The Shoe Tossed Round the World.
I had a post written for today that will have to wait, some of the stuff that’s going on in Pakistan is pretty incredible, and incredible as in “horrible” and “bad” and “this isn’t going to end well.” In fact I think the MSM is so overwhelmed by the extent of the catastrophe that is unfolding in Pakistan that they don’t really know what to say about it. I’m a little overwhelmed myself, especially by the idea of explaining how a tossed shoe might be leading to World War Three right before our eyes. Difficult concepts have never stopped me before though, so here goes.
OK, the map. The red lines are international boundaries, everything else should be self explanatory. Pakistan is the upside-down-Italy shaped country that dominates the map. Afghanistan is the country to the above and left of it. Iran is the country on the left edge of the map, India on the right edge. Now, India and Pakistan have been at loggerheads since the 1940s, having fought several wars and having a heavily militarized border to this day. They are enemies, primarily because the top part of India visible on the map, the Kashmir region, should have gone to Pakistan when India and Pakistan were divided, but the British pulled a dirty trick and managed to get Kashmir into India. And the people of Kashmir had and have no say in the matter, India has never allowed a referendum to be held. Since if they did, Kashmir might very well vote to join Pakistan. That in a nutshell is why India and Pakistan are enemies, a situation that has generated several wars, insurgencies, and ongoing terrorism.
Looking at the map, and if you were Pakistan, who would you want running Afghanistan? Someone friendly no doubt, or at the very least, someone who wasn’t going to take sides with India. Well, the Taliban fit that bill nicely, especially since the Taliban is primarily a Pashtun movement, and about half of the Pashtuns live in Pakistan. So lo and behold, Pakistan was the only country in the world that recognized the Taliban as a legitimate government when they ruled Afghanistan. It was all good to them, and freed them up to concentrate on India. So why in the name of God would the government of Pakistan join the USA in their war on the Taliban? Wouldn’t huge numbers of Pakistanis, especially the Pashtuns, want to side with the Taliban? Well, the USA put a lot of pressure on the government of Pakistan to join the USA in their crusade against the Taliban, not to mention paying vast bribes and possibly even the threat of nuclear attack if Pakistan didn’t cooperate. So that’s how Pakistan became our “ally” in the war on the Taliban.
As one might imagine, cajoling and threatening someone to join you in a fight against someone they are friends with might not turn out well. And it hasn’t. The Taliban used Pashtun areas of Pakistan as a save haven to conduct their Afghanistan insurgency from, the USA responded by launching drone attacks in Pakistan and leaning on the Pakistanis to send their army into the border regions to fight the Taliban. The drone strikes have killed a lot of people, mostly civilians, and the Pakistan army’s efforts in the region have been both ineffective and as with the drone strikes, not exactly winning any popularity contests. Remember, the Pakistanis regard India as their real enemy, and didn’t want to fight the Taliban in the first place, so it’s not like they have been terribly enthusiastic in their war on the Taliban. In fact the situation in Pakistan is close to a civil war now, since the Pakistani Taliban (something that didn’t even exist before the US attacked Afghanistan) have been launching attacks deep into non-Pashtun areas of Pakistan. It’s also entirely possible, and likely, that many in the Pakistan military and security apparatus are covertly aiding the Taliban.
Now add to this ugly mess the recent rains and flooding, which have been catastrophic by any standards. Millions of people impacted, many homeless, and the Pakistan government, already pushed to the limits, has had a hard time effectively providing aid. So dissatisfaction with the Pakistan government is at an all time high. Can we say “incipient failed state” now? And as a final feather in the cap of the incredible mess Pakistan is in, their president is touring Britain! Is he insane, or just staying somewhere safe because he knows the gig is up at home and he doesn’t want to end up like so many of Pakistan’s former leaders … prematurely dead? Many Pakistanis are outraged at this, and one of them actually managed to throw a shoe at him at a public rally in England! Well, this was big news in Pakistan, and the government of Pakistan has done their utmost to keep the Pakistani man in the street from finding this out. Yes, newspaper offices are burning in Pakistan to keep Pakistanis from finding out that a shoe was thrown at their president. The fear being that it might spark even more unrest.
Well, obviously people are going to wonder why government troops are burning newspaper offices, suffice it to say that word has gotten out. In other words, a shoe thrown in England has sparked massive riots and protest in Pakistan, further destabilizing an already terribly unstable country. World War One was started by a single assassin’s bullet, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that World War Three was just triggered by a single tossed shoe. If the nuclear armed Pakistani government goes down in flames and some sort of truly Islamic popular government takes power, shades of Iran 1979. God only knows how the USA and/or India might respond to that, best to not even think about.
Tomorrow, a soothing post about how a few thousand guys running around in a muddy cow pasture for an hour changed the course of world history.
(The above image was taken from Wikipedia and used legally to the best of my knowledge: Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled “GNU Free Documentation License“. I wanted a really simple map that showed the lay of the land so to speak, and that was the best I could find.)