Pakistan, And Why I Hate The Presidential Debates

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 6 months ago

I hadn’t watched the previous GOP debates, and only watched about two minutes of this one.  I turned the channel after Santorum’s answer on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

It went something like this (I tuned in late the Bret Baier’s question).  Suppose that the insurgency within Pakistan combines with sympathetic elements of the Army and ISI to take over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.  What would you do?

Rick Perry answered something like this.  Working with allies in the region is very important, and our recent refusal to sell more fighters to India is problematic.  Our allies need to know that we are there and will be there is a crisis – and also that we might need them in a crisis.

Okay, but incomplete and not quite adequate as I’ll discuss in a moment.  Then Santorum weighs in and issues a rebuke (of sorts) to Perry, saying something like:

“I’ll answer the question on Pakistan since (voice raised slightly and talking sternly at this point) I’m not sure that it was answered before.  Working with allies won’t do it.  We must work with elements within Pakistan and those who might be our friend, such as Pervez Mucharraf, to turn back the insurrection.”

If Perry’s answer is inadequate, Santorum’s answer was dense and doltish.  Note well.  Musharraf was sacked by the Pakistani people in August of 2008.  He left office with the Parliament hating him, and frankly with most of Pakistan hating him.  The Islamists had good reason, since he was seen by them as an apparatchik of the U.S. (he clearly was not, from our own perspective), and the balance of Pakistan hated him because the Pakistan economy had sunk to depths of despair.  It hasn’t really gotten any better since then, but that doesn’t matter for the attitude and atmosphere in 2008.  The Pakistani people wanted change, and they got it by sacking Musharraf.

In an event in which the Pakistani Army cannot turn back an insurrection, or is participating in it, Santorum wants to turn to … Musharraf … hated and sacked by his own people!  What’s Musharraf going to do?  Stand in the road to Islamabad with a gun and threaten the ISI and Haqqani’s fighters as they come to take over the center of power?

It is a salient question whether Pakistan is an ally or enemy in the regional war.  The uninterested public is just now hearing about Haqqani’s fighters and their help in the recent attack on the U.S. embassy.  I have been tracking the Tehrik-i-Taliban, the LeT, the various Kashmiri insurgent offshoot groups, Haqqani’s organization and so on for years now.

I have watched when, as I forecast, the Khyber and Chaman passes became almost too dangerous to transport fuel and materiel, leading me to beg and plead with the strategists and policy-makers to engage the Caucasus region for  alternate logistics routes.  The strategists listened, but not well enough.  Steve Schippert and I have held long conversations trying to ascertain ways to use India as a logistics route (as well as other ways to engage them in Afghanistan).  It has the ports, it has the rail and road system, and it is sympathetic to our cause.  The only problem is that we would have to traverse across parts of Pakistani controlled Kashmir to get to Kabul.

Do we overtly treat Pakistan as the enemy in the campaign that they are, duplicitous as they have been, or do we go on pretending that the Durand line actually means anything and that Pakistan is on our side?  We covertly treat them as the enemy, viz., the secrecy surrounding the UBL raid.  How overt do we go with this?

This I know.  Steve and I agree that India is a much more natural ally in the global war on terror than is Pakistan.  Michael Yon agrees:

After much travels through India, I believe we are natural allies. We have much to learn and gain from each other. India and the United States should do what is natural. We should deepen our ties. Our relationship must be sincere and bonded.

And maybe that’s what Rick Perry is saying.  If an insurrection happens in Pakistan and their nuclear assets are in jeopardy, it will take much more than Musharraf to secure them.  This exigency needs to be war-gamed well in advance, and if the Pentagon hasn’t already done this … oh well, be sure, they have already done this.

Securing the nuclear assets will take not only the combined forces of SEALs teams and Delta Force, but several companies of Marines and Rangers to provide force protection while the operation occurred.  It will require significant support from air assets, transport, and good intelligence.  Even then, it’s likely only to be partially to moderately successful and we will sustain high casualties.

But to believe that we could operate with the assistance or help of the Pakistanis themselves is to believe that we could have done the UBL raid by informing Pakistan first.  One would also have to believe that Pakistan didn’t really show the remains of our air assets to the Chinese.

This is why I hate the debates and don’t watch them.  They are like political versions of Jeopardy.  You have seconds to tell us the “right” answer to our question (what’s right will be up to a vote), when in reality, no President is going to issue orders for securing Pakistan’s nuclear assets without reference to the Pentagon’s war-gaming.  And no President is going to call Musharraf.

The debates are set up for sound bite, turn-the-channel, laugh-a-minute night time America.  For really understanding anything about a candidate, they are literally useless.

Prior: The Feeble Superhero: Pakistan Freely Tugs on Superman’s Cape




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This article is filed under the category(s) Pakistan,Politics and was published September 22nd, 2011 by Herschel Smith.

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