Could Floods In Pakistan Trigger World War III?
Floods, Taliban, War, Terrorists Push Pakistan To The Brink – What If It Falls Off The Edge?
With millions of Pakistanis on the move from flooding and in danger of dying from disease, Pakistan has been pushed one step closer to the brink of collapse. This has been a long road, stretching back to its violent birth in the split from India, some would say. But more recently, it has been about war, terrorism, Taliban, fundamentalist Islam, corruption, military coups and deep poverty.
Now we got floods on a biblical scale, a totally lacking government response and a lackluster international aid effort.
So what happens if Pakistan – a county of more than 170 million people – collapses? What does that look like? What are the implications for the world, for the U.S.? This has been a popular topic in recent years, A quick review, then.
Oddly, the British and Australians seem more on top of Pakistan, likely part of the American establishment’s myopic focus on much smaller, much less dangerous Afghanistan. This also reflects the fact that we screwed Pakistan in the 1980s after the Soviet Union left Afghanistan and will likely screw them again when we leave Afghanistan. Most American stories then focus on the impacts for America – the terrorist and nuclear threats. To sum that up, it would be bad.
From the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia:
“We have to face the fact that if Pakistan collapses it will dwarf anything we have seen so far in whatever we’re calling the war on terror now,” said David Kilcullen, a former Australian Army officer who was a specialist adviser for the Bush administration and is now a consultant to the Obama White House …
“Pakistan has 173 million people and 100 nuclear weapons, an army which is bigger than the American army, and the headquarters of al-Qaeda sitting in two-thirds of the country which the Government does not control,” he told the Herald .
In RealClearWorld, Simon Henderson lays out the policy implications for the U.S. – what would Saudi Arabia do if Pakistani nukes fell into radical Islamicist hands, how it affects our Iraq policy, and so on.
An implosion of political authority in Pakistan would likely be perceived as a failure of U.S. policy and diplomatic leadership, with implications both regional and worldwide. Officials are reported to have likened the situation to the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, when the Shah failed to order his military to take action against demonstrators.
This strikes me as quaint. Pakistan collapses and our international standing is harmed. Poor us.
I had more in mind this from a 2007 op-ed by Frederick Kagan and Michael O’Hanlon in the New York Times:
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 …
Rule-of-thumb estimates suggest that a force of more than a million troops would be required for a country of this size. Thus, if we have any hope of success, we would have to act before a complete government collapse, and we would need the cooperation of moderate Pakistani forces.
A million troops! But what I really had in mind was this from The Market Oracle in the UK:
The alternative of remaining on the present path risks the already debt-saddled western economies sowing the seeds of a Pakistan Collapse-triggered Great Depression, much as many aspects of today’s economic and financial crisis have their roots in both Afghanistan and Iraq and with even far worse consequences for the neighbouring states of Iran, India, China and perhaps Russia as the conflict falls out of Pakistan’s borders.
Scary end of the world type stuff. Still, the world does not go dark or go boom all that often. It happens of course, the Dark Ages, World War II, for example, but most places muddle on in some way.
So the scariest scenario for me – because it is the most likely and the most likely to be ignored, or exploited to send the United States further down its dark post-9/11 path – comes from Josh Mull writing at Daily Kos. He paints a scenario where a “Pakistan” still maintains its borders and some semblance of nationhood but has descended into an unrecognizable radical chaos much of our making that will haunt us for a long time.
There is no awesome explosion, no moment of shattering, no one thing to pin all the blame on.
That’s just what the complete collapse looks like. No one left we can recognize as an ally, only violent resistance, war, and destruction. No more vibrant, democratic society, no more progressive struggles, no more women’s, minority, or even human rights. Only war remains, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, and likely spreading out into India and across the entire sub-continent. No one sets out deliberately to cause these massive problems, of course. These huge issues like US imperialism in Central Asia, the Long War, and the collapse of Pakistan weren’t created out of thin air, they are simply the consequences of many smaller, individual actions, the war in Afghanistan and “strategic depth” and so forth.
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