As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Most Dangerous Trouble Spot In The World Update

Did anyone else find this article in the NYT yesterday really irresponsible?

WASHINGTON — As the insurgency of the Taliban and Al Qaeda spreads in Pakistan, senior American officials say they are increasingly concerned about new vulnerabilities for Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, including the potential for militants to snatch a weapon in transport or to insert sympathizers into laboratories or fuel-production facilities.

The officials emphasized that there was no reason to believe that the arsenal, most of which is south of the capital, Islamabad, faced an imminent threat. President Obama said last week that he remained confident that keeping the country’s nuclear infrastructure secure was the top priority of Pakistan’s armed forces.

But the United States does not know where all of Pakistan’s nuclear sites are located, and its concerns have intensified in the last two weeks since the Taliban entered Buner, a district 60 miles from the capital. The spread of the insurgency has left American officials less willing to accept blanket assurances from Pakistan that the weapons are safe.

Pakistani officials have continued to deflect American requests for more details about the location and security of the country’s nuclear sites, the officials said.

Look, the Taliban is in no position to overrun the Pakistani government. While the recent advances of Taliban forces in the Swat Valley region and elsewhere in Pakistan should concern policymakers, as well as the reluctance of the Pakistani forces to get into the fight, the civic structures inside Pakistan are not nearly as fragile as these responses would make you think. I have no doubt that the Taliban seeks an Islamic emirate in Pakistan, but at the same time, the largest mass gathering in the country in recent years sought to get the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court restored to the bench. You don't see such respect and admiration for the rule of law in a country on the verge of collapse. The democracy movement just pushed a dictator out of power. Tens of millions of people participated in this effort. They may not like the government they have, and Pakistan may have a history of military coups. But a Taliban takeover? Pretty unlikely.

I find Pakistan very dangerous now, as I always have. I don't think scaring people about loose nukes fits with reality, and it could be used to gain desired policies that don't make sense for America or Pakistan. Far be it from me to side with Pakistan on this question, but I feel like the quiet Americans always think they know better than the locals how to best secure countries abroad, but they are inevitably based on American goals than the goals of the other countries. Pakistan's government worries about India, but they only worry about the Taliban to the extent that the neighboring war in Afghanistan has increased tensions and inflamed the extremist element.

The US can help the situation in Pakistan, for instance by helping to fund educational development so that the decrepit schools can actually compete with madrassahs teaching a militant form of Islam. But talking about failed state in Pakistan is really unhelpful and misreads the threat.

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