Friday, October 16, 2009

Is Pakistan Closer to the Brink than Afghanistan?

This blog has emphasized that if America escalates in the Pak-ghanistan ("Af-Pak") region, it needs to be honest and pay for it. No guns and butter, please. This will not be easy. See the latest from the WSJ, Pakistan Faces New Wave of Attacks. Here is some of the news:

A series of well-planned and audacious attacks on police and government installations that left at least 40 people dead across Pakistan Thursday exposed major weaknesses in the nation's security apparatus and appeared to show Taliban insurgents gaining the upper hand. . .

The day marked an escalation of violence even in a period marred by massive terror strikes and brazen attacks, including last weekend's assault on the Pakistani military's headquarters in Rawalpindi outside Islamabad. In the past 10 days, insurgent attacks have left more than 150 people dead.

Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the Pakistan Taliban, an offshoot of the Afghan movement, had "started a guerrilla war." He urged Pakistanis to unite behind the government.

His tone was a marked shift from last month, when officials were boasting they had "broken the back" of the Taliban after a successful spring offensive in the Swat Valley northwest of the Islamabad and the death of the Pakistan Taliban's leader, Baitullah Mehsud, in a U.S. missile strike in August.

The 2009 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize began his Presidency with ramped-up drone attacks from the air into sovereign Pakistani territory and then sent more troops into Afghanistan to chase the elusive Taliban around hill and dale while carrying heavy packs and body equipment in the cloudless heat of the Afghan summer. He has not convinced the American people why a dispute that is largely between the traditionally independent hill people of Pakistan and their nominal government is any of our business.

In a related article on one of the attacks, the Pakistani newspaper reported:

Taliban spokesman Usman Ali told this correspondent on phone that the attack was revenge for the killing of their two activists.

Back and forth revenge killings in a remote land we do not understand are hardly what America needs to focus on now. How about a Pecora-type Commission to investigate the financial shenanigans of recent years?

A month ago, the article demonstrates that things were looking better for the government; this may have been just a transient victory. Somehow I am skeptical that a bunch of tribesmen for Waziristan are going to successfully fight their way to control of nukes. I suspect that if America stops reimbursing Pakistan for fighting them, peace will reign again. But then Big Finance would lack one more rationale to sell bonds, wouldn't it?

At least when LBJ escalated in Viet Nam in 1965, the economy was looking strong. Yes, America is definitely rich enough that it can afford any size war it wants, even a truly large one. But based on LBJ/Nixon and G W Bush's precedents, any enhanced war in Pak-ghanistan is likely to be fought with printed or borrowed money.

Stay tuned.

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