June 21st, 2005

Brad @ Burning Man

Thinking Outside the Box: Invade Pakistan

Right now, they're making a big deal about a casual remark that CIA director Porter Goss made in an interview with Time magazine where he said that the CIA has "an excellent idea where [Osama bin Laden] is," and then made it pretty clear that the CIA isn't going to do anything about it. That was the opening item on Monday night's Countdown with Keith Olbermann, and the guest was the web master of GlobalTerrorWatch.com. His analysis was that at this point, all of the world's intelligence services know the following facts. Osama bin Laden is operating bases pretty openly in the Northwest Province of Pakistan, right on the Afghanistan border. His officers, agents, and couriers travel freely between the Northwest Province and not-particularly-concealed Al Qaeda offices in each of Pakistan's major cities. When he gets too blatant, Pakistan's President Musharraf sends in the troops to shut down the more blatant rural training bases or arrests an occasional courier, but that is all the cooperation we're going to get out of Pakistan on the subject. Musharraf doesn't dare do any thing more than that, and the US isn't going to send their own CIA agents or military special forces in to do the job for him.

Why not? Because the day that Osama bin Laden gets captured or killed, the Pakistani people will rise up against Musharraf for doing it or for failing to stop it, and will institute a pro-terrorist, Islamist government. And then we'll have not only another pro-terrorist state, but for the first time we'll be facing one with nuclear warheads and intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBMs). Since that would be worse than our current situation, the CIA just watches the camps as best as they can, in hopes of stopping any graduates of those camps who reach America.

Here's the interesting part to me: that's exactly the justification, and I insist is the only legal justification, for why we invaded Afghanistan. We knew that the Afghan government knew where Osama bin Laden was. Granted, that case was more extreme than this one, because the reason they knew where bin Laden was was that he was the nation's Defense Minister. We gave them a short deadline to turn him over. When they refused, we declared this to be an act of war on their part, because by letting their own Defense Minister wage war on the United States and then refusing to turn him over for trial, they were endorsing that act of war. Now, why can't we give Musharraf the same short deadline? If we know where bin Laden is, and every expert agrees that we do, what would be so bad if Condi Rice were to tell Pakistan's ambassador to the US, "go get him and turn him over to us by the end of next week, or we're coming in after him"? And if immediately thereafter Bush turned up the heat by telling the world that Musharraf's protection of bin Laden was an act of war against the United States, and gave him a rapid deadline to end his protection of bin Laden or else? Now, the objections I can see to this, and my answers.

Objection #1: "That would just mean an Islamist state in Pakistan." Would it? Everybody knew that Afghanistan was tough. Afghanistan has eventually thrown off every invader that went in ... except, to my vast surprise, us. Granted, we did it in no small part by making sure that it was seen as backing Afghan allies against Pakistani and Saudi invaders. But by comparison to Afghanistan, all of the world's conquerors have found Pakistan to be little more than a speed bump on the way to India. And do you really think that we can't find at least one force to back us in Pakistan, at least one ambitious military officer who'll take up the banner of ejecting these Saudi invaders who are threatening Pakistan's survival by waging war on Pakistan's allies? Given our clear moral and legal justification for doing so, I could make a pretty good case that it would be a heck of a lot easier to conquer and reconstruct Pakistan than it has been in Iraq, and the US is winning there after all.

Objection #2: "But they've got nukes!" So what? Tell it to the handful of survivors of the British firebombing of Dresden. Or for that matter, tell it to the handful of shattered survivors of American B-52 cluster-bomb carpet bombing of Iraq's front lines inside Kuwait during the Gulf War. For my whole life, we've been told that nuclear weapons are such terrifying weapons they must never be used, and it would be the end of the world if anybody used one. Then, with the Cold War over, we start seeing declassified results from nuclear weapons tests, and eyewitness accounts of the aftermath of Hiroshima, and when you compare those to any other major weapon of war ... well, I don't know about you, but my response is, "So what? Is that all?"

Objection #4: "But they might smuggle a nuke into an American city!" Or they might not. It's harder than they make it look in the movies, and it's not as if the CIA weren't already operating in Pakistan. But even if they did, so what? I'm sure that most of you think this would be unthinkably awful. Me, I think it would be no different than Hurricane Andrew. For crying out loud, do I have to remind you that American cities have been burned to the ground before, that we burned several of our own cities to the ground on purpose during the Civil War? If anything, dealing with the aftermath of a nuked American city would be easier than dealing with a city-wide fire or an earthquake or a hurricane, because we wouldn't be rebuilding right away. No huge multi-billion dollar payout of disaster relief money, we could just resettle the survivors elsewhere, like the Soviet Union had to do with the people of the northern Ukraine after Chernobyl. And that's the worst-case scenario? Big deal. And besides, do you really think allowing Osama bin Laden to openly recruit and train a new generation of fighters with the cooperation of the intelligence service of a nuclear-equipped nation is the best way to prevent an American city from being nuked?

Objection #5: "Why punish the Pakistan government, or the Pakistani people, for bin Laden?" Well, you know, it's a funny thing. As recently as yesterday, Bush was repeating the lie that we went into Iraq because of bin Laden, because of a single discredited eastern European source. But we've got dozens of sources say that the Pakistan equivalent of the CIA, the ISI, was instrumental in creating the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and is still quietly assisting both the Taliban and bin Laden.

Objection #6: "But we can't afford it, not with the wars already going on in Afghanistan and Iraq." Actually, invading Pakistan and destroying the bin Laden operation would make it easier and quicker for us to get out of Iraq. Right now, bin Laden's foreign troops are practically all there is left in Iraq by way of armed resistance; the rest of the resistance is negotiating peace deals with the elected government. If we left Iraq for Pakistan and attacked bin Laden himself, they'd have to leave Iraq to defend him and to defend their bases. And besides, we can't afford not to. How much of a drag on the American economy is it that we have to stay on Yellow Alert for as long as we're only containing bin Laden instead of defeating him?

Objection #7: "The American people won't go along with it." On the contrary. I'd like to point out to you that the American public was all in favor of the Iraq war right up until it became obvious to even the most stalwart conservatives that Iraq had nothing to do with Al Qaeda. At that point, the American people turned against the Iraq War, and stopped sending their children to die in it. The American people have not forgotten 9/11, it is the Bush Administration that has, by elevating their leader's personal family feud with Saddam Hussein ahead of finishing off the army that attacked us. If you were to tell the American people that we were finally going to war against the last remainders of Al Qaeda, they'd flock to the barricades. In fact, if that prompted another major attack on the United States, it would only strengthen their resolve, not weaken it.

Objection #8: "What would we do with Pakistan after we've beaten it?" The smart thing to do would be to copy the Turkish model of government: create a secular democratic government with an independent, heavily armed, even more secular military as a check on populist excesses. We're probably not that smart, we'd try to make them copy our form of government, when it's obvious that most of us don't even understand why or how our form of government works. If it failed, so what? Worst case, we go to war again later. And if we decided we couldn't afford to reconstruct it at all, wouldn't it do interesting things to the shape of the world if we turned it back over to India, who ruled that territory between the end of the British Raj and the Pakistani war for independence. Why, being forced to negotiate a merger with a nuclear-equipped (and US backed) Muslim army, the Indians might just have to come to terms with their own Muslim majority, and I'd call that a win all around. And if with joint US and Indian assistance, even if nobody else chipped in additional economic or reconstruction assistance money, we could turn the least civilized, least hospitable, most impoverished parts of Pakistan up to, well, at least the same standards as the rest of the third world.

Objection #9: "We don't have a right to reconstruct Pakistan, they have a right to their own culture and society." So now some liberal is going to stand up for the Northwest Territory in Pakistan to maintain the culture where it's considered a legitimate way to end a civil case to order uninvolved 3rd parties to rape another uninvolved third party? Even I think that's taking tolerance way, way too far.

(Sorry to skip a day yesterday, I was just too tired and lazy to concentrate for some reason.)