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