Last week, in a column correctly described as the best newspaper column I wrote last week, I noted that the focus of the War On Terror™ has shifted from the Middle East to South Asia.
Public discussion of this shift tends to dwell on Afghanistan – where American talking-heads are hoping former Surgin' Gen. David Petraeus will be able to produce a successful sequel to his Iraq success. Call it Surgin' 2: Electric Boogaloo.
But anyone pinning their hopes on an Iraqi-style surge succeeding in Afghanistan is missing half the story. Afghanistan can't be improved, and certainly can't be fixed, without also addressing the serious problems plaguing its neighbor, Pakistan.
Like Danny and Sandy might have said had they been senior fellows at the Council on Foreign Relations instead of senior classmen at fictional Rydell High School: Afghanistan and Pakistan go together, like rama lama lama ke ding a de ding a dong.
The fates of Afghanistan and Pakistan are intertwined.
For years, Pakistan has been the great enabler of Afghanistan's lousiness. With U.S. money, weapons and encouragement, Pakistan fostered a hodgepodge of Islamist militants who battled Soviet forces in Afghanistan through most of the 1980s. After the Soviets were expelled, Pakistan supported the Taliban movement that eventually took over Afghanistan.
Pakistan's motive is its own survival. The country's higher-ups believe Pakistan faces numerous mortal threats – internally from ethnic rebellion, and externally from the United States, Iran, Russia and its arch-nemesis, India.
If Pakistan can count on a friendly, subservient government in Afghanistan, then Pakistan's military and intelligence services can concentrate their limited resources along Pakistan's border with India.
The main point of contention between India and Pakistan is cashmere, I mean, Kashmir.
Back in 1947, the British divided the Indian subcontinent into two countries – majority Muslim Pakistan and majority Hindu India. At the time of partition, the leaders of colonial India's states were forced to choose between joining Pakistan or joining India.
Kashmir is a majority-Muslim state that probably would have joined Pakistan had its leader at the time, Maharaja Hari Singh, not been a Hindu.
Pakistan and India have been arguing about it ever since – an argument that escalated to all-out war on three occasions. Pakistan's military and intelligence services have used the conflict as an excuse to support Islamist militants who wage guerrilla and terror wars against India.
Since the War On Terror™ began, however, Pakistan's militants have begun to turn on their former masters.
A home-grown Pakistani Taliban movement is now fighting for control of the territories along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. And the militants Pakistan nurtured to harass Indian forces in Kashmir have expanded their war to the rest of India.
In 2002, Pakistani militants attacked India's parliament. India nearly invaded Pakistan in retaliation – which would have been the first war directly between two nuclear-armed militaries. Pakistani militants, operating independently of Pakistan's elected government, are almost certainly responsible for the recent attacks in the Indian metropolis Mumbai (formerly Bombay).
One possible motive is that the militants are trying to tempt India to mobilize for an attack on Pakistan. If that happens, all of the Pakistani security forces trying to quell Pakistan's internal Islamist rebellions would be rushed to Pakistan's border with India.
If India and Pakistan threaten – or Allah/Vishnu forbid – actually go to war, the Afghan Taliban who use Pakistan as their launching pad will have an even freer hand to operate in Pakistan.
In other words, tension between India and Pakistan equals more violence in Afghanistan.
You simply can't have anything resembling stability in Afghanistan until Pakistan settles its life-long feud with India.
What can we do?
At this point, I haven't a clue.
We can offer Pakistan oodles of economic incentive if it works earnestly with India to find a solution to Kashmir. The only problem is, we don't have oodles of aid to give.
We could stop using Afghanistan as a launching pad for air attacks on militants in Pakistan – but if we do that, those same militants are only going to launch more attacks in Afghanistan, or even in Europe or the United States.
We're in a serious bind.
Wow. What could be worse than being harassed by a stalker? Perhaps adding to the…
Goodness. The disdain for poor people is just sad. Everyone wants there to be poor…
While I feel that we are festooned with too many autos, strip malls, lack of…
Note to people: don't have kids if your poor. End of Story. As a single…