Highlights

 
Quotable
The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.
Tacitus
Original Letters Blog US Casualties Contact Donate

 
February 24, 2006

Taking Pakistan's Temperature


by William S. Lind

The riots in Pakistan are hardly news anymore: if they appear in the paper at all, it is on page C17, between a story on starvation in the Sudan and a report that Mrs. McGillicuty fell down the stairs. The riots continue nonetheless, seemingly unconcerned that the rest of the world is no longer watching.

Perhaps it should. Periodic riots are normal in parts of the world; England was famous for them in the 18th century. But when rioting continues day after day, it can serve as a sort of thermometer, taking the temperature of a population. Pakistan, it would seem, is running a fever, one that shows little sign of breaking.

On the surface, the rioting is a protest against cartoons of Muhammad. Throughout the Islamic world, the anti-cartoon demonstrations are both an expression of rage at Islamic states' impotence and a demonstration of Islam's power outside the state framework. But in Pakistan, the immediate target of the riots is all too evident: Pakistani President Musharraf and his working relationship with America's President Bush (in Pakistan, Musharraf is often called Busharraf).

After 9/11, when Bush announced that anyone in the world who was not with us was with the terrorists, Musharraf had to make a strategic choice. He had to make it fast, since America wanted to attack Afghanistan, and it needed Pakistan's help to do so. Musharraf chose to ally with Bush. That choice has paid Pakistan dividends internationally, but at a price: Musharraf's legitimacy at home became dependent on the Pakistani people's view of America. In effect, Musharraf reincarnated himself as a political satellite of Bush.

Not surprisingly, America's popularity among Pakistanis was not helped by our invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. The Taliban was largely a Pakistani creation, and its fall was not welcomed in Pakistan, especially when Afghanistan's American-installed president, Mr. Karzai, quickly cozied up to India.

Then, the strong American response to Pakistan's disastrous earthquake turned Pakistani opinion around. Only America really came through for the tens of thousands of people de-housed by the catastrophe, and other people noticed; when mullahs in radical mosques denounced the Americans, their congregations told them they were wrong.

Of course, America blew it in classic American fashion, with the Predator strike on homes in a Pakistani border town. As always, the target wasn't there, because, as always, we depended on intelligence from "systems" when only humint can do the job. The resulting Pakistani civilian deaths threw away all the good will we earned from the earthquake response and made America the Great Satan once more. Musharraf paid the political price.

If the riots continue and grow, the Pakistani security forces responsible for containing them will at some point go over and join the rioters. Musharraf will try to get the last plane out; perhaps he will find Texas a congenial place of exile. If he doesn't make that plane, his head will serve as a football, not just of the political variety.

A new Pakistani government, in quest of legitimacy, will understand that comes from opposing Bush's America, not getting in bed with it. Osama will be the new honorary president of Pakistan, de facto if not de jure. Our and NATO's operation in Afghanistan will become strategically unsustainable overnight. That nice Mr. Karzai will, one hopes, find a seat on a C-17.

The fall of Pakistan to militant Islam will be a strategic disaster greater than anything possible in Iraq, even losing an army. It will be a greater disaster than a war with Iran that costs us our army in Iraq. Osama and Co. will have nukes, missiles to deliver them, the best conventional armed forces in the Muslim world, and an impregnable base for operations anywhere else. As North Korea's Dear Leader has shown the world, nobody messes with you if you have nukes. Uncle Sam takes off his battle rattle and asks Beijing, or somebody, if they can possibly sponsor some talks.

That ticking sound Mr. Bush hears is not Mr. Cheney's pacemaker. It's the crocodile, and he's getting rather close.


comments on this article?
 
 
Archives

  • The Magic Potion
    2/18/2009

  • Israel Doesn't Get 4GW
    1/14/2009

  • Intervention: A Problem of Means?
    12/12/2008

  • The Other Election
    10/29/2008

  • Al-Qaeda in Iraq:
    Another Case of Failed Interventionism?
    10/21/2008

  • Pas d'Argent, Pas de Suisse
    10/9/2008

  • War on Two Fronts, Without Railways
    10/2/2008

  • Why Obama Is Wrong
    9/18/2008

  • Defending the Baltics
    9/9/2008

  • The Necessary War?
    7/3/2008

  • The Yellow Press
    6/27/2008

  • Don't Miss the Train
    6/25/2008

  • The Ancient History of Military Reform
    5/29/2008

  • A Confirming Moment
    4/18/2008

  • Operation Cassandra
    3/26/2008

  • When the Money Stops,
    Military Reform May Start
    3/12/2008

  • Linear Tactics in a Chaotic War
    3/5/2008

  • Kosovo: Fools Rush In
    2/28/2008

  • The Best Counterinsurgency: Unentangle
    2/14/2008

  • Die and Win
    2/5/2008

  • Side Effects of Our War in Afghanistan
    1/16/2008

  • Kicking the Can Down the Road
    1/10/2008

  • In the Fox’s Lair
    11/29/2007

  • No, the US Is Not Winning in Anbar
    10/11/2007

  • Truth-Tellers
    8/31/2007

  • The Petraeus Report:
    More Kabuki?
    8/22/2007

  • One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
    8/9/2007

  • America's Last Successful Mideast War
    8/3/2007

  • US Military Riding the
    Perfect (Sine) Wave
    6/13/2007

  • Flickers of Light
    3/23/2007

  • The Washington Dodgers
    3/8/2007

  • Insurgency May Be Back on Its Heels, but It's No Setback
    1/30/2007

  • Identifying Variables
    1/18/2007

  • Less Than Zero
    1/13/2007

  • Somalia: A State Restored? Not So Fast
    1/6/2007

  • Knocking Opportunity
    12/12/2006

  • More Troops?
    12/1/2006

  • Lose a War, Lose an Election
    11/14/2006

  • Third and Final Act
    10/31/2006

  • Why We Still Fight
    10/12/2006

  • The Sanctuary Delusion
    9/29/2006

  • General Puff
    9/15/2006

  • Collapse of the Flanks
    8/11/2006

  • Welcome to My Parlor
    7/29/2006

  • The Summer of 1914
    7/19/2006

  • To Be or Not To Be a State?
    7/6/2006

  • Air Strikes in Afghanistan: Aargh!
    6/20/2006

  • Fourth-Generation Hell
    6/14/2006

  • The Power of Weakness, Again
    6/8/2006

  • The Perils of Threat Inflation
    6/3/2006

  • Off With His Head!
    4/29/2006

  • Sweeping Up the Debris
    4/20/2006

  • Taking Pakistan's Temperature
    2/24/2006

  • The Long War
    2/9/2006

  • The Next Act
    2/2/2006

  • Forcing the World to Be Saved
    1/21/2006

  • Two False Options
    12/21/2005

  • Questionable Assumptions
    12/8/2005

  • It Ain't Fair
    12/1/2005

  • Engagement: An Exit Strategy
    11/5/2005

  • Condi's True Confessions
    10/28/2005

  • Important Distinctions
    9/24/2005

  • National Defense for a Republic
    8/3/2005

  • Discouraging Lessons From Imperial Spain
    7/29/2005

  • Hunting for Cops
    7/15/2005

  • William Lind is Director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation. He is a former Congressional Aide and the author
    of many books and articles on military strategy and war.

    Reproduction of material from any original Antiwar.com pages
    without written permission is strictly prohibited.
    Copyright 2003 Antiwar.com