Monday, November 12, 2007

Nuclear Shell Game

If we had a competent, open-minded and subtle Administration, the questions of what to do about Pakistan would still be dicey. As things stand, our clueless President, out-of-it Secretary of State and politically damaged diplomatic corps seem like rubes at the fair watching Musharraf run his games of repression and promises of free elections with no idea of where the nuclear pea is.

Nightmares that Pakistan might "lose control over a nuclear arsenal of uncertain size--estimated at from 55 to 115 weapons," the New York Times reports, are driving fears in Washington, London and Paris.

The Pakistan president has insisted his nuclear controls are "the best in the world," but, over the years, his assurances about everything have turned out to be full of empty bluster and, now that his control of the country is shaky, can we take the chance of believing him?

In a situation like this, it would be comforting to think that US intelligence assets have some answers but, even if they do, with our "What, me worry?" President and Vice President surrounded by Neo-Cons obsessed with Iran's nuclear potential, is anybody in charge of the titrating of carrots-and-sticks financial aid, covert actions and contingency planning that are needed?

"If General Musharraf is overthrown," the Times reports, "no one is quite sure what will happen to the team he has entrusted to safeguard the arsenal. There is some hope that the military as an institution could reliably keep things under control no matter who is in charge, but that is just a hope.

“'It’s a very professional military,'” said a senior American official who is trying to manage the crisis and insisted on anonymity because the White House has said this problem will not be discussed in public. “'But the truth is, we don’t know how many of the safeguards are institutionalized, and how many are dependent on Musharraf’s guys.'”

In a situation where "don't know" and "hope" could lead to disaster, the track record of this White House is not reassuring. From the outside, it looks as if regime change in Washington is more urgent than in Islamabad.

1 comment:

cognitorex said...

Pakistan: Bribery in Limbo
Salman Rushdie's take on Pakistan is that you either get a dictatorship and rolling promises of elections or massive corruption with the Bhuttos.
Then it dawned on me that this explained the oddity of continuously seeing hordes of demonstrators dressed in suits, mostly lawyers.

(Notes from Rushdie lecture on "Cultural Wars" Nov 6, 2007, Gt. Barrington, Ma.)

On a more serious note, Sir Salman opined that Pakistan is really quite secular and should not be willy nilly thrown into the Islam-Fascist WWIII right wing debate category. That the demonstrators are in Western dress might in this light be deemed a very big socio political favorable.
Let's hope it's Pakistanis in suits, not guys in mufti with scimitars who guard the nukes.