Tuesday, September 24, 2002

So, let me get this straight. The Dubya doctrine is that we should launch preemptive wars against dictatorial regimes which sponsor terrorism, possess weapons of mass destruction, and promote regional instability which could cause a strategic threat. Mere suspicion in the halls of power is enough; Rumsfeld's house testimony the other day derided the whole notion of having firm evidence of a threat before launching an attack to preempt it as "unrealistic". We must go by straws in the wind.

Well, if you buy that, then our course is clear --- we should launch an immediate war against Pakistan. Ahmed Rashid's overview of the situation there provides all the necessary evidence against Pervez Musharraf's regime. The particulars:

  • Dictatorial regime: check. Rashid proclaims Musharraf "unique" in the sad history of Pakistani military strongmen "in that he has sought no allies among civilians; he apparently holds them all in virtual contempt". After the coup that brought him to power, and a rigged plebiscite to extend his presidential term, fig leaf elections are still scheduled, but he's trying to set up his own party, and candidates of the largest existing parties in the country are finding it difficult or impossible to run. And Musharraf has uniliaterally rewritten the constitution to allow him to dismiss any elected government at will.

  • Sponsorship of terrorism: check. As a general, Musharraf was an enthusiastic supporter of Kashmiri separatists; in fact, he sent his own Pakistani regular army forces into an incursion into the Kashmiri border territory of Kargil, touching off a small war, which Musharraf personally would have liked to turn into a larger one, believing he could have won it. Post-9/11, he's been forced by American pressure into "roundups" of Kashmiri separatists, but says Rashid, from the streets of Lahore, he has effectively pulled an Arafat here:

    The larger Islamic parties that have been most involved in the fighting in Kashmir, and have large networks there, have barely been touched by the army's crackdown. Their leaders are being held in comfortable house arrest and their armed militants have been told to lie low for the time being. ... Their militant followers know they will be needed to help disrupt the [late September] elections in Kashmir.

    On the other border, the Pakistani government created the Taliban, and turned a blind eye towards its increasingly close ties with al-Qaeda. Which was, in effect, of a piece with their Kashmir strategy:

    ... most Pakistanis are fed up with the Kashmir issue and would much prefer that the money spent on the 500,000 strong Pakistani army be spent on roads, schools, and hospitals. But even today, voicing such opinions in Pakistan is considered treasonable by the army, which views Kashmir as a sacred Islamic cause.

  • Weapons of mass destruction: check. They've got nukes, thanks to our friends in China. They've got missiles, thanks to the folks we're constructively engaged with in North Korea. Enough said.

  • Strategic threat: check. The mess they've created in Afghanistan (with our sponsorship, no less) has already blown up in our faces once. They have historical ties to a lot of the warlords who are making life impossible for the Karzai regime we installed there to try to clean up the mess. They nearly started a war this spring, with heavy sectarian overtones, and with the potential to drag in Arab powers, and both India and China (which has its own disputed sliver of Kashmir to consider) --- a most unwelcome trifecta.

Pakistan has had democratic elections in the past --- imperfect ones to be sure, and the leaders of both major political parties have well-earned reputations as corrupt slime. But if we try to "impose democracy" here, we will have some experience to draw on, rather than starting with nothing, as in Iraq.

If Pakistan seems like less of a threat to you than the Iraqis, ask yourself why.

Is it because of Saddam Hussein's association with the Islamist fanatics of al-Qaeda? The evidence for that connection seems to vanish whenever anyone tries to take a good look at it --- and Saddam's single worst enemy is the fanatical sectarian regime currently running Iran. Pakistan, on the other hand, has been working with Islamist fanatics hand in glove since the 1970s, if not earlier.

Is it because of the WMD threat? Pakistan's are nastier. Also, we know Saddam Hussein is susceptible to deterrence, as he was in fact deterred from using chemical weapons in the gulf war by the threat of overwhelming retaliation. Some Pakistani generals don't sound as reasonable.

Or is it because Musharraf right now is our "bastard in the region", and seems to be helping us out? Dubya bought his cooperation after 9/11 in part with threats which he surely resents, and in part with promises of favorable trade actions (particularly, rescinding protective tariffs on textiles) which we have already reneged on. Thugs can't be bought, only rented. Musharraf won't be our thug forever --- or for long, if we don't pay the rent. Our "bastard in the region" used to be Saddam Hussein.

Update: If you thought that those Kashmiri elections which the Pakistani militant groups are supposed to disrupt would have to be happening right about now, well, you're right.

Also, I edited up top slightly for aid to the irony-impaired...


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