Monday, November 05, 2007

From MAD to Madness

Pakistan could make Iran look like small potatoes. President Musharraf's move to seize emergency powers and crack down on opposition has opened a Pandora's box of potential nuclear threats in the Middle East too numerous and ugly to be covered by Joe Biden's characterization as "complicated stuff" in last week's Democratic debate.

"The United States has given Pakistan more than $10 billion in aid, mostly to the military, since 2001," the New York Times notes. "Now, if the state of emergency drags on, the administration will be faced with the difficult decision of whether to cut off that aid and risk undermining Pakistan’s efforts to pursue terrorists--a move the White House believes could endanger the security of the United States."

Even worse is the prospect, however remote, of Pakistan imploding from the dueling corruption and incompetence of Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto to be replaced by Muslim extremists who would then control the nation's nuclear weapons. Is that something the US, India or Israel could live with?

We never got a straight story about Pakistan’s leading nuclear scientist selling technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya even while Musharraf's hold on power was firm. Can we be sure that terrorists won't be able to get what they want in a shaky Pakistan?

In the last century, nuclear conflict was averted by the MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) Doctrine that deterred two superpowers from using such weapons without annihilating each other. But in a world where they may become available to groups of suicidal zealots who believe they will be rewarded in an afterlife for destroying those who don't share their beliefs, MAD could rapidly give way to madness.

In World War III or IV, depending on which Neo-Con is doing the numbering, what do we do about that?

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