember how grateful ordinary Pakistanis were when a CIA agent shot the bad, bad ISI man a while back?
posted by atrazine at 11:25 AM on October 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


If we just cut funding, the country gets way worse, right? If we don't cut funding, we're giving money to the ISI still.

I vote that we annex Pakistan and make it the 51st state. Then we can control it!
posted by glaucon at 11:27 AM on October 26, 2011


Yeah, the ISI has always been a dirty secret in Pakistan politics. When Musharraf was still running things, he represented the regular army against the ISI apparatus, and was able to check some of their general malfeasance, but not all of it, and unfortunately with his exit Pakistan's civil authority has even less control over the ISI. The ISI are why Kashmir will never be peaceful.

Frankly, I don't know that there is an answer with regard to Pakistan and the ISI — they're pretty much a failed state in a lot of ways, from being essentially a state sponsor of terrorism to even the repeated murders of anti-corruption forces.
posted by klangklangston at 11:28 AM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


I vote that we annex Pakistan and make it the 51st state. Then we can control it!

That doesn't even work with our existing states.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:31 AM on October 26, 2011 [9 favorites]


First of all, Pakistan is currently under as civilian a government as it ever has been in its history.

No, it clearly has no power over the ISI, and therefore no control over Pakistan's international affairs, and precious little at home. It's a useful tool against secular and moderate elements the military, and is helping rather than hindering the ISI takeover, despite it's best intentions.

If Pakistan is serious about democracy and a free civil society, they need to disband the ISI, or their elections are meaningless diversions and not a step towards freedom.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:00 PM on October 26, 2011


No, it clearly has no power over the ISI, and therefore no control over Pakistan's international affairs, and precious little at home.

Yes, but my point is that Pakistan hasn't had a civilian government that had that power for decades.

It's all well and good saying that "they" need to disband the ISI, but there is no "they" that doesn't include the ISI. Maybe a sufficiently powerful Pakistani civilian politician could sharply reduce their power but:
a) The artist formerly known as Mr. 10% and now known as Mr. "Well, we don't have anyone better" has neither the popular support nor the balls to do that
b) The ISI gained their power because civilian governments used them as a counterbalance to the (rest of the) military. The only way a civilian politician could assemble a strong enough power base to clip their wings is to make major concessions to other elements in the armed forces. Spoiler alert: those concessions will *not* have much to do with building a free civil society.
posted by atrazine at 12:14 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


We should withdraw all troops, drop Pakistan, and aid India instead. And massively fund an cultural initiative to undermine all primitive sexist homophobic cultures, be they Islamist or Mormon.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:36 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Remember, Alexander the Great went into Pakistan and India, and that's when his men said, 'Fuck this, Alex. It's time to go home.'

It could have been the giant elephants they were fighting, though, too.
posted by glaucon at 12:38 PM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Srili this.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:38 PM on October 26, 2011


It's all well and good saying that "they" need to disband the ISI, but there is no "they" that doesn't include the ISI.

Yup. So, there's no real reason to support a hostile regime with money or trade. Pull up stakes, bring the troops home, shut off the taps, and freeze their accounts. If they want to be Iran so damn bad, let them feel what it's like. I see nothing to be gained by further engagement.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:41 PM on October 26, 2011


I hope this isn't too self-promotional, but the literary festival I'm organizing has a great Pakistan panel this Saturday. I've pasted the blurb below and here is a link with more information. I thought it would be helpful, possibly as a corrective, since the mainstream media account of Pakistan talks about only as either 1) ground zero for primeval terror (suicide bombing, female infanticide, etc.) or 2) a site primarily of interest because of Afpak policy, rather than having any intrinsic history of its own.

PAGE TURNER LITERARY FESTIVAL
Melville House, 145 Plymouth St, Brooklyn, NY
10/29 01:00PM
ISLAM'S CONVERSATION WITH THE WEST: DEBORAH BAKER, SAADIA TOOR & SADIA SHEPARD

It’s been said that before September 11, no one had an opinion on Islam--but after September 11, everyone did--just not the right ones. After three wars, Islam, West and South Asia, and the Arab world remain places that are insufficiently imagined, to paraphrase Salman Rushdie. The media usually presents Pakistan, in particular, via the pernicious clichés of suicide bombers, infanticide, and general-purpose terror. Against this orientalist narrative, two new books question the Huntingtonian underpinning of the West’s view of Islam and illustrate the continuity between the Cold War and the War on Terror, painting a more granulated portrait of the sixth most populated country in the world: DEBORAH BAKER’s The Convert, just shortlisted for the National Book Award, and SAADIA TOOR’s The State of Islam: Culture and Cold War Politics in Pakistan. Deborah Baker’s biography tells the story of a single woman: Maryam Jameelah née Margaret Marcus, a secular Jew in Mamaroneck, N.Y. who converted to Islam and moved to Pakistan in 1962, becoming a leading critic of American foreign policy. “Sweeping books on the big wars can’t do what this focused gaze on a single misfit so vividly accomplishes,” writes Kiran Desai. Against the mainstream account of Islamic militants, Saadia Toor tells the untold story of the Pakistani left and re-imagines Pakistani nationalism and the history of Cold War cultural production. As historian David Ludden writes, "Saadia Toor reveals a country that is nothing like the hotbed of Islamic extremism and military dictatorship we read about constantly. This book is a powerful antidote to reactionary stereotypes of Pakistan that dominate academic research and popular media."
posted by johnasdf at 12:45 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


We should withdraw all troops, drop Pakistan, and aid India instead. And massively fund an cultural initiative to undermine all primitive sexist homophobic cultures, be they Islamist or Mormon.

India's too busy making money, if you ask me.

[Stuff my dad says] Pakistan's biggest problem is bad economy, surplus of badly educated unemployed young men, and a life long jealousy of India. All this stuff (religion, politics, petty infighting etc) keeps the populace busy instead of rioting up asking why aren't they booming like everywhere else in the region (India and all the way east to China)
posted by infini at 12:45 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


In the big, big picture, doesn't Pakistan need us? Isn't it hedged in by geopolitical threats, many growing in power? China to the East, India to the South, Iran to the West (against which Afghanistan is meant as a buffer)? Russia? And it is mostly a poor country with many sources of internal instability.

At a fundamental level, the US seems to hold a lot of cards; how has it played them so poorly?
posted by grobstein at 12:46 PM on October 26, 2011


Does anyone know how the ISI - and the rest of Pakistan - would fare without US aid?
posted by mumimor at 12:46 PM on October 26, 2011


There is probably no worse nightmare, for America, for Europe, for the world, in the 21st Century than if Pakistan gets out of control under the influence of extremist Islamic forces, armed with nuclear weapons...

Thermonuclear war between major powers is a worse nightmare. The cold war's over, but thousands of missiles are still sitting in their silos. A little conventional war (Georgia, Taiwan...) could escalate rapidly with only President Bachmann's calming influence to hold back the madness. Nuclear Armageddon is pretty unlikely at the moment, but the threat remains quite real.

Thermonuclear war between regional powers would also be worse than a radicalized Pakistan. War between India and Pakistan is quite possible in the near future. In a worst case scenario, a dozen major cities in India and Pakistan could be reduced to ash in an hour, with tens of millions killed. My most serious worry about a radicalized Pakistan is that it would make an India-Pakistan war more likely.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:53 PM on October 26, 2011


Cutting off Pakistan (and/or sending the aid to India instead) would just inflame passions.

Instead, cut off military aid to (and withdraw troops from) everyone: Pakistan, Afghanistan, KSA, Israel, India, ... humanitarian aid only Then wait a couple of decades. Without the US propping up the military (and the ISI) it will lose power (without materiel, what can they do?), and Pakistanis will figure out what kind of government they want. Respect their choice and you can keep selling them Coke and iPods.
posted by phliar at 12:54 PM on October 26, 2011


In the big, big picture, doesn't Pakistan need us?

The Pakistani military and the ISI certainly need the US. But do the Pakistani people?
posted by phliar at 12:58 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


At a fundamental level, the US seems to hold a lot of cards; how has it played them so poorly?

It's all about nuclear weapons. Because Pakistan is nuclear, "stability at all costs" has become official US policy. This is understandable, I think. Though unfortunate.

Really, once Pakistan got nuclear weapons, we were all screwed. That's a chicken who's going to come home to roost some day....

Without the US propping up the military (and the ISI) it will lose power (without materiel, what can they do?), and Pakistanis will figure out what kind of government they want.

Yeah, I guess the concern is that they'll want the kind of government that nukes Israel.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:10 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


First of all, Pakistan is currently under as civilian a government as it ever has been in its history.

I think the only time the civilian government has had any power was during Bhutto's administration in the early 70s. (Zulfikhar Ali Bhutto, not his daughter Benazir.)

This article in Dawn has a decent capsule of the current situation in Pakistan (in the context of a satirical song released by some very gutsy young men).
posted by phliar at 1:11 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


After the US pulls out, it looks like Pakistan has another sucker lined up, that it can collect money from while simultaneously fighting a proxy war against.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 1:16 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, they have the bomb in North Korea, and I don't see us sending them more money every season. Nuclear weapons are scary, and nuclear weapons in the hands of crazy people are very scary, but maybe we are overstating the danger. Or maybe someone has an interest in sending Pakistans tons of arms and dollars?
I read and read articles posted here and books and articles in journals and magazines, and still I don't get the suicidal American policy regarding Pakistan. What is it? A relic from the cold war? Americans being conned? Fear of China or India? One does get the impression that Pakistan is a country filled with nice people, which has been ruined by corruption and propaganda, both payed by the US.
posted by mumimor at 1:18 PM on October 26, 2011


Yeah, I guess the concern is that they'll want the kind of government that nukes Israel.

If Pakistan were ever to nuke anyone, India would be the most popular choice!

But even if Pakistan were to nuke Israel (who then immediately returned the favour), why would that be the end of the world? Yes there would be much death and suffering, but would it be much more than how things are unfolding (perhaps unravelling is the better word) today?
posted by phliar at 1:19 PM on October 26, 2011


Well, they have the bomb in North Korea, and I don't see us sending them more money every season.

Not money. Just food. The US is very interested in maintaining stability in NK, too. With North Korea, we also have China to deal with. China is even more interested in maintaining stability.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:31 PM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


If Pakistan were ever to nuke anyone, India would be the most popular choice!

Yeah, but Israel is the country that US policymakers are worried about nuclear-armed Islamic states attacking.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:32 PM on October 26, 2011


The best aid that the US can give India is to somehow prevent Pakistan - whether the state, terrorists or any combination of the two from nuking them. That's worth a lot more that a few squadrons of F16s (irrelevant toys between nuclear armed powers with a shared border)

We should withdraw all troops, drop Pakistan, and aid India instead. And massively fund an cultural initiative to undermine all primitive sexist homophobic cultures, be they Islamist or Mormon.

Who is we? One of your two political parties is probably going to nominate a Mormon as its presidential candidate. Not only that, he's the sanest of the bunch! So unless the "we" you're talking about is:
a) The Illuminati
b) Special Circumstances
(in both which cases: do you prefer CVs to be one or two pages) there is no "we" that has the power and will to do this. Not to mention that I'm not sure that there has ever been a successful effort to engineer a culture that way, so even with unlimited funding and political will there is no guarantee of success.

That's even if the culture receiving this re-structuring doesn't react to this deliberate outside influence with a lupus-like ideological auto-immune response and destroy precisely those elements of their polity that "we" might wish to promote.
posted by atrazine at 1:38 PM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


There have been many reports for years that agencies of the Pakistan government were behind the Mumbai terror attacks, among other things.

We have been knowingly subsidizing their covert terrorist war against our own troops in Afghanistan and innocent civilians in exchange for their lip service over a long period of time. Even if there is a strategic reason behind this, as there surely is, that is pretty shameful.
posted by knoyers at 2:07 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't think Pakistan's problem is being jealous of India. It's more the need to prove to itself that it has an identity separate from being "the state formerly known as the western part of India (western and eastern pre-1971)" and the paranoid fear (delusion?) that India will attempt to re-absorb the state. So a lot of energy and economic resources are wasted on battling the enemy created by these perceptions.

What people on the outside miss is that the average Pakistani is now getting really angry with the army. This has not generally been the case. Patriotism is a really big thing in Pakistan, so badmouthing the army is seen by many as being ungrateful to "the brave men who protect our borders". The thing is, though, that the army is showing itself incapable of protecting itself, let alone the country. The attacks on the ISI headquarters, the mosque where senior military officials go for Friday prayers, PNS Mehran (sorry, can't be bothered to dig up links here. If you do a metafilter tag search for Pakistan, a lot of these stories will pop up in the last two years), the FIA building in Lahore, and the list just goes on and on. Plus the attacks on schools, visiting cricket teams, in public markets, etc., etc. The list is endless. So the Pakistani people are pretty fed up with a military that is seen as not doing it's primary job.

So, while the ISI is clearly not going anywhere any time soon, the grip of the military on the Pakistani polity may be loosening.

In the meantime, we're really tired of having to drive through five military checkpoints if we're going anywhere that requires using a major road, of having to check the news reports before we decide whether or not we're going to go out at all, of worrying whether we should send our kids to school and put them at risk, and despite having lost so much, to constantly told that we are not doing enough in the battle against terrorism.

None of this is simple. Because our own government is working at cross-purposes to the national interest. Forget about American interests, the Pakistani government does not work in the Pakistani interest. Some might argue that it does not work at all.

But there, you've caught me in a cynical mood about my lovely homeland. I've said enough for today.
posted by bardophile at 2:08 PM on October 26, 2011 [9 favorites]


Not money. Just food.

Food is fine - I'm all for sending food. Send more food. Money is something very different. When you send money, even if it's for buying food or disaster relief, it will go strange places. Food may end in the black market or in the wrong bellies, but it is still food, not guns.
posted by mumimor at 2:17 PM on October 26, 2011


I wouldn't be surprised if the Pakistani government has already told the US exactly what they would do if they stopped receiving aid.
posted by snofoam at 4:14 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Goodness, I'm glad mefites are international diplomats. Some of the naivety on display here is suprising to me.

The US isn't a teacher; the world is not a schoolyard; and you don't "punish" nation states for "good" and "bad" behaviour like naughty children by playing political games with aid. That game theory bullshit was old in the seventies; and it really doesn't reflect either the reality or a skerrick of the current thinking by the people involved.

This is a complex, multipolar, unstable nation state with nuclear weapons and a fractious, factional military and populace in one of the most political unstable regions in the world.

For better or for worse, less or - God forbid - no involvement is that last thing the US - or anybody wants - with Pakistan. Ongoing engagement is critical for regional, global stability. You can argue about what form that takes, but taking the bat and ball and going home is not an option in our current world.
posted by smoke at 5:52 PM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


I came in late to this thread, but I agree strongly with smoke here. It's part of the reason I made the recent post I did..there are massive generalizations I hear about Pakistan from all comers whenever the nation comes up: right-leaning people grossly overestimating the number of Taliban, and left-leaning people assuming all Pakistanis are childlike innocents who would be living in a paradise had the US not screwed everything up. Both sides end up proposing the foreign policy equivalent of 9-9-9, and nobody learns anything. Hopefully MeFi can help at least a few people become more informed.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 6:38 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Really, once Pakistan got nuclear weapons, we were all screwed."

Well, let's look at it from Pakistan's perspective (or Iran's, perhaps more importantly) -- the US military has the ability to bomb you back to the stone-age on a whim, especially if you have oil or oil infrastructure like strategic pipe line locations.

How can you blame these countries for wanting to get nukes, since it's the only iron-clad hedge against a US bombing campaign and occupation?
posted by bardic at 8:45 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


bardic: Concerns about the US simply aren't driving Pakistan's actions. Everything they do is out of fear of India.

In 1971 India handed Pakistan it's ass. Pakistan lost what is now Bangladesh in less than 2 weeks. The population and economic disparity has only made India stronger relative to Pakistan since then, and today India could probably roll Pakistan's army up like a blanket and pack them away in the same amount of time. Pakistan is well aware of this.

So Pakistan is pursuing two policies, one is establishing a friendly regime in Afghanistan to act as a kind of redoubt, a strategic fall back position in defensible terrain so they cant just be overrun, and the second is nuclear weapons. It's worth remembering that they tested their nukes 17 days after India tested their first deployable bomb in 1998, and their nuclear program itself kicked into high gear after India's first nuclear test in 1974. The US just isn't their primary concern in all of this.
posted by Grimgrin at 11:06 PM on October 26, 2011


Wow, amazing that bombing a country and killing civilians could engender antipathy.

The Median age in Pakistan is 21.6 years. 9/11 was ten years ago. How would you act if people were attacking your country over something that happened when you had a median age of 11?
posted by delmoi at 11:17 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, let's look at it from Pakistan's perspective (or Iran's, perhaps more importantly) -- the US military has the ability to bomb you back to the stone-age on a whim, especially if you have oil or oil infrastructure like strategic pipe line locations.
Yeah, like Grimgrin said, Paksian's nukes happened before 9/11 and has nothing to do with the U.S. In fact, they were historically close with America. It was all about India. Pakistan probably couldn't even get nukes over here, their target is India. Meanwhile we have nuke shooting subs and ICBMs that can reach Pakistan with the push of a button.
posted by delmoi at 11:39 PM on October 26, 2011


On how to get the military establishment (which includes the ISI) to give up on its jihadi networks: try getting Saudi to fund all these groups because they are not only anti-American, anti-semitic, and anti-Hindu, they are also virulently anti-Shi'ite and anti-Iran.

The rub is that the biggest American proxy in the Middle East after Israel, Saudi Arabia, is the main funder of the jihadi terrorist groups (not the Pakistani military itself). That remains unchanged since the guerilla war to repel the Soviet invasion. Unsurprisingly, for that very reason the Saudi Embassy in Islamabad has no security around it, just a tall wall. It doesn't fear the jihadi groups because it controls them. The Pakistani security side is just compliant because it is poorer and corrupt.

The imminent Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Prince Nayef, is a huge supporter of jihadi groups in Pakistan, funds countless extremist madressahs, and has been given a tour several times of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal ... and whom the NYT is busy trying to promote as a pragmatist, though he is patently sinister. [Seriously, whoever does their PR in New York and DC should be exposed and Occupied too!]

The US is aware of all this, but doesn't do anything about it. And with Nayef, the future king, all of this is going to get worse. The toxic Wahabi extremist ideology that is funded and spread from Riyadh is dangerous for everyone: it is anathema to modernity and progressive thought. That is why, Saudi Arabia is the only country in the Muslim world where women cannot even drive! It, by far, has the worst record on human rights abuses against women, and it is that ideology that spread to the Taliban when they wanted to deny girls the right to go to school. That mentality is not native to Pakistan, which has twice had a woman as Prime Minister, and where women work (without forced hijab) in all works of life ... even as Air Force pilots.

Of course, 14 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi. But Iraq and Afghanistan were published. People, wake up. In whose armpit did Osama bin Laden grow up? The Saudi royal family's. You think Pakistan is disloyal to Uncle Sam? What about Saudi??? They get rewarded for sitting on hydrocarbons that they did not even know were there, and don't have the skill to extract or refine. They are handmaidens of Washington and Big Oil ... and who else is going to buy $100 billion worth of aircraft they don't even have the pilots to fly!?

Control Saudi Arabia and its policy of "let's send our extremists like OBL to wage jihad in Afghanistan via Pakistan so they are outta our hair and let's make them really anti-progress and threaten to kill all moderate progressive Muslims for offences such as blasphemy", and you will have a much more compliant Pakistani side.
posted by Azaadistani at 12:36 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


On the issue of nukes, Amartya Sen makes an interesting argument in The Argumentative Indian, about how India actually lost a strategic advantage by developing nuclear weapons, because it gave Pakistan the excuse to develop theirs. The pakistani army could never have matched India's with conventional arms. It was a while ago that I read it, so I don't remember whether he said anything about how a fear of China might have played into India's decision.

But yes, Pakistan's nukes don't, to my knowledge, have the range to get to Israel. The big joke in anti-nuclear weapons circles was that the missile ranges were small enough that they would land close enough to the border for the immediate explosion to kill Pakistanis, without even having to wait for the delayed fallout.
posted by bardophile at 12:39 AM on October 27, 2011


The Saudi succession crisis may trigger their Arab spring moment.
posted by humanfont at 4:13 AM on October 27, 2011


Oops, I meant Iraq and Afg were *punished. Sorry.
posted by Azaadistani at 4:22 AM on October 27, 2011


> So, there's no real reason to support a hostile regime with money or trade. Pull up stakes, bring the troops home,
> shut off the taps, and freeze their accounts. If they want to be Iran so damn bad, let them feel what it's like.
> I see nothing to be gained by further engagement.
> posted by Slap*Happy at 3:41 PM on October 26 [+] [!]

They have nuclear weapons and the rockets to deliver them, at least as far as their across-the-border neighbor, which is one of the very largest and most populous countries there is and which also has nukes. How surprising would it be if one of the thoughts the POTUS loses sleep over were "We must remain close enough to have some hope, even the faintest hope, of doing something when the fingers start moving toward the button"? Not building democracy, not restructuring society, none of that, just being in position to maybe prevent a fifteen minute holocaust that could make all previous holocausts look small.


> The big joke in anti-nuclear weapons circles was that the missile ranges were small enough that they would
> land close enough to the border for the immediate explosion to kill Pakistanis, without even having to wait
> for the delayed fallout.

The Federation of American Scientists isn't quite so optimistic, nor is the beeb.
posted by jfuller at 7:46 AM on October 27, 2011


spicynuts: "Border Fence. We could get some really good A&E reality shows out of it."

FUCK YEAH!
posted by symbioid at 10:19 AM on October 27, 2011


Naberius: "How is this going to work in Afghanistan? What are the resources that we didn't have access to, or were in danger of losing access to?

Oh, I'm sure there's something worthwhile there.
"

and this:
Afghanistan, often dismissed in the West as an impoverished and failed state, is sitting on $1 trillion of untapped minerals, according to new calculations from surveys conducted jointly by the Pentagon and the US Geological Survey.
(article from 2010)
posted by symbioid at 10:21 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


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