OF THE COUP
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was increasingly unpopular, and
often accused of trying to establish a personal dictatorship:
he had recently cracked down on the opposition, and made inroads
on the authority of the judiciary, but the real reason for
the decline of his political fortunes was his decision to
withdraw support from Islamic radical rebels in Kashmir, a
disputed province claimed by both Pakistan and India. For
years, the Pakistani military has been encouraging Syed Salahuddin,
chief of the Hizbul Mujahideen, the pro-Pakistani Islamic
rebel organization in Kashmir, arming, supplying, and training
the insurgents, who want "reunion" with Pakistan.
While Sharif tried to whip up and ride the wave of Islamic
radicalism that has engulfed Pakistan, the movement he helped
to create quickly decided that he was not radical enough and
called for his dismissal. Amid an economic downturn, and the
ongoing humiliation in Kashmir where a primarily Muslim
population is governed by Hindu nationalists in New Delhi
it was only a matter of time before the Sharif government
fell. The only question was: who will replace him the
Islamic radicals, who invited Osama bin Laden as the guest
of honor at a gigantic rally held in Islamabad last year,
or the military? The military preempted the militants
but don't break out the champagne just yet.
Pervaiz Musharraf, the army chief who responded to his firing
by firing the Prime Minister, was widely seen as the moving
force behind the most recent chapter in Pakistan's proxy war
in Kashmir. Under pressure from the U.S. and its allies, Sharif
backed down and ordered a halt in the fighting yet
the Islamic rebels, supported by the Pakistan-backed Taleban
government in Afghanistan as well as homegrown militants,
showed no signs of withdrawing. Since the Mujahideen are seen
as creatures of the Pakistani military, it was clear that
the Islamabad regime was facing a crisis of authority
effectively resolved by the coup.
rose through the ranks during Pakistan's two all-out wars
with India, in 1965, when he fought in the Khem Karan region,
in Punjab province, where he was decorated, for bravery; and
in 1971, when he joined an elite commando unit, the Special
Services Group. He was appointed military chief when his predecessor
was forced to step down as a result of remarks interpreted
as critical of the Prime Minister. The General's ascension
to power does not bode well for the future of peace in the
region. The war for the disputed province of Kashmir is likely
to escalate, and this could well trigger an all-out military
conflict in which the unthinkable suddenly becomes all too
ON THE BRIGHT SIDE
look on the bright: it could have been worse. For the main
beneficiary of Sharif's falling political fortunes was Jamaat-i-Islami,
the radical fundamentalist party, which once warned Sharif
that if he dared to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
(CTBT) he should "take a one way ticket" to Washington.
If Jamaat ever takes power, it would be as if Osama bin Laden
had his finger on the nuclear trigger. Which raises the possibility
that this was a U.S.-engineered coup; or, more likely, that
it took place without any particularly strenuous objections
from Washington. While US officials routinely and immediately
denied any foreknowledge of the event, can anyone doubt that
these same officials breathed a sigh of relief when the long-rumored
coup finally came down? After all, consider the alternative.
SWORD OF ALLAH
it would be a mistake to view the military coup plotters as
necessarily opposed to the radicals of the Jamaat party. The
Islamists and the U.S.-trained-and-supplied Pakistani military
share a common commitment to and pride in Pakistan's ascension
to full membership in the nuclear club: the fundamentalists
see nukes as a hi-tech Sword of Allah, and the generals see
them as a means to deter Indian hegemony over the subcontinent.
Both vehemently opposed Sharif's expressed willingness to
abandon Kashmir and deal over the nuclear issue, and this
will be the basis of the coup leaders' popular support. But
this presents some problems, not only for Musharraf but for
the US and the future of the entire region.
too, appealed to Muslim fundamentalists in an attempt to shore
up his perpetually shaky regime, at least in the beginning.
But in the end, the radicals overtook him, and pushed him
farther than he was willing or able to go. The new rulers
of Pakistan will face the same pressures, not only from their
own civilian supporters, but from the Pakistani-allied Taleban
that has seized control of Afghanistan. The imposition of
Islamic Sharia or strict religious law by the ideologues in
control of Kabul has had an electrifying effect on radical
fundamentalist parties from the West Bank to the streets of
Jakarta, analogous to the effect that the Bolshevik Revolution
of 1917 had on Marxist parties throughout the world. This
is what is fueling the Muslim insurgency in Kashmir and Jammu,
a region of vast mountains at the very top of the world, at
the point where all the tensions and turmoil of the world
seem to converge. Bordering the war-torn lands of the former
Soviet Union, already in the throes of a radical Muslim insurgency,
as well as China, Pakistan, and India, the Vale of Kashmir,
as it used to be called, is a flashpoint that only requires
the smallest spark to set off a general conflagration.
often do we hear that the US cannot be "isolationist"
in this modern day and age, and that virtually all problems
necessarily take on a global character to be solved
by the active intervention of world's Last and Only Superpower?
Well, then, surely with a nuclear war between Pakistan and
India about to break out a war that could incinerate
millions now is the time for the US to assert
its supposedly all-important role of "world leadership."
But it seems that the interventionists, in this case, seem
to have lost heart, if not their nerve. The Clintonians have
cautiously refrained from condemning the coup outright, fueling
suspicions that they knew in advance and tacitly approved
with State Department spokesman James Rubin claiming
that the US is "unaware" of any increased danger
of war in the region.
JESSE HELMS-TALEBAN ALLIANCE
the lack of American leadership on this vital issue is due,
in large part, to the Republican wing of the War Party
which, along with Jamaat-i-Islami, the Taleban, and Osama
bin Laden is intransigently opposed to the Nuclear
Test Ban treaty. This confluence of opinion should cause conservative
Republicans to question the knee-jerk response of a fossilized
GOP Senate leadership that is still living in the era of the
Cold War. These are the same people who will fight a war to
preserve NATO a Cold War relic that outlived its usefulness
long before the breakup and implosion of the Soviet it was
conceived to counteract.
ironically, is a case where US intervention is called
for: but there are many more ways to intervene other than
militarily. In this case, diplomatic intervention is not only
justifiable but absolutely mandatory. For who can tell what
effect an all-out nuclear war would have on the people of
the US? Here is a clear case where the outbreak of an armed
conflict on the other side of the world poses a direct threat
to the physical well-being of Americans on American soil.
We intervened in a civil war in the Balkans in the name of
the fight against "ethnic cleansing" only
to stand by and watch (and even encourage) the "reverse" ethnic
cleansing committed by our Kosovar clients. Yet we are helpless
in the face of a real war that represents a real threat to
our interests and our security.
LACK OF SYMMETRY
is the time for the US to exert real "world leadership"
by taking the moral high ground and insisting on a policy
of mutual nuclear disarmament and even threatening to break
off all relations unless and until this occurs. The US is
currently starving the children of Iraq to death under the
pretext that Saddam Hussein may may be
trying to develop "weapons of mass destruction."
But what about the nukes our buddies in the Pakistani military
are aiming at New Delhi? We have no dog in this fight. On
one hand we have Islamic radicals who believe that to die
for Allah is to achieve Paradise. On the other hand, we have
Hindu nationalists, who worship Shiva, known as "the destroyer."
We know that both parties have or will soon have access
to weapons of mass destruction, and yet there is not even
a hint of a similar reaction from Washington. Why the curious
lack of symmetry?
COLD WARRIORS BLOCK TREATY
idea that the US needs to test nuclear weapons as a deterrent
against a possible aggressor begs the question: what
aggressor? The US military budget is already bigger than that
of all other countries combined. Not only that, but
no nation has a nuclear arsenal that even begins to approach
our own. That the Test Ban treaty is now being held hostage
by the antiquated Cold Warriors of the GOP-controlled Senate
sounds the death knell of any attempt by the US to intervene
diplomatically to de-escalate a potentially explosive confrontation
between India and Pakistan. For if not even the US will sign
on to the treaty, then why should the Pakistanis or the Indians
even consider it?
PERPETUAL MOTION MACHINE
is apparently, no real benefit to being the Last and Only
Superpower: the nuclear testing, the endless military buildup,
the constant invention of new and more sinister threats
it is like a perpetual motion machine that keeps churning
of its own accord, even in the absence of any credible military
threat to its hegemony, wheels spinning and gears meshing
to no apparent purpose. What is striking about this mechanism
is its utter uselessness; in a real crisis situation, such
the impending war between India and Pakistan, it seems powerless,
unable or unwilling to act. The utter haplessness of the American
giant, in the face of the impending danger, underscores the
irony of this albatross of Empire, and recalls the wise words
of Garet Garrett, at the end of his classic book, The American
now, thou American, frustrated crusader, do you know where
it security you want? There is no security at the top of the
thine own self a liberator, to the world an alarming potent,
do you know where you are gong from here?"
AT THE TOP OF THE WORLD
end of the Cold War has not brought us any closer to security:
we are at the top of the world, but the possibility of nuclear
war, far from receding, looms closer than ever before. I will
not argue, here, about the origins of and alleged necessity
of the Cold War: but surely now all can agree that we are
living out its consequences. Not only in Eastern Europe and
the Balkans, but throughout the republics of the former Soviet
Union and especially in the Middle East, including Afghanistan,
the monsters unleashed by both sides in that struggle continue
to walk the earth.
MILITANTS MADE IN AMERICA
For it was the West that armed
and organized the Afghan "freedom fighters," who
were used as pawns in the Cold War struggle against Moscow.
But funneling money, arms, and political support to such "freedom
fighters as Golboddin Hekmatyar, the Afghan fundamentalist
military leader, backfired badly. It was Hekmatyar who helped
set up the current Afghan regime and is now exporting his
revolution to Kashmir, with the help of Pakistani militants
OF THE COLD WAR
Frankenstein monster created in the laboratories of our Cold
Warrior mad scientists is now running amok and not
only on the Indian subcontinent. In the Balkans, and in the
former Soviet Union itself, the consequences of that epic
struggle continue to play themselves out. The complexity and
sensitivity of post-Cold War diplomacy is the real test of
leadership for our makers of foreign policy and they
are so far failing rather dramatically.
IN THE POST-COLD WAR WORLD
America to take real leadership and step into the breach requires,
first of all, leading by example: not only signing the Test
Ban Treaty but unilaterally reducing its nuclear stockpiles
and threatening to cut off all foreign aid, both economic
and military, and unilaterally and immediately abrogating
all treaties with nations that refuse to do likewise. The
post-Cold War world is a dangerous place but the danger
is only increased by those who refuse to see that times have
changed and the rules and risks are different.
Instead of using our clout to bully other nations into accepting
"democracy," or "civil rights," or some
other completely foreign high-falutin' notion, why not put
pressure on them to start disarming and move toward peace?
A foreign policy of peace and noninterventionism that puts
the interests of this nation and its citizens first is not
a policy of isolationism but of self-interest actively
pursued. We must have the courage to abandon the habits imbued
over half a century of struggle, and lead as we have always
led by example.