Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pakistan: How we Got Here and What to do Now

Pakistan: in many ways this country is both a success story and at the same time a failure for the United States. We supported the muslims in Pakistan for decades against their Hindu rivals in neighboring India, but we never get credit for it from the Islamic world. In fact, there was a very good chance that India was going to nuke Pakistan in 1990 until President Bush told both countries to stand down. That war would have killed millions but no credit is given to Republican Presidents by the left-stream media, ever. In fact, the situation in Pakistan is so serious that many people in senior government positions go to bed worrying that tomorrow the 100 or so nuclear weapons that Pakistan has may fall into the hands of Islamic radicals. How did we get here? Here's a small summary:

Since it's creation in 1947, the government of Pakistan has been fairly secular: women had the right to vote and Islamic laws were not on the books of the judiciary. However, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, Pakistan took a serious turn off the rails of intelligent civilization. The Pakistani President at the time, General Zia al-Huq, sought to prevent the takeover of his country by arming radical Islamic rebels to fight the "godless" soldiers of the Soviets in the backwaters of Afghanistan. He also began major funding for religious madrassas that taught only Islamic law from a Wahhabi viewpoint; strict, militant, and with fervor. Eventually these students grew up and entered Pakistani society, with radical muslims now penetrating large sections of the Pakistani military and intelligence services. This is why Pakistan is reaching a critical boiling point. Benazir Bhutto and all of the other civilian leaders in Pakistan have been far more corrupt than the Pak military when they were in power, and are not seen as potential saviour of the nation. In fact, the entire country could fall into all-out rebellion if a woman took over the Islamic-bound nation again. Surely the rebels in the Waziristan province area of Pakistan would not follow her. Neither can the Pak military or intelligence branches save the country; both are heavily infiltrated by muslim radicals.

Relations between Pakistan and the United States soured in the 1990s as Islamabad refused to give up their nuclear program, which the USA did not support. In fact, all military sales to Pakistan were halted for years because of this rupture. The United States refused to endorse a Pak nuclear program, which we now know also fueled and funded the nuclear programs of North Korea, Iran, and Libya via the A.Q. Khan network. The vast majority of Pakistani nuclear know-how came from communist China, which sought to use Pakistan as a bulwark against Indian ambitions on the sub-continent of Southeast Asia.

India views the deteriorating situation in Pakistan with great alarm. Not only has that huge democratic nation suffered numerous attacks by Pakistan over the years, including a direct attack on the India Parliament several years ago but the Pak missiles can easily reach all of India's major cities. In fact, defense ties between India and Israel are a direct result of this threat: Israel has advanced anti-ballistic missile technology with which to shoot down Pak missiles. Trade in defense weapons also helped the Indian military successfully seal the border between Pakistan and India in Kashmir, which caused an enormous drop in deaths in that part of the country.

Overall, the situation in Pakistan is rapidly deteriorating but luckily the nation has relatively few ties with Iran, America's #1 enemy in the world. Pakistan has long been seen as an strategic competitor by Iran, which has maintained strong ties with India for millenia. The side into chaos for Pakistan is slow...but it is surely happening and nothing we can do can prevent this catastrophe from occurring. What we need to do is mitigate how bad it can get.

New A-10C Connects
The new upgrade of the A-10, the A-10C, has been in Iraq for two months now and has been a big success. The upgrades give the A-10 the same goodies that most other fighters have. These include the ability to drop JDAM (GPS guided) bombs, plus a targeting pod, lots of color displays in the cockpit and a digital communications capability. In practical terms, the A-10C pilots have a much better idea of where they, and any other aircraft, are in the area. The targeting pod gives a detailed, and up close view of what's going on down there, day or night. The heat sensing night camera even makes it possible to detect recently buried roadside bombs, and A-10C pilots have gotten pretty good at that. The digital data link gives the pilots the equivalent of battlefield Internet. Video, voice and text messages can be quickly exchanged with other aircraft and troops on the ground. This makes the planning of strikes go a lot quicker, and much reduces the risk of friendly fire.

Although the A-10 is built to take ground fire, the targeting pod and JDAMs allow the A-10 to be useful outside the range of ground fire (10,000 feet and up). But the A-10 can still come down low and use its 30mm cannon. With the upgrade, the A-10C can do anything for the troops that an F-16, F-18 or F-15E can do, and do it more cheaply (the A-10 is a less expensive aircraft to operate), as well as providing services an F-16 cannot (a bullet resistant design, a larger caliber cannon and slower speed). The entire A-10 fleet (350 aircraft) is being converted to the A-10C standard, at a cost of about $13 million per aircraft.

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