Here We Go Again

No, we don’t seem to learn:

There’s can be no bones made about it, Pakistan is looking to be a serious spot of trouble on the Eastern edge of the Muslim world. Known to have nuclear weapons, the country was cast into complete turmoil following President Pervez Musharraf’s descent into dictatorship, while at the same time al Qaida lurks. The doomsday scenario, of course, would be that the terrorist organization that has a large presence in Pakistan would be able to take over that country right along with its nuclear weapons.

So what are we to do about it? Arm a bunch of local tribal warlords and outsource the problem of rooting out al Qaida to them! It makes perfect sense, unless of course you have been paying attention and realize that every time we arm and outsource our battles, or to use the vernacular the administration has been employing against Iran, engaging in “proxy wars”, the end result typically tends to come back to haunt us.

Saddam Hussein. Osama bin Laden. And hey, didn’t we do almost the exact same thing in Afghanistan when we knew bin Laden was hiding in the mountains of Tora Bora? That worked out rather well then, didn’t it?

It is a tricky situation, I understand that. And reasonable solutions could be difficult to come by. But one thing that is clear is that our ventures in the Muslim world have rarely come off remotely as well as planned, and the first question that should be asked is whether we should do anything at all.

There is a case to be made for waiting and seeing; one thing I will cede to the Iraq War cheerleaders is that in many instances, local people do have a tendancy to drive al Qaida out when they come to full grips with how reprehensible their actions are.

In Pakistan, there are two problems. Al Qaida, and Musharraf’s suspension of democracy. In the case of al Qaida, I’m not convinced that employing the locals to take the terrorist organization out. For the sake of justice, I will admit that the US has an interest in pursuing the organization, but if that were to be done, it should be done by us using the best possible intelligence and under the most prudent means available and necessary.

As for the burgeoning emergency dictatorship, we should learn from our lessons of the past. Some as recent as Iraq. We can set a standard on how we deal with states that don’t meet a certain standard of behavior in economic sanctions and trade, but to deal with them directly on a military level would be to ignore the mistakes that we have made. Without US action in this aspect of Pakistani turmoil, either Musharraf will see reason and restore democracy, the Pakistanis will overthrow him, or treatment of the Pakistani people will reach a boiling point that may necessitate outside intervention.

But the failures of preemptive action should teach us that we must wait for that boiling point as the geopolitical fallout from not doing so and being wrong about it will only weaken us on the global stage in a variety of ways. If and when that vital point is reached, then yes, action, but again thisis not the time for the US to go in unilaterally, but instead to engage the UN and employ UN peace keeping forces, or barring that, build a broad coalition.

With Iraq, my opinion has always been that forcing regime change was a mistake for the same reason that when we revolted against England, it would have been wrongheaded for any other country to impose that revolution for us. Such things must be done by the will of the people oppressed for only then will you have the guarantee that there is enough interest by the revolutionary party to not only fight for their own cause, but to also pick up the pieces in the aftermath.

In Iraq, we saw exactly what happens when you force revolution; the resulting political process continues to be stuck in a quagmire with individual factions fighting each other as much as they fight anyone else. They were not significantly unified in their abhorrence of Saddam Hussein to create the country that needed to be created afterwards.

Mucking things up too much in Pakistan could bear tragically similar results, and this in a country with both nuclear weapons and a sizeable presence of al Qaida. In other words, Pakistan has the potential to be what Iraq was supposed to have been, and a wrong step there could spell disaster for the US.

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