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Elephant in the living room: A radical Islamic Nuclear Pakistan
October 15, 2002 9:19 AM   Subscribe

Elephant in the living room: A radical Islamic Nuclear Pakistan (NYT reg. : name-metafilter password-metafilter) "Hard-line Islamic parties did unexpectedly well in Pakistan's election last week, and Pervez Musharraf's hold on power may be slipping. Do I need to point out that Pakistan is a lot bigger than Iraq, and already has nuclear weapons?...These guys [Bush Adm]want to fight a conventional war; since Al Qaeda won't oblige, they'll attack someone else who will [Iraq]. And watching from the alley, the terrorists are pleased. " -Paul Krugman, once again forced to state the obvious; the US is, effectively, helping with Al Qaeda's goal of radicalizing Islamic populations. In parts of Pakistan, they call Musharaff "Busharaff", and Nick Kristoff notes "Even in Kuwait, where Yankees have the best possible claim on Arab gratitude, a significant minority of men and women regard us as worms" and that "The most common name given to Pakistani boys born after 9/11 in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province reportedly was Osama." What does this have to do with a war in Iraq? Well.........
posted by troutfishing (36 comments total)

 
It should be notes thet Musharaf had legislation passed which prevented former Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif from running in the elections.

They were the only candidates who would have had any kind of popular support and by them not running, the population was left with a bunch of unknowns from much smaller parties, significantly diluting the strength of the opposition. Had they been allowed to run the picture would no doubt be a lot different.
posted by PenDevil at 9:29 AM on October 15, 2002


Next thing you know Krugman will be telling us that Saudi Arabia supports the schooling/training of young minds for radical Islamic fundamentalism from whence comes terrorists that might consider flying planes into buildings in the name of Allah.
Don't read this link as it obviously wasn't approved by Karl Rove prior to publication! Never question our fearless leader you treasonous liberal MeFi readers! Where's the patriotism? The gall of linking to such a disreputable communist terrorist publication!

Go ahead oh humorless ones, unleash your fiery tirades against me! A badge of honor it shall be.
posted by nofundy at 9:33 AM on October 15, 2002


"...Saudi Arabia supports the schooling/training of young minds for radical Islamic fundamentalism from whence comes terrorists..."

Nahhhh..
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:43 AM on October 15, 2002


mr_crash_davis: What's the relevance of your link (Saudi flight crew overcomes hijacker) to the issue of Saudi support for radical Islamic schools (which as far as I know nobody questions)?
posted by languagehat at 9:56 AM on October 15, 2002


One good thing: Live from Pakistan says "the new National Assembly will have at least 70 women -- the largest number ever -- in a house of 342"
posted by scudder at 9:56 AM on October 15, 2002


Does it make sense to try to post a remark at this site when there are so many who like calling names and acting like silly children instead of trying to have a useful exchange of ideas, positions? I wanted to post but after the nonsense I no longer am interested. And now, following this, some asinine remarks about what I have just said, right?
posted by Postroad at 9:59 AM on October 15, 2002


PenDevil -- It's also worth noting that Nawaz Sharif sponsored the Pakistani nuclear weapons program -- bringing about Western sanctions and increased tension with India. Hell, he was deposed by Musharraf in the middle of another pissing contest with India over Kashmir. He's got an admirable and respectable streak for independence, but having him consolidate power in Parliament would still weaken Musharraf's regime and add to growing anti-Western sentiment.

It's more important to look at the latter half of Krugman's article, where he points out that the administration is not helping its cause by failing to deliver on its promises. You'd think that the US would've learned about blowback from its mistakes in abandoning third world allies during the Cold War. If Pakistanis saw greater prosperity stemming from its cooperation with the West then the outcome would've been quite different indeed.
posted by bl1nk at 10:16 AM on October 15, 2002


"It should be notes thet Musharaf had legislation passed which prevented former Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif from running in the elections."

If these people were innocent they wouldnt have gone into self imposed exiles or accepted deals.

I think whatever happened in Pakistan with these elections, is all for the best. The people of the country choose a leadership. Thats how democracy works. As a Pakistani, I had discounted Musharraf. But as the results started piling up election night, I could see that for the first time after 1970, the country exercised fair and transparent elections. I don't care how the European Union observers changed their positive opinion to a negative one when they say the religious parties coming ahead. There were 299 other observers and they are satisfied with the process.

Will this affect foreign policy. In regards to India, yes it will. It will only reinforce Musharraf's already clear cut, straight forward and fact based policy towards India. When it comes to the war against terrorism, the religious party leaders have already declared they would work towards that goal.
posted by adnanbwp at 10:20 AM on October 15, 2002


It will only reinforce Musharraf's already clear cut, straight forward and fact based policy towards India.

You mean the one in which he turns a blind eye to militant Islamicists who terrorize Kashmir, thereby rightly enraging India and bringing the world closer to nuclear armageddon? Great.
posted by goethean at 10:28 AM on October 15, 2002


Go ahead oh humorless ones, unleash your fiery tirades against me!

How do you feel about breast self-exams?
posted by MrBaliHai at 10:37 AM on October 15, 2002


A top U.S. defense official said Friday that the Bush administration will soon restore military aid to Pakistan to bolster the country's military capabilities – a deal Islamabad hopes will include new F-16 fighter jets.

"The United States has an interest in having Pakistan's capabilities enhanced," U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith said. "We have an interest in working together with the Pakistani armed forces on common security issues."

Feith spoke at the end of four days of talks between U.S. and Pakistani defense officials in Pakistan's capital, the first high-level meetings held since the United States imposed sanctions following Pakistan's nuclear tests in 1998.
Link.

For his support he is being rewarded, more arms for a military dictator, but he is on the right side, right? And of course, pakistani dicators are easier to kill ala Zia-ul-haq. The logic is baffling, to me at least.
posted by bittennails at 10:38 AM on October 15, 2002


How do you feel about breast self-exams?

I prefer the buddy system over self-exams personally.

I thought the title of "Elephant in the Living Room" was yet another stroke of genius by our own troutfisherperson too.
Quite a clever way to announce that the warbloggers (pardon the use of the word) conveniently ignore everything which doesn't fit into the chickenhawk war plans.
posted by nofundy at 11:01 AM on October 15, 2002


and visa versa....
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 11:30 AM on October 15, 2002


I think whatever happened in Pakistan with these elections, is all for the best. The people of the country choose a leadership. Thats how democracy works.

And what happens if the elect Islamic wackos?

I question the premise of the orginal post. The rise of radical Islam is not America's fault, except perhaps to the extent Radical Islam is rooted in the jealousy of peoples whose ideologies have left them in the dust of our success and development. And it's not the West's fault that it's successful.
posted by ParisParamus at 11:42 AM on October 15, 2002


And what happens if the elect Islamic wackos?

Why quite simple, PP, get the new freshly minted non taliban Afghan's to attack the pro taliban Pakistani's, who are on their way to power.
posted by bittennails at 11:55 AM on October 15, 2002


And what happens if the elect Islamic wackos?

Dunno, the same thing that happens when Jewish (Israel) or Christian (good ol' USA) wackos? Run sane people against them.
posted by laz-e-boy at 12:05 PM on October 15, 2002


Two thinly related questions. First, why is everyone so sure that the DC area snipper isn't Qaeda?
posted by ParisParamus at 12:06 PM on October 15, 2002


Second. Why are the so obsessed over whether or not the gun/bullet match the other shootings? WHAT IF THE GUY JUST
SWITCHES RIFFLES?
posted by ParisParamus at 12:10 PM on October 15, 2002


Though Bhutto is often portrayed in the US media in near-saintly terms -- she's Western-educated (Harvard/Oxford) and skilled at saying all the right things -- it's worth remembering that the Bhutto clan itself has uncomfortable links to terrorism; just keep that in mind whenever she's given airtime to piously denounce it.

Certainly the election results have complicated things for Musharraf to some extent. There is certainly a case to be made regarding the risk of a Pakistan with resurgent Islamists, but in practical terms most Western observers believe the army remains very much in control and despite increasing sympathy with certain aspects of Islamism, more likely to co-opt the movement for its own ends (e.g. Kashmir) than to fall prey to it -- many of the radical movements are simply seen by the dead-serious educated military as unschooled country bumpkins. Musharraf could potentially be assassinated as Zia (almost certainly) was, but that doesn't mean that the country automatically falls apart or comes under the thumb of a mullah. As with Turkey, the Pakistani military sees the survival of the nation as surpassing any religious interest (though surely some apparently would prefer a glassed-over country to one fragmented and dominated by India). The Arab (or in this case, Islamic) "street" is much less threatening than it appears.

Pakistan is a microcosm of some of the more frustrating contradictions we're going to face. Things we want Pakistan to do -- back out of Afghanistan, back out of Kashmir, return to democracy, crack down on radicals, tame the tribal areas -- all have the potential to create new problems, such as a radicalized and frustrated intelligence service, radical movements without safety valves, domestic Islamist political power. I won't deny that there are risks here -- almost every move on the chessboard opens up a new one. But there's plenty of evidence that the Bush administration is keeping a close eye on developments in Pakistan -- remember, we had summoned their intelligence chief to Washington in September 2001, which nobody knew about until after the fact. It's not being talked about because it's a case where talk doesn't help. On the one hand, we like the status quo -- Musharraf has proven a reliable ally. On the other hand, the parts of the status quo we don't like are unlikely to be improved by making it a public issue.

We seem to be pursuing policies of quiet appeasement with both Iran and North Korea, both of which are producing tangible results. For the very same reason, even though Bush took the trouble to name these as two axes of evil, we know better than to make a stink about either. Keeping our head down is helping us make progress. Similarly with Musharraf we feel he's better off making changes of which we approve without the appearance of responding to American opinion (elite or popular).

Mushy's a smart guy -- maybe one of the smartest leaders Pakistan has had since independence. He's one of the few Muslim leaders to talk honestly about the failures of Islamic society, especially in the 20th century. And no, he isn't a pal of democracy, but as military dictators go he's relatively benign, and the more democratic institutions that he retains, the more that free speech continues, the more likely that civil society will remain placid. The more responsibility for which Islamist politicians have to answer, the less radical they will find themselves capable of being. This is an unsatisfying compromise, of course, but in the end we in the West were not having much success at improving things in Pakistan during the period where Musharraf was frozen out.

Paris, you're stepping outside even your normal bounds of stridency, and derailing the thread.
posted by dhartung at 12:19 PM on October 15, 2002


It's not being talked about because it's a case where talk doesn't help. On the one hand, we like the status quo -- Musharraf has proven a reliable ally. On the other hand, the parts of the status quo we don't like are unlikely to be improved by making it a public issue.

That makes sense to me from the american outlook, still bothers the indian in me, Dan. I keep coming back to your other line "Pakistan is a microcosm of some of the more frustrating contradictions we're going to face." It keeps coming back, and it bothers me, ah well, in time.
posted by bittennails at 12:39 PM on October 15, 2002


The rise of radical Islam is not America's fault

I disagree. Radical Islamic Holy War was actively encouraged in the Pakistan/Afghanistan region by the US during the Soviet occupation. The results are called blowback. You should already know this PP, were you being disingenuous?
posted by nofundy at 12:52 PM on October 15, 2002


The rise of radical Islam is not America's fault

I disagree. Everything is America's fault.
posted by goethean at 1:14 PM on October 15, 2002


Yes, you're right goethean. Especially those 3000 Americans who died last September. They are part of America. And what happened to them was most definitely their fault.

/sarcasm
posted by dhoyt at 1:34 PM on October 15, 2002


Radical Islamic Holy War was actively encouraged in the Pakistan/Afghanistan region by the US during the Soviet occupation.

So would you say that the US supporting the mujahideen was a fault, or just something that had negative unintended consequences that could not have been readily foreseen at the time?

Do you blame the US for not having pre-screened mujahideen recipients of weapons during the soviet occupation for future-terrorist potentiality?

Should American troops themselves have been put into Afghanistan in the 80's to fight the soviets while direct support of the mujahideen was denied?

Should the US have just realized that the soviet economy was going to soon collapse anyways, the troops would have withdrawn, and everything was going to turn out fine on its own? <-- my favorite

Should the US have just said 'good luck, afghanistan, hope you can deal with it,' like nearly every other country on the planet did?

Or are there other options you think should have been pursued? Maybe funding the recruitment of freedom fighters from across the Middle East to help the Afghans expel the imperialists? Or possibly sponsoring 'up with peace' seminars in the region to promote brotherhood and understanding between the combatants?
posted by shoos at 1:59 PM on October 15, 2002


1) The Pak nuke program was mainly the work of Bhutto's father, and the Paks wanted nukes mainly to counter India's overwhelming military and geographical advantages. Pakistan's regional ambitions don't extend much further than Afghanistan and Kashmir.

2) The question really comes down to deterence. Is a Pak government with a 1/4 Islamist parliament and a powerful executive dominated by the military deterrable? Probably, because there are a large number of people involved. No one person has dictatorial power, as Musharraf has found out. Besides, the Pentagon is really good at beating up on national states. It is subnational actors that are tough.

3) Electing the Islamists is probably the best way to discredit them. What is the Islamist solution to unemployment? "Um, Jihad?" What is the Islamist solution to poor investment in the textile sector?
"Um, prayer?" How about lack of clean water in rural areas? "Um, greater restrictions on women?" Widespread illiteracy? "Maybe Jihad?" There has never been a popular Islamist government with good reason. These guys have (literally) 15th century answers to 21st century problems.
posted by ednopantz at 1:59 PM on October 15, 2002


"Everything is America's fault." No, it's McDonnalds fault. [/metasarcasm]
posted by ugly_n_sticky at 2:14 PM on October 15, 2002


To ParisParamus

Two thinly related questions. First, why is everyone so sure that the DC area snipper isn't Qaeda?

Because we all know that just like the 911 was a setup by Israeli Intelligence so are once again Jews involved in sniper shootings to act as provocateurs

anyways here is a link to RADIO GRENOUILLE, French are the best DJ's along with Hungarians
posted by bureaustyle at 2:24 PM on October 15, 2002


sorry, dhoyt, forgot the sarcasm tag.
posted by goethean at 2:27 PM on October 15, 2002


A point of note on the issue of the Taliban and CIA blowback. I did a little snooping around here, and what happened wasn't what is generally assumed, though it does make the CIA look rather incompetent (or at least naive) which explains why they haven't been publically denying the charge of blowback.

What actually happened was that the CIA funneled money to the Afghans fighting the Soviets, but THROUGH the Pakistani intelligence service, which has a large number of radical Islamic ties. The Pakistani intelligence service decided which groups in Afghanistan to support and which groups not to support, and would not permit the CIA any say, or even really information over where it was going.

The CIA simply backed down, and didn't insist on having a say where its millions were being spent. Did the CIA knowingly fund radical Islamics? No. Should they have? Hell, yes.
posted by nick.a at 2:32 PM on October 15, 2002


That's okay, I closed the tag for you (us).

Maybe your code wasn't w3c compliant? :)
posted by dhoyt at 2:32 PM on October 15, 2002


languagehat, it made sense to me when I typed it, but I was all hopped-up on the Dayquil.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:59 PM on October 15, 2002


Damn, they oughta ban that stuff!
posted by languagehat at 3:39 PM on October 15, 2002


>>Maybe funding the recruitment of freedom fighters from across the Middle East to help the Afghans expel the imperialists? <<

Nope, the Saudis took care of that part for us.

Once the imperialists were expelled, though, everyone except the radical Islamists pretty much lost interest in Afghanistan. At least at first, the Taliban looked pretty good next to the murdering thugs they kicked out.
posted by kewms at 3:42 PM on October 15, 2002


"Next thing you know Krugman will be telling us that Saudi Arabia supports the schooling/training of young minds for radical Islamic fundamentalism from whence comes terrorists that might consider flying planes into buildings in the name of Allah." -- Nofundy; Thanks for the sarcasm - this reminded me of W's brother, Neil Bush. Neil's acieved fame as the director of the "Silverado Saving and Loan". Silverado was the first, ( and biggest I think) Savings and Loan bank to go under at the start of the Saving and Loan debacle which marked the presidency of George Bush 1. Neil Bush is now running an educational tech company for the Saudis so that they can employ classroom computer technology to better spread their liberal, permissive Wahabbi values, such as the proper cloistering of women (chastely indoors and out of sight), and the mercifull chopping off of hands.

ParisParamus - Maybe the sniper IS Al Qaeda. Maybe he's working for elements of the US gov. Maybe he's working for the Israelis. Maybe he draws a paycheck from all three who have, in some areas, convergent interests.

"The rise of radical Islam is not America's fault, except perhaps to the extent Radical Islam is rooted in the jealousy of peoples whose ideologies have left them in the dust of our success and development. Yes, much of the region where radical Islam thrives the region is bereft of functional democracy, economic success, or both. But this observation is by now a tired cliche and, I would assert, a smokescreen.

Certainly, the region would do well to curb it's obsession with Israel (injustice towards Palestinians or not) and it's anger at the still recent colonial past. But it is still worth noting that Europe dominated the region for over a century. And it's undeniable that this colonial domination warped the region's natural political and economic development. The regional underdevlopment is not all justly attributed to the (implied) backward nature of Islam.

Meanwhile...do you think the US would bother with Iraq if it did not posess the second largest oil reserves in the world? Why not admit that oil is a major factor? The Bush adm. neoconservatives themselves admit the need to control world oil resources. And we will control with an iron fist. At least the Europeans could be played off against each other; now the US is consolisdating it's position as the new neocolonial, imperalist power but, on our newly declared Global playing field, we have no major rivals.

Nick.a - In a recent speach by George Tenet, he declared that CIA intelligence on Afghanistan re Al Qaeda was not faulty due to a CIA pullout, because "we never left". You suggest that the ISI was running the whole show in Afghanistan, that the CIA was in the dark. This is absurd. Go dig a little more. You missed an awful lot. The CIA CONSTRUCTED the plan to fan the flames of radical Islam after the Soviet invasion in '79. The idea was to cast the Soviets as secular, "Godless". It worked. Shame about the blowback, and now the US is the "Godless" occupying power in the region. The ISI was a necesary conduit for CIA financing, yes, but the CIA was certainly not "in the dark".

"...Maybe funding the recruitment of freedom fighters from across the Middle East to help the Afghans expel the imperialists?" Shoos: The US did just that. That's where Al Qaeda CAME FROM. Maybe I need to do a post with a bunch of links about this?
posted by troutfishing at 4:09 PM on October 15, 2002


Trout: Yes, I know. I guess my sarcasm isn't made for easy consumption.
posted by shoos at 4:51 PM on October 15, 2002


Oh, oops. 'guess I need to turn up my sarcasm meter.
posted by troutfishing at 10:37 AM on October 17, 2002


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