As we observe the slow and increasingly certain
disintegration of Pakistan, we should force ourselves to confront an uncomfortable
fact: events in Pakistan are to a large degree side effects of our war in Afghanistan.
The Jan. 12 Washington Times headline was "Pentagon Spies al-Qaeda
in Pakistan," as if this were somehow news. It quotes the Joint Chiefs
of Staff chairman, Adm. Michael Mullen, as saying, "There are concerns
now about how much [al-Qaeda] turned inward, literally, inside Pakistan … so
[the Pentagon is] extremely, extremely concerned about that…."
One can only respond, quelle surprise! Of course al-Qaeda turned inward
inside Pakistan. First, Pakistan is strategically a vastly more important prize
than Afghanistan or Iraq could ever be. Second, when guerillas are put under
pressure in one place, they go somewhere else. Third, we have allowed ourselves
to be put in the position of fighting the Pashtun in Afghanistan, and there
are lots of Pashtun in Pakistan. War with the Pashtun is war with the Pashtun,
to whom borders drawn in London mean nothing.
Our attempt to contain the damage in Pakistan instead set the wreckage on fire.
We forced our friendly local dictator, General/President Musharraf, to line
up publicly with George Bush, to the point where his local nickname is "Busharraf."
It is not intended as a compliment. Worse, we pressured him into sending the
Pakistani army into the Northwest Tribal Territories, where it has gotten its
backside kicked at the same time that it has brought more tribesmen into the
fight. Defeat plus destabilization plus de-legitimatization, most of it American-inspired,
has left Pakistan's government teetering on the edge of disintegration, with
a real danger that the disintegration could spread beyond the regime to the
Pakistani state itself.
Not content with mere disaster, the Bush administration ("Blunders Are
Us") wants to put out the fire it set by pouring gasoline on it. A story
in the Jan. 6 Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that "President Bush's
senior national security advisers [Larry, Curly, and Moe?] are debating whether
to expand the authority of the CIA and the military to conduct far more aggressive
covert operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan."
Pakistan has publicly said no, but that won't stop the Bushies. If the tribesmen
soon have American captives to display, what little is left of Musharraf's legitimacy
will be beheaded along with them.
Again, the point to remember is that most of this is a side effect of the war
in Afghanistan. Why is this important? Because it reminds us that the ill effects
of bad strategy tend to spread. The bad strategy is invading, occupying and
attempting to transform countries whose culture is vastly different from our
own. That is the essence of the neocons' neo-Trotskyite vision of the world
revolution, which the Bush administration has made its own. Nor is George W.
Bush the neocons' only dupe: the same poisonous nonsense flows in the speeches
of most of the presidential candidates, from Obama on the Left to McCain (nominally)
on the Right. Only Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich have dared suggest we might
serve ourselves better by minding our own business.
In statecraft as in war, side effects can prove fatal. If Pakistan collapses,
turning into another stateless happy hunting ground for al-Qaeda and numberless
other Islamic 4GW organizations, our position in Afghanistan will quickly become
unsustainable. Our grand strategic position in the whole Middle Eastern/Southwest
Asian region will be reduced to a two-legged stool, not the most stable of platforms.
Osama in his cave will be distinctly more comfortable than W. in the Oval Office.
How will the Bush administration respond to such a cascade of unfortunate events?
By doing what it plans to do anyway: bomb Iran.