Putting Things In Perspective

This blog advertises itself as being about arms control, but you’ll notice that it’s all about Iran, North Korea, Syria, and occasionally places like Libya or the UAE, with glances from time to time in the direction of New Delhi or Moscow. (Back when Anya blogged here, you’d see the occasional Belarus item, of course.) The point? Above all else — and this is my personal view, but I think Paul would agree — this is really a blog about the nonproliferation regime and its problems.

Why? Because it’s interesting. It’s full of new developments and there are all sorts of little puzzles to solve. This is why people play Sudoku, too. It doesn’t suggest that any of these topics is necessarily the most important thing going on.

The P-Word

And what is? Well, if you worry about the spread of nuclear weapons or the possibility of nuclear terrorism, then Issue Number One is not Iran, and it’s not North Korea, either. At the moment, it’s not even MPC&A in Russia. It’s Pakistan, and how much longer there will be a Pakistan as we know it.

Iran’s always a hot topic because a radical theocracy might get the Bomb. “But what if the Bomb gets a radical theocracy?”:http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1220444321280&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull A _really_ radical one, too. They do have TV and the Internet in Iran, you realize, but Afghanistan didn’t when the Taliban were in charge there, and Pakistan is now headed down that path. When the corrupt old order crumbles and “Commander of the Faithful” Mullah Omar assumes power over 175 million hungry mouths and who-knows-how-many nuclear warheads, then the fun begins.

That’s when the “nonproliferation”:http://www.carnegieendowment.org/npp/ crowd sort of runs out of things to say, and the “counterproliferation”:http://www.ndu.edu/WMDCenter/ folks pick up.

All of our national debates over Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, and North Korea pale in comparison to this scenario, which I’m extremely sorry to say is no longer a theoretical possibility, but is “unfolding”:http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/14/world/asia/14punjab.html “before”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/17/AR2009041702378.html “our”:http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/17/world/asia/17pstan.html “eyes”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/19/AR2009041901731.html.

Let’s hope there’s still time to rescue the situation. Unfortunately, it’s fair to say that we won’t have much help from the current Pakistani authorities, who — even “after”:http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2007/12/pakistan_over_50_kil.php “everything”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6503477.stm “that’s”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7161590.stm “happened”:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/3041148/Islamabad-Marriott-hotel-bomb-killed-52-says-Pakistan.html there — are seemingly “unable”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/18/AR2009041800415.html or “unwilling”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/19/AR2009041900752.html to recognize that either their country’s problems or the solutions to them lie within their own borders. And that, of course, is the problem.

4 thoughts on “Putting Things In Perspective

  1. Andy

    The chances of Mullah Omar or some other Pashtun leader becoming the President/Dictator/Grand Mullah or whatever isn’t quite zero, but it’s pretty close.

  2. AWR

    It is not totally comforting, but worth considering that the Army is the one solid institution in Pakistan and has been such since 1947. Never say never, but the possibility of their nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands – especially Zardari’s much less Mullah Omar’s – can be assumed to be quite low. And measures for enhanced control could be provided by the US without a 57b authorization, if that has not been done already.

  3. Andy

    Explaining my point further:

    The Punjab’s control all the important national government positions and are the largest ethnic group. They also make up most of the military, which has long played a sort of king-maker role in Pakistan. All they key levers of power are in the majority Punjab areas of the country. I could be argued the “State” of Pakistan is mainly just the province of Punjab – most of the rest of the country are really more like colonies than integral parts of the Pakistan state. Some are still administered as colonies (FATA, for instance). IOW, Punjab is the center-of-gravity of the Pakistan state.

    Given all that, it’s not likely the Taliban, who are mostly comprised of Pashtuns, but do not speak for all Pashtuns, would ever be able to wrest control of the country from the Punjabs.

    What’s more worrisome, IMO, is Punjab militancy, which has risen in the past couple of decades. Should it continue to gain traction and make inroads into the military and civil service, then we could see an Islamist government in Pakistan at some point in the future. Despite the media sensationalism, this doesn’t appear very likely to happen anytime soon because a coup or even a democratic victory by radical Islamists would have to be “approved” by the military in order to succeed.

  4. Josh

    I only wish I had the same confidence.

    The same Army that suppresses any hint of revolt in Baluchistan hasn’t had much luck against the Taliban and its allies, either in NWFP or in Punjab. Despite their protestations, they just don’t seem committed to fighting what they somehow perceive as somebody else’s battle.

    A good example is the Red Mosque affair, which went on for how long — months? years? — in the middle of the capital before anyone would lift a finger.

    If there is a revolution in Pakistan, it will probably seem to the Army like a sudden fait accompli.

    But that’s just pessimistic old me, I guess.

    Sorry to take us off-topic, here.


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