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Pakistan: The Ally From Hell
November 6, 2011 2:30 PM   Subscribe

The Ally From Hell. "Pakistan lies. It hosted Osama bin Laden (knowingly or not). Its government is barely functional. It hates the democracy next door. It is home to both radical jihadists and a large and growing nuclear arsenal (which it fears the U.S. will seize). Its intelligence service sponsors terrorists who attack American troops. With a friend like this, who needs enemies?" [Via]
posted by homunculus (53 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Maybe if we weren't bombing them and killing civilians, they would be a better ally?
posted by delmoi at 2:39 PM on November 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


Maybe if we weren't bombing them and killing civilians, they would be a better ally?

That's what they said about the Republic of South Vietnam too.
posted by three blind mice at 2:41 PM on November 6, 2011


Nuclear-weapons components are sometimes moved by helicopter and sometimes moved over roads. And instead of moving nuclear material in armored, well-defended convoys, the SPD prefers to move material by subterfuge, in civilian-style vehicles without noticeable defenses, in the regular flow of traffic. According to both Pakistani and American sources, vans with a modest security profile are sometimes the preferred conveyance. And according to a senior U.S. intelligence official, the Pakistanis have begun using this low-security method to transfer not merely the “de-mated” component nuclear parts but “mated” nuclear weapons. Western nuclear experts have feared that Pakistan is building small, “tactical” nuclear weapons for quick deployment on the battlefield. In fact, not only is Pakistan building these devices, it is also now moving them over roads.
That's just beautiful. Contrary to what you learn from movies, hot-wiring an American nuke is essentially impossible. Even if one's stolen, the device has an array of fail-safe mechanisms that ensure that it can only detonate after the proper code is transmitted, that the device itself has physically traveled through space & that the device hasn't been tampered with. We felt so strongly about this that we shared much of the technology with the Soviet Union & probably the rest of the nuclear club as well. But Pakistan's nukes have none of these protections; the only way they're protected is by keeping the cores separate from the rest of the bombs. Now they're not only putting them together, they're sending them on the road without a security escort. This is the ultimate expression of Security Through Obscurity. It's incredibly unsafe. I've written off hot-wired American nukes, leftover Soviet backpack nukes & DIY homebrew nukes as rogue detonation threats. But this? This could happen.
posted by scalefree at 2:53 PM on November 6, 2011 [19 favorites]


Ten years of meltdown in Pakistan: After a decade scarred by escalating militancy, deadly waves of suicide bombings and truculent relations with the West, Ahmed Rashid considers the devastating impact that the 9/11 attacks in the US had on Pakistan.
posted by homunculus at 2:53 PM on November 6, 2011


Pakistan lies.

The one about WMDs was a cracker.

It is home to both radical jihadists religious fundamentalists and a large and growing the world's most powerful nuclear arsenal.

With a friend like this, who needs enemies?

Do as most of the world does, make sure they're on your side.
posted by biffa at 2:56 PM on November 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


Nuclear-weapons components are sometimes moved by helicopter and sometimes moved over roads. And instead of moving nuclear material in armored, well-defended convoys, the SPD prefers to move material by subterfuge, in civilian-style vehicles without noticeable defenses, in the regular flow of traffic. According to both Pakistani and American sources, vans with a modest security profile are sometimes the preferred conveyance. And according to a senior U.S. intelligence official, the Pakistanis have begun using this low-security method to transfer not merely the “de-mated” component nuclear parts but “mated” nuclear weapons. Western nuclear experts have feared that Pakistan is building small, “tactical” nuclear weapons for quick deployment on the battlefield. In fact, not only is Pakistan building these devices, it is also now moving them over roads.

Whoa! There is no security by obscurity here. Someone could hijack a nuke simply by mistake!
posted by vidur at 3:04 PM on November 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


As long as we are on the nukes in a van down by the river issue.

Wired - Pakistan Carts Its Nukes Around In Delivery Vans
posted by lampshade at 3:09 PM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


America isn't the problem here, it is Pakistani military and ISI. They hold the cards and are prolonging the conflict.
posted by humanfont at 3:16 PM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Isn't it about time we stopped using the word/concept "ally"? It's totally loaded and inherently subject-changing.
posted by facetious at 3:49 PM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually, it's an important concept in IR theory... how else would you like it stated? "Partners?"
posted by squorch at 3:53 PM on November 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Isn't it about time we stopped using the word/concept "ally"?

I believe the politically correct term when dealing with the America/Pakistan relationship is "frenemies".
posted by KokuRyu at 3:54 PM on November 6, 2011 [12 favorites]


Only the Atlantic can haul out a story thousands of words long — including "materiél" — and neglect small facts like our outright support for the Pakistani nuclear program during the 1980s as a reward for their participation in our arming of "good" terrorists in Afghanistan. (Sorry, Mike Rogers, you probably forgot to read about the 80s.) At least the other outlets manage to skip the truth with the excuse of brevity or commercial breaks.

Maybe we could get all the Western journalists together in one room, and could wring their hands in unison over what to do about all of the authoritarian governments we've armed, while pretending the problem isn't us.
posted by deanklear at 3:55 PM on November 6, 2011 [33 favorites]


Actually, it's an important concept in IR theory... how else would you like it stated? "Partners?"


Countries don't have allies or partners - countries are not people. Both words are an abuse of metaphor, and, aside (arguably) from the term "trading partner", they're used more often than not for purely ideological purposes. This article is a great example: America's allies stand with her through thick and thin! Surely we cannot allow these mendacious Pakistanis to stab this great Nation in the back! It's pure mystification. If these are the only words we have available, then yes, we should invent new ones.
posted by facetious at 4:03 PM on November 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


Maybe if we weren't bombing them and killing civilians, they would be a better ally?

This is too glib. Pakistan has an incredible amount of factional and regional tension all on its own. American involvement may make that worse, but it's not like they'd be a shining happy family without U.S. involvement.
posted by fatbird at 4:27 PM on November 6, 2011 [15 favorites]


Oh turds! Does this mean that instead of invading Iran the foreign policy geniuses are going to start advocating an invasion of Pakistan? Wolfowitz, I'm looking at you.
posted by benito.strauss at 4:29 PM on November 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


our outright support for the Pakistani nuclear program during the 1980s as a reward for their participation in our arming of "good" terrorists in Afghanistan.

Nobody likes to talk about blowback.

Previously, btw.
posted by homunculus at 4:55 PM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Pakistan lies," he says. That is one of the funniest things I think I've ever read. No shit Pakistan lies! Every country lies! All the time!
posted by Hoopo at 4:58 PM on November 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


homunculus: "Ten years of meltdown in PakistanAmusingly, the BBC link from homunculus has this little pearl:
Many Pakistanis now acknowledge that there has been a national failure of both the civilian and military elite to give the country leadership. The elite lacks all sense of responsibility towards the public, refuses to pay taxes or provide adequate services to the people and is viewed as corrupt.
Remind you of anywhere else?
posted by meehawl at 5:11 PM on November 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


Dealing with Pakistan is a delicate balancing act. The U.S. Administration is well aware of Pakistani factionalism and problematic nature of the security service. But even a tenuous alliance with Pakistan is better than the alternative.
posted by happyroach at 5:20 PM on November 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Doesn't one of the terrorist groups use a mushroom cloud on its flag? Aren't nukes looooong out of "our" control? Like, isn't this sort of news about as old as the collapse of the USSR?
posted by five fresh fish at 5:43 PM on November 6, 2011


With a friend like this, who needs enemies?

I wonder if they're thinking the same thing?
posted by telstar at 5:49 PM on November 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think in the past "the Americans" or whoever the "good guys" are had a pretty good understanding of the whereabouts about nuclear munitions in Pakistan, as well as a plan for securing those munitions in times of crisis. However, that does not seem to be the case now.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:51 PM on November 6, 2011


Remind you of anywhere else?

Yup, it does.

Greece
posted by stirfry at 6:14 PM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dealing with Pakistan is a delicate balancing act. The U.S. Administration is well aware of Pakistani factionalism and problematic nature of the security service. But even a tenuous alliance with Pakistan is better than the alternative.

Reasonable comment, happyroach. But "the" alternative assumes there is only one alternative. There are many alternative approaches, with Pakistan, Israel, or whoever we are talking about, and we need to back off of supporting or even tolerating, what we oppose, in the fear we cannot do any better. Let's lay out multiple alternatives, and get away from supporting what we actually are working against.

- bj
posted by benjonson at 6:22 PM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


The US gave Pakistan huge amounts of money to continue the hunt for OBL. Based on historical precedent, as soon as Pakistan does what the US wants, the US will bail and cut the funding.

For a country obsessed with free markets, it should have come as no surprise that Pakistan hid OBL in order to continue the cash flow. What did they have to gain by having him found?
posted by benzenedream at 6:34 PM on November 6, 2011 [9 favorites]


But even a tenuous alliance with Pakistan is better than the alternative.

Bullshit. Pakistan is a failed state, whose raison d'etre is the destabilisatioon and annexation of large bits of India and Afghanistan. It's a state desperately trying to claw a nation from the flesh of its neighbours.

The long term solution is the dissolution of this anomaly, and creation of more sensible nation states within a larger federal structure in South Asia. Splitting off Bangladesh was a good start. Next, we need Baluchistan and NWFP attached to Pashtunistan, Kashmir reunited and given autonomy within the larger South Asian Federated States, and the core provinces of Punjab and Sindh deciding what they'd like to be, with the current choice of "exploiters and oppressors of the neighboring provinces and exporters of terror" off the table.

Yeah America sucks too, but here we are talking about Pakistan, m'kay?
posted by Meatbomb at 8:29 PM on November 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


The long term solution is the dissolution of this anomaly, and creation of more sensible nation states within a larger federal structure in South Asia. Splitting off Bangladesh was a good start. Next, we need Baluchistan and NWFP attached to Pashtunistan, Kashmir reunited and given autonomy within the larger South Asian Federated States, and the core provinces of Punjab and Sindh deciding what they'd like to be, with the current choice of "exploiters and oppressors of the neighboring provinces and exporters of terror" off the table.

Yeah, if there is one thing that part of the world needs, it is redrawing of maps. What could possibly go wrong?
posted by vidur at 8:34 PM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


vidur - "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" doesn't apply here.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:35 PM on November 6, 2011


benzenedream, just look at what what happened after we were done using Pakistan to undermine the USSR. We entirely abandoned them, and drove their nuclear program underground after Bush I invoked the Pressler Amendment.

Pakistan knows that once they serve no geopolitical purpose for us, we'll abandon them just as we have done to all of our other "allies".
posted by deanklear at 8:35 PM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


The long term solution is the dissolution of this anomaly

b) Pancakistan
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:41 PM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Both words are an abuse of metaphor

No, they are not... they're expressions meant to show the reality of the relationship between two states *at the current time. States constantly reevaluate their relationships with allies, etc. - but you do need terms like "ally," "partner," and even "competitor" to have any meaningful discussion of the situation.

The way that it's being framed here reminds me of the creationist trope that evolution is just a "theory" - it ignores the fact that there's both a colloquial and a scientific definition of the word, just as there is a colloquial and IR-related definition of "ally." To conflate the two is facile and ignores the larger discussion for a derail; ironically, this is the original charge leveled at the term.
posted by squorch at 8:56 PM on November 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Meatbomb, I'm sure you know that partitioning countries is more than just a matter of redrawing lines on paper. Millions of lives are at stake. We can't just go around carving perceived nation states. Just because a geographical region has a certain majority population with some shared identity markers, it doesn't mean that they should get a nation state to themselves. What happens to the minorities who happen to have financial and emotional stakes in the land that happened to be granted to the majority community? The India-Pakistan-Bangladesh partitions that played out over several decades resulted in millions of dead, wounded, and displaced refugees.

Every time some part of the world is seen as "broke", the answer can't be "here is your breakaway nation state".

India seems to provide a somewhat workable model for managing different nation states within a single country. IMO, that's a far better model to be encouraged in other countries in the region rather than creating even more nation states.
posted by vidur at 9:13 PM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Meatbomb: "The long term solution is the dissolution of this anomaly, and creation of more sensible nation states within a larger federal structure in South Asia."

Wasn't that exactly how the mess in the middle-east got started?
posted by schmod at 9:17 PM on November 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


The long term solution is the dissolution of this anomaly

The problem is that threatening to partition Pakistan will only make things worse. A.Q. Khan, the father of the Pakistani nuclear program, began starting to smuggle nuclear technology from the Netherlands to Pakistan in response to the nationalistic humiliation he felt at Pakistan's loss of East Pakistan to Bangladesh. Pakistan established its nuke program, precisely because of its fear of partition.
posted by jonp72 at 9:51 PM on November 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Visit India! We are somewhat workable.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 9:52 PM on November 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Referring to Pakistan’s main adversary, India, [Musharaff] said, “No one ever speaks of the dangers of a Hindu bomb.”

Yeah, that's because the lead dude in the team was Dr APJ Abdul Kalam and he is obviously Muslim, while the entire nuclear effort was set up by Homi Bhabha, a Parsi. If anything, the Indian nuclear bomb is the *Veggie* bomb, vegetarianism being the main socio-cultural commonality across the team that conducted Pokhran II.

Seriously though, from my Indian citizen perspective, the nuclear-ization of South Asia has been an unmitigated disaster. The argument for nukes before and immediately after Pokhran II was the "logic of nuclear deterrence", that "nuclear weapons have deterred war between their possessors and will continue to do so."

Kargil, the attacks on the Indian parliament in 2001 and, indeed, 26/11, have obviously shown why the Weapons of Peace doctrine just did not make sense in this age of asymmetric warfare and quasi-state actors. The only defence I can see now, looking back after 12 years, was the fact that India and Pakistan already might have been nuclear powers even before 1998, as my first link suggests.

The other point is about what a nuclear blast really means on the ground for South Asia. The reality is that, if it ever comes to nuclear bombs, Pakistan will never bomb Delhi or any city within a 500km radius of the border; the weather patterns between the Indus - Ganga doabs are too complicated for Pakistan to not receive the downward drift of a nuclear wind. For similar reasons, unless India chooses to strategically target some remote valley in Baluchistan (oh the irony), nuclear weapons in an Indo-Pak conflict are entirely useless from an Indian perspective. As I recall, Pakistani warheads have a limited radius that doesn't extend to India's east; in any case, there's Bangladesh to think about there.

Which leaves us exactly one region that will suffer nuclear annihilation, if ever there's a nuclear war in South Asia. It's Bombay and the Deccan; as I mentioned before on the blue, the region that is seeing the fastest rate of urbanization in India. That is India's frontline in a nuclear war, not the western or northern borders.

This is also the place where the great big sociological battles of our times are being fought; the complexion of the region has essentially changed in a generation. A little known fact, but the then sparsely populated, semi-arid Telangana region was once considered as a prime choice for a nuclear test site, if it came to it. By 1977 though, the region saw so much growth that they couldn't fin a single 10sq km plot that was completely uninhabited, and had to search for a spot in the Thar desert.

Basically, "New" India would be the first thing to go in a nuclear war.
posted by the cydonian at 10:16 PM on November 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


Yeah America sucks too, but here we are talking about Pakistan, m'kay?

I thought it was bout the relationship between America and Pakistan, and it seems like the US's behavior toward Pakistan would have a great deal to do with it.
posted by delmoi at 10:30 PM on November 6, 2011


"America lies. It backed Osama bin Laden (knowingly or not). Its government is barely functional. It hates the democracy next door. It is home to both radical white supremacists and a large and growing nuclear arsenal (which it fears the U.N. will seize). Its intelligence service sponsors terrorists who attack American troops. With a friend like this, who needs enemies?"

Fixed that for you.
posted by usagizero at 11:11 PM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


America isn't the problem here, it is Pakistani military and ISI. They hold the cards and are prolonging the conflict.

No, America has been the problem for sixty years - the time it spent backing compliant dictators in Pakistan in preference to democratic Indians who wouldn't be wallahs for an empire of "soft" colonialism.

When the Pakistani government was butchering East Pakistanis for wanting independence, the US backed them up.

The US *built* Pakistan into a first-world millitary power. The US chose to do that because of the disasterous pattern of US foreign engagement wince WW II, of preferring easily controlled regimes brutalising serfs to negotiating with newly independent nations. Everything that's happened since - including the destruction of the World Trade Centre and the emergence of Pakistan as a nuclear power feeding technology to rogue states and non-nation state actors - is a direct result of those decisions. Without the US pumping them full of millitary know-how and turning a blind eye to nuclear research (when it suited), they'd be somewhere between Afghanistan and Bangladesh as a threat to anyone.

Pakistan is a failed state, whose raison d'etre is the destabilisatioon and annexation of large bits of India and Afghanistan.

Now, now, that's unfair. I'm sure they'd love to invade Bangladesh and take up the massacaring where they left off before independence.

Referring to Pakistan’s main adversary, India, [Musharaff] said, “No one ever speaks of the dangers of a Hindu bomb.”

That's probably because Hindu atrocities have largely been confined to the pogroms against Sikhs and Indian Muslims. I don't think anyone's seriously worried that India will start nuking its own territory. The only dangerous vector for a nuclear India would be if they'd started equipping the Tamils with nukes.

Pakistan, on the other hand, has a terrible reputation because it's earned it.
posted by rodgerd at 12:47 AM on November 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


Both words are an abuse of metaphor

There's no metaphor involved. 'Ally' properly means a state that agrees to co-operate with another state in a war or defence, etc. If you're under the impression that the literal meaning is restricted to a friendship between individuals, you're mistaken.
posted by Segundus at 1:18 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe if we weren't bombing them and killing civilians, they would be a better ally?

We're not.

Oh, you mean you? Yeah, totally agree.
posted by the noob at 2:02 AM on November 7, 2011


Yes, but can you name a dangerous and irrational American enemy that DIDN'T start out as a beloved and reliably American ally?
posted by Legomancer at 7:44 AM on November 7, 2011


Wired - Pakistan Carts Its Nukes Around In Delivery Vans

Insert joke about devastatingly hot takeaway curries here.
posted by acb at 8:12 AM on November 7, 2011


Countries don't have allies or partners - countries are not people. Both words are an abuse of metaphor, and, aside (arguably) from the term "trading partner", they're used more often than not for purely ideological purposes.

facetious, you've managed to rotsky yourself.

ally
...
noun
4. a person, group, or nation that is associated with another or others for some common cause or purpose: Canada and the United States were allies in World War II.


First damned definition of the word. Now can we discuss the thread subject, instead of pontificating on word choices we don't agree on anyway?
posted by IAmBroom at 8:15 AM on November 7, 2011


India-Pakistan trade: The MFN breakthrough

Confusion over Pakistan-India trade deal
posted by homunculus at 9:18 AM on November 7, 2011


The generals in Pakistan made the decisions, but America is to blame. We wrote them checks and they promised to get it together. Instead they blew the money on nukes and extremists; and shot Bhutto. Now they tell us to get ENT because they know they hold all the cards. If only America was the all powerful global tyrant. Then these guys would be on the gallows. Alas we are just a bunch of suckers with a big wallet repeatedly getting our clocks cleaned.
posted by humanfont at 9:46 AM on November 7, 2011


Well, it looks like Pakistan has responded, with a denial of the article's veracity and an acknowledgment that they're training more people to safeguard the country's nuclear weapons. Color me not-so-reassured.

Pakistan trains 8,000 additional people to protect its nuclear arsenal as threats loom
By Associated Press, Updated: Monday, November 7, 7:33 AM


ISLAMABAD — Pakistan is training 8,000 additional people to protect the country’s nuclear arsenal, which the U.S. fears could be vulnerable to penetration by Islamist militants at war with the West, the Pakistani military said.

Those fears were heightened by a recent U.S. magazine article that quoted unnamed Pakistani and American officials as saying Pakistan transports nuclear weapons components around the country in delivery vans with little security to avoid detection — a claim denied by Islamabad.

Pakistan insists its nuclear arsenal is well-defended, and the widespread fear among many Pakistanis is that the main threat stems not from al-Qaida or the Taliban, but from suspected U.S. plans to seize the country’s weapons. These fears were heightened by the covert U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May.

Washington has insisted it has no plans to seize Pakistan’s weapons. But the recent article in The Atlantic magazine quoted unnamed American military and intelligence officials as saying the U.S. has trained extensively for potential missions in Pakistan to secure nuclear weapons or material that fall into the wrong hands.

Pakistan rarely reveals details about its nuclear program or the security around it. The announcement by the Pakistani military that it is training an additional 8,000 people to protect the nuclear arsenal could be seen as a response to the magazine article.

“This (group) comprises hand-picked officers and men, who are physically robust, mentally sharp and equipped with modern weapons and equipment,” said the Pakistani military in a written statement Sunday.

The statement was released in conjunction with the graduation of 700 of these security personnel. The ceremony was attended by Maj. Gen. Muhammad Tahir, head of security for the Strategic Plans Division — the arm of the Pakistani military tasked with protecting the nuclear arsenal.

Tahir “reiterated that extensive resources have been made available to train, equip, deploy and sustain an independent and potent security force to meet any and every threat emanating from any quarter,” according to the statement.

The Pakistani Foreign Ministry also put out a statement Sunday calling the allegations in the article in The Atlantic “pure fiction.”

posted by longdaysjourney at 10:16 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, in the US:

Our Expensive, Expanding Nuclear Weapons Complex: Why is America beefing up its nuclear capacity even as it tells the world it plans to forsake its arsenal?
posted by homunculus at 8:46 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


On Oct. 10, Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz dropped a bombshell: Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, he alleged, had offered to replace Pakistan's military and intelligence leadership and cut ties with militant groups in the wake of Osama bin Laden's killing in Abbottabad.

Ijaz also alleged in his op-ed in the Financial Times that Zardari communicated this offer by sending a top secret memo on May 10 through Ijaz himself, to be hand-delivered to Adm. Michael Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a key official managing the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. The details of the memo and the machinations Ijaz describes paint a picture of a Zardari government scrambling to save itself from an impending military coup following the raid on bin Laden's compound, and asking for U.S. support to prevent that coup before it started.


Mullen confirms existence of secret memo; Pakistani ambassador offers to resign

Secret Pakistani-U.S. memo offering overthrow of military leadership revealed
posted by Anything at 1:17 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


The above is apparently all over the Pakistani media but I can hardly find any other headlines on it in US media, just some mentions near the bottom paragraphs of a couple of stories.

Very strange.
posted by Anything at 1:24 AM on November 23, 2011


AP story on Miami Herald
posted by Anything at 1:39 AM on November 23, 2011


Pakistani ambassador resigns.

Pakistan names new envoy to US in wake of scandal

Neither story apparently on the websites' front pages.
posted by Anything at 1:58 AM on November 23, 2011


US tax dollars at work.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:48 AM on November 23, 2011


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