Monday, May 18, 2009

Pakistan and its Nukes: The More the Merrier?

Michael van der Galien has a response to Adm. Mike Mullen's response to Sen. Webb [with whom I had a conversation in a urinal at the Washington Times HQ eons ago before Webb went over to the dark side] concerning Pakistan's multiplying its nuclear arsenal. Michael had some points [in quotes] as to the reason for the Paki weapon expansion program to which I am responding below:

Back in the ’80s, I was working for Denis Neal [who figures prominently behind the scenes in Charlie Wilson’s War, the book,] as a Pakistan lobbyist and had occasion to visit the country and meet high-ranking Pakistani govt. & military officials. My friend Arnie Raphel was Ambassador and as an ex-FSO I had a lot of chances to get behind the stated policies of Pakistan by conversations with US Embassy personnel and other in-country assets. Michael's points are well-taken:
“1. [Pakistan] still fears a major war with India, and believes that you cannot possibly have ‘enough’ weapons of mass destruction”
This is true, but since India’s rapid economic development, there is less fear of an Indian pre-emptive attack and from my several visits to India, the Indians have an extremely high opinion of Paki fighting prowess (”one Paki is worth 5 Indians” was how an Indian put it
). And even in the '80s, the DepMinDefense of Pakistan told me that Paki and Indian generals would meet and fraternize in London as they were "batch-mates" at Sandhurst and other British military schools back in the day. The two countries have gone in different directions, largely because the Pakistani Army was used as the bricks and mortar of the new state in '47 and usurped power in the aftermath. India had the Gandhian legacy and used the vast railway system and other engineering and educational institutions as well as adopting an above-it-all stance in foreign policy.
“2. It fears Iran’s rise and nuclear program”
Yes and No. The Pakis have a significant Shi’ite minority and Benazir Bhutto’s mother was Iranian. Also many Pakis told me that eventually Pakistan might break up into its constituent parts, some of which would orient toward Iran. Back in the seventies, there was a Turkish/Iranian/Paki “Mutual Defense Pact” which disappeared after the fall of the Shah, but which might be partially revived as a bulwark against the Taliban [who hate the Iranian Shi'ites as much or more than Christian or Jewish infidels]

“3. It wants to give / sell some of these bombs to other, befriended states”
J.Q. Khan has already sold N. Korea & Iran the formulae and other construction secrets, and my guess is that an anti-American government might try to sell the finished product, though the US would do a lot to prevent that. The US did construct one of the nuclear reactors which produces the enriched uranium, I believe, [to counter Soviet influence in the sixties], and has a lot of intelligence & presumably some sort of a failsafe plan in place.

“[The US is] aware of every single nuclear weapon in Pakistan and it is therefore developing more so as to confuse the U.S. / make it virtually impossible for Washington to keep track of every single one of these weapons”
Not really feasible as the ISI is so completely penetrated by the US CIA as well as other foreign agencies who “trade baseball cards” and the Pakis notoriously are unable to keep secrets.

“5. Scary idea: something with Taliban and nuclear weapons”
This would be when Israel and India would finally have to make some sort of reconciliation. The US might even be a second-tier player if the Taliban got hold of nukes, and would have trouble restraining Netanyahu.

Of course, there is an overwhelming sense to the Pakis that India has now become more important to the USA than they themselves are. Intangibles like the unlikely popularity of "Slumdog Millionaire" and Manohman Singh's impressive recent election victory make Zardari's tawdry little political machine based on his late wife's legacy appear almost as incompetent and feckless as it really is. His democratic opponents, though anti-Taliban, dislike him almost as much as they do the Islamists, whose real political power in the countryside is almost nil, being based almost exclusively on intimidation and coercion [though, like Mussolini, they do make local utilities and transportation run on time and have cleaned out a lot of corrupt political appointees in the judicial system]. But the downside is no school for girls, acid in the faces of females not wearing purdah, a police composed of religious vigilantes and the other appurtenances of a brutal male machismo even including Iranian-style hanging judges. The population is fleeing the Taliban just as the Afghanis flooded Peshawar in the '80s before the Soviet onslaught [I visited the refugee camps run by relief agencies and the numbers were overwhelming their capabilities.]

India has its problems, and the main reason Obama wisely elected to remain in Afghanistan while changing the modus operandi with the installation of Gen. McChrystal was because of the threat a resurgent Afghani Taliban poses to Pakistan. I once spent most of a night talking with the Agricultural Minister of NWFP in Peshawar who frankly believed that his wild and wooly province would eventually become part of a Pushtun Afghanistan or a great Persia sometime in the future.

I wouldn't be too afraid of the Taliban filching a bomb unless they got the codes and the personnel from the Paki nuke facilities to make it work. Even then, they would have to get it to Iran or other customer or even some enemy target in a delivery protocol which wouldn't be intercepted.

All the makings of a James Bond movie. Wasn't "Octopussy" something along these lines?

"US Intelligence Sources" reveal that contingency plans to remove nukes are in place, though the news item notes that "rogue elements in the military and intelligence services" might try to deliver said nukes or some of them to the insurgents. McChrystal's appointment was largely due to his heading the JSOC combined operations out of Fort Bragg which would protect the nukes from enemy [yes, "enemy"] hands.

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