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November 18, 2007
New York Times Gets Real on Pakistan
We here at American Thinker are proud of the fact that many of our criticisms of the New York Times have received widespread approbation and agreement with numerous pundits and other media outlets over the years.
Our criticism probably rings true because we are equally effusive in our praise of The Times when they demonstrate a realism and thoughtfulness about the world that, while rare in their case, nevertheless is welcome.
Such realism is on display in this important editorial today about Pakistan:
AS the government of Pakistan totters, we must face a fact: the United States simply could not stand by as a nuclear-armed Pakistan descended into the abyss. Nor would it be strategically prudent to withdraw our forces from an improving situation in Iraq to cope with a deteriorating one in Pakistan. We need to think — now — about our feasible military options in Pakistan, should it really come to that. A better summation of the dangers confronting the United States if Pakistan collapses has not been made by a major media source. And The Times is not shy about recommending drastic action should the unthinkable happen:
We do not intend to be fear mongers. Pakistan’s officer corps and ruling elites remain largely moderate and more interested in building a strong, modern state than in exporting terrorism or nuclear weapons to the highest bidder. But then again, Americans felt similarly about the shah’s regime in Iran until it was too late.
Moreover, Pakistan’s intelligence services contain enough sympathizers and supporters of the Afghan Taliban, and enough nationalists bent on seizing the disputed province of Kashmir from India, that there are grounds for real worries.
The most likely possible dangers are these: a complete collapse of Pakistani government rule that allows an extreme Islamist movement to fill the vacuum; a total loss of federal control over outlying provinces, which splinter along ethnic and tribal lines; or a struggle within the Pakistani military in which the minority sympathetic to the Taliban and Al Qaeda try to establish Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism.
One possible plan would be a Special Forces operation with the limited goal of preventing Pakistan’s nuclear materials and warheads from getting into the wrong hands. Given the degree to which Pakistani nationalists cherish these assets, it is unlikely the United States would get permission to destroy them. Somehow, American forces would have to team with Pakistanis to secure critical sites and possibly to move the material to a safer place. According to this article in The Times, we are already assisting President Musharraf in securing his nuclear weapons, mostly with technical expertise and critical military equipment. But what The Times is proposing is a radical departure from that assistance. And the logic behind their ideas is inescapable.
For the United States, the safest bet would be shipping the material to someplace like New Mexico; but even pro-American Pakistanis would be unlikely to cooperate. More likely, we would have to settle for establishing a remote redoubt within Pakistan, with the nuclear technology guarded by elite Pakistani forces backed up (and watched over) by crack international troops. It is realistic to think that such a mission might be undertaken within days of a decision to act. The price for rapid action and secrecy, however, would probably be a very small international coalition.
A second, broader option would involve supporting the core of the Pakistani armed forces as they sought to hold the country together in the face of an ineffective government, seceding border regions and Al Qaeda and Taliban assassination attempts against the leadership. This would require a sizable combat force — not only from the United States, but ideally also other Western powers and moderate Muslim nations.
The bottom line is simple and terrifying; Pakistani nukes cannot fall into the hands of those who would use them against America or American interests. And the fact that the Times recognizes this singular fact and proposes some rational responses to the danger is commendable.