« Hertling's Third Strike | Main | Which Illegal Domestic Spying Program? »

May 17, 2007


Thank you, Sara. I've been watching the various happenings in Pakistan and appreciate this context.

Good morning Sara,
Great article. Question, does this book say where the necular weapons are coming from. I have long felt that one of the major problems with the wars around the globe has been created by the arms manufactures esculating what otherwise would be say a "fist fight" into a full blown war to sell their wares.

Sara, Darday,

I am trying to keep a low profile and all, but I will say I am relatively familar with high energy physics, plasma, and other associated technologies, and a retired Professor/Researcher that consults with us on some projects concerning these, knew some people from Pakistan in that area, that were called back to their country, from the USA, in the late 60's, early 70's to work on their nuclear program. He says that they were very bright.

We (the USA) trained many of these people.

The thing that drove the Pakistan program was political and military competition with India, especially as concerns Kashmir. (China also is involved in the region.)

The point I would like to make is that the USA will be involved in some nasty stuff over there for sometime to come, and it doesn't matter what party is in control of the Administration.

The Democrats are taking a big risk if they intend to just pull out of that area without it having calmed down a lot. They are setting themselves up to be the eventual scapegoat, because they may be at the helm when everything goes to hell all over the region.


Excellent post. Most Americans fail to understand the fundamental reality that the nation-state system is a very thin veneer over a much more complex reality in many parts of the world. Our current Administration has enshrined this ignorance as our official policy with tragic consequences for the entire world. At this point, the best we can hope for is that our country stops making things worse, because our ability to be a postive force in the world has been destroyed by the would-be empire builders.

Sara thanks for this. I'll be getting that book.

I've been watching Pakistan since reading several books by the late Eqbal Ahmad. The only one I can bring to hand right now is Confronting Empire, full of useful stuff about the development of modern Pakistan, a homeland that dissapointed the cosmopolitan Ahmad very much. Even though he died in 1999, his perspective is still helpful.

I had an email exchange with Juan Cole about Pakistan a few days ago. Here is his brief take on current events there:

Dear Mark:

Pakistan is more stable than everyone thinks. We saw this kind of trouble in the late 80s, too-- and it has everything to do with the military overstaying its welcome. Things could get ugly if Musharraf does not have the good sense to take off his uniform, but we've seen transitions from military to civilian rule before, as in 1990.

There is close to zero chance of fundamentalists taking over Pakistan. It is not where most people's heads are at. Musharraf has detailed the fundies back to their units from military intelligence, and generally has put Interservices Intelligence under the control of secularists. The MQM, which shot at protesters in Karachi in defense of Musharraf, is a secular party for Urdu speakers.

cheers Juan

Btw, I hate to say it but Jodi has a good point. We have abandoned the region (I'm thinking of Afghanistan) in the past to our very great detriment (I'm thinking of 9/11).

Thanks Sara. The situation in Pakistan is not much discussed.

I was very intrigued by your comments about the status of Muslims in India and the formation of Pakistan as a Muslim homeland distinct from India.

I have read that the richest man in India is muslim billionaire Azim Premji the Chairman of Wipro one of the biggest in IT outsourcing. Apparently the President of India is also Muslim, although the President is just a titular figure in a parliamentary system. He was previously the head of the Indian space and missile program. Apparently muslims have a higher representation in the Indian parliament relative to their population. I have also read muslims are big stars in Bollywood. Tom Freidman (yeah I know) had an article a while back discussing these issues noting that no Indian muslims have been known to be part of Al Qaeda. His point was that providing legitimate representation and opportunities to express dissent and move up the socio-economic ladder that muslims have in India have prevented radicalism. Now of course political parties in India use religious fanaticism to divide and drum up votes that often result in violence between Muslims and Hindus.

In reading several books about the British colonial era in India it seems that Jinnah the primary proponent for a separate state for muslims was driven by ambition and ego. He apparently realized he could never be head of state so was heavily involved in creating the climate and provoking muslim-hindu animosity that then led to much carnage and the separate country of Pakistan.

Comparing India and Pakistan is also quite intersting from a political perspective. After the British left the Indian sub-continent, India has had many changes in government based on elections and political parties although the initial decades were dominated by a single party. OTOH, Pakistan has gone through successions of popularly elected governments as well as military rule. The current leader, Musharraf took power in a military coup. Pakistan it's quite apparent is in the middle of the Islamic jihadists culture and set-up and there have been reports that their intelligence agency, ISI, has been actively involved in funding and training such groups. IMO, its imperative that we better understand the politics and culture in Pakistan as there is a large jihadist component there with sympathizers in the military and intelligence agencies. And let's not forget if ever there is a chance that the jihadists get hold of nukes it will be in Pakistan.

The proxmate cause of Pakistan's decision to develop Nukes was their defeat by India in the war of 1971. That was when E.Pakistan became Bangledesh with the covert (slight) help of the Indian Army, and the Indian Tanks advanced nearly to the gates of Lahore.

India's Nuclear Program is nearly totally homegrown. It actually began before Independence, when Congress established an Atomic Energy Commission in 1946 designed to do Nuclear Research. They produced and exploded a device in 1973, though it was not really a weapon, just a demo chain reaction. In the meantime, they vastly enlarged all the relevant science institutes, Physics, Chemistry and all as required, and built reactors roughly based on French, German and USSR designs, but they were all internally manufactured. India did send students abroad for advanced study -- GB, USA, Germany, USSR, Switzerland -- but since the 60's that is no longer necessary. They do power production, Nuclear Medicine, and advanced research on using radio active material for food preservation. It is a huge industry.

In contrast, Pakistan's Nuclear industry is mostly imported. Early on they tried to buy reactors from France and Canada, but sanctions were brought -- and that led to the secret program, which is well described in Hussain's book -- the AQ Khan network. Khan was seriously subsidized by Gulf States and the Saudi's as well as from the BCCI network. As far as I can tell, Pakistan has not applied Nuclear Energy to producing electrical power or any other applications. In fact the elected pol's have absolutely no control over it at all -- they would not let Benazir Bhutto in to see the works when she was Prime Minister, even though it was her Father who initiated the program in the early 1970's. When Sharif was in DC meeting with Clinton over Kargil in the late 1990's it was Clinton who had to tell him that his army was setting out the Nuclear tipped Missels aimed at India, being observed by overhead intelligence. He had no command authority over them which Clinton well knew. Whether something has changed since, we don't know. The did send Powell and Armatige to Pakistan to strong arm a little on this and try to set up a hotline. But I doubt if central political authority actually has full control -- and this is very bothersome.

And this is why something like the sudden break-out of violence in FATA, in Peshwar, and in Lahore and Karachi all at the same time, though apparently sparked by different events is a huge concern. It is very much a fiction that Pakistan's central government has sufficent control, and there are just too many armed militias, religious, political, those armed by the ISI and the Army to fight Proxy Wars, tribal groups -- you name it, that have the possibility of setting something off that cannot be mastered by those responsible for a central policy. That's why it is so important to just pay some attention. We do, afterall, have about 30 thousand US troops near the border, and I guess about 20 thousand NATO troops are there. It looks as if the business of building an Afghani Army his been much more successful than what has happened in Iraq -- but Hussain estimates there are several million Jhadi's in the FATA, NWFP and elsewhere, that profess a desire to go die so as to drive out the Westerners -- and if Pakistan has a loss of control, things could move very fast. That, and not US policy is what worries me.

Pakistan does not want Afghanistan to really modernize -- chaos allows them to think of Afghanistan as their defense against India in depth. Thus the strategy of keeping the Taliban in tact, keeping the border region in turmoil. It is very complex as we know -- and it probably will take at least another ten years to see useful development, assuming Karzi can muddle through all he has to deal with. I suspect that one reason Afghanistan seems to be going a bit better than Iraq is because Bush doesn't really give a damn about it, and pays little attention -- and as a result it is more likely that the voices of local people, plus the ideas of NATO make for a more positive mix.

Sara, how does Afghanistan benefit Pakistan as a defense against India when it is on the other side of Pakistan's border?

Defense against India in depth has long been Pakistani Military Doctrine. To understand it, you need to spend some time looking at a good map of the region, and I suppose review several thousand years of Military adventures in the region. Anyhow, Pakistan's assumption is that in event of an Indian attack with modern weapons such as tanks, the country would be quickly cut in half, in the region around Lahore. The two N-S rail lines could be easily cut. Pakistan has always held the fall-back would be into the hills and mountains to the NW of their major cities in the plains, up into Afghanistan. This defeats a modern large force. Remember the Pukhtoon tribes are pretty much equally divided between Pakistan (NWFT & FATA), and Afghanistan, and represent about 40% of the Afghani population. So traditionally it is the relatively underpopulated mountains that are viewed as a fall-back defensive position, and Pakistan's strategy has all been built around this.

In a conventional arms war between India and Pakistan, you would expect an attack from India in the direction of Lahore, incircle Lahore and continue to cut the railroad to the West, then attack N up the Grand Trunk Road and the rail lines, and South into Sind through the Indus Valley. Most Pakistan tank forces are in the Sind, positioned to attack into Rajasthan, and India's strategy is to defend from the front, and attack from the rear, SE of the Indus. Now that they both have Nukes, I assume the strategy may be somewhat adjusted -- but who knows. The best offense and defense positions have not changed since Alexander passed through.

Sara thanks for a great post.

I think it's important to be careful talking about US "involvement." Our debt policy and military policy over the last fifteen years have often been incredibly lethal to much of the world, especially the most vulnerable. Reasonable people can disagree on what percentage of that fp has been directly intentional. The Southern hemisphere, however, remains primarily pockets of affluence surrounded by dire poverty. The idea that we can exert some kind of "military" control over an indigenous population should have been extinguished by the killing folly in Iraq. There was no Iraqi civil war there before we invaded. As bad as Saddamm was, Iraq and the Middle East were both a lot better off with him in charge than with DeadEye in charge. People weren't fleeing to Syria. They had hot water, electricity, and no car bombs and suicide bombers. The idea that aggressive US fighting units, Airborne, Marines, Rangers, Army provide some kind of "stabilizing" force is beyond lunacy. We don't allow them to act as police in this country. It's against the law (Posse Comiatatus), where we all speak the same language and share the same culture. We train those units to destroy targets. DeadEye put US boots on the ground in Iraq because of their sweet crude reserves.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Where We Met

Blog powered by Typepad