Bush attacks Pakistan, what’s up with that?
So many events in the news, so little time to write about them. Global warming deserves a look, politics never ends, the Russia/Georgia thing gets more intractable all the time. Iran is always fun, the Russians are going to sell them new anti-aircraft missiles, as if to say to Bush “Nyah, nyah, nyah.” Still, today’s issue is Pakistan, especially Bush’s acts of war against same. Basically, in July Bush gave the military the authorization to launch attacks inside Pakistan without the approval of the Pakistan government. And the military has done so. This situation is not the only potential appocalypse on the horizon, but it’s worth looking at for a number of reasons.
For starters, there are some parallels with Vietnam era thinking. In Vietnam the Viet Cong/NVA used bases in Laos and Cambodia to support and supply their military operations in South Vietnam. The obvious solution was to attack the enemy bases in Laos and Cambodia. And the same thinking seems to be prevailing in Afghanistan. The Taliban are getting support and supply from bases in Pakistan, the Pakistan government is unable or unwilling to do anything about them, so the USA is taking unilateral action against them. Sounds reasonable enough, I have even heard people claiming we should simply declare war on Pakistan because of their unwillingness to deal with this situation.
Unfortunately, in both cases, there’s problems. The first being that while the support from across the border is definitely an issue, it’s not the sole or even the most important reason our missions in Vietnam and Afghanistan were failing. In both cases the basic problem was that we were trying to prop up a government that the locals mostly viewed as corrupt and illegitimate. As I’ve stated before, because I think a lot of people are unclear on this, governments that are installed and maintained by foreign troops…are not legitimate governments. They are occupation governments. So it’s unfair and unrealistic to claim that their problems are due to “outside agitators”.
The second problem is that cross border attacks rarely acheive much except destabilizing neighbouring countries. Laos is quite literally the most bombed country in history, yet all that bombing did little to slow, let alone halt, the flow of supplies down the Ho Chi Minh trail. And US bombing and meddling was instrumental in destroying Cambodia and paving the way for Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge to seize power. And none of this carnage changed the outcome of the war, and arguably simply made our enemies even stronger.
And superficial analogies aside, the situation vis a vis Pakistan and Afghanistan isn’t really all that similar to Vietnam. In Vietnam, North Vietnam was indeed using Cambodia and Laos to move militarily significant amounts of supplies and troops to South Vietnam. There simply isn’t this sort of support flowing from Pakistan to Afghanistan, though there’s no doubt the Taliban is using Pakistan as a safe haven, the resistence in Afghanistan is largely home grown. IE North Vietnam did send about half their army into South Vietnam (a year after the USA sent troops to South Vietnam,) there’s nothing even remotely similar taking place in Afghanistan. And lastly, the tiny number of American attacks and raids in Pakistan are militarily insignificant if the intent is to hurt Al Qaeda and the Taliban, or stop the purported flow of men and materials to Afghanistan.
So what the hell is going on here? If the Bush administration thinks that the occasional raid and air strike in Pakistan is going to change the situation in Afghanistan, they are deluded beyond belief. It’s possible though, especially since the military itself seems have agitated for this new state of affairs. The other side of the coin is that while these raids may not be militarily significant, they are most definitely politically significant. The Pashtun in Pakistan are not at all happy about these raids, as no doubt Americans would be upset if Canada or Mexico conducted military raids in the USA that frequently killed American civilians. And Pakistanis in general aren’t happy that their government seems at best helpless to stop these attacks, and at worst is deliberately looking the other way or even betting them quietly.
Basically these American attacks are very destabilizing in Pakistan, and the USA has to know that. So I see one of two possibilities. The lesser possibility is that the USA is trying to goad the Pashtun region of Pakistan into revolt against the Pakistan government, the end result being that Pakistan will send troops into the region and deny the region to the Taliban as a secure base. Unfortunately this is a really simplistic and optimistic plan, since there’s simply no guarantee that even if Pakistan sends in the army that it can pacify and control the region. It’s just as likely that it will simply spread the Taliban (IE Pashtun) insurgency to Pakistan as well, and even possible it will create such chaos and instability in Pakistan that its western style government will be overthrown by an Islamic revolution.
And that is in fact the final possibility, that these American attacks are indeed designed to destabilize Pakistan, with the end result of destroying the world’s only nuclear armed Islamic regime. I hope that’s not true, because it would speak of arrogance and tunnel vision of truly epic proportions. In any event it doesn’t matter what the intent is, only the result. And frankly I don’t see how these raids can possibly do anything but make a bad situation worse. And that’s the terrible danger here, especially since supplies for the NATO operation in Afghanistan run through Pakistan. If we do succeed in starting a full scale civil war or insurgency in Pakistan, it’s the NATO forces in Afghanistan that will find themselves cut off from outside supplies.
My guess is that the Bush administration is so enamoured of military force as their only option that basically these raids are like a bear swatting wildly at stinging hornets. I don’t know how this is going to end, but I don’t think it’s going to be pretty. And oh, did I mention that these attacks in Pakistan are acts of war and are illegal under international law and completely unconstitutional under US law? Facts that the so called liberal press is completely ignoring? Fancy that.
Have a great weekend everyone.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit and is central to illustrating the post. Credit: Who knows? It may even have been created as satire, though I got it from an extremely pro-Bush web site. I chose it to illustrate the most alarming possibility, that Bush and company actually believe that they are on a crusade for God, and as long as they attack “evil” wherever they see it, why God will ultimately lead them to victory. Even a cursory examination of the crusades shows how disastrous substituting faith for sound military and political judgement is, but studying history doesn’t appear to be the Bush administration’s strong suit.)