If we listen to Frederick Kagan, master neocon at neocon HQ, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and Michael O’Hanlon, a warmongering neocon at the Brookings Institution, it would seem that it is. Iran might have to go on the back burner while the US sorts out the Pakistan crisis.
Of course, for Messrs Kagan and O’Hanlon, the best way to sort out any problem on the planet is to use US military might and, according to their piece in the New York Times yesterday, the Pakistan crisis is no exception.
The nature of the urgency is obvious; Pakistan actually does have nuclear weapons whereas Iran actually doesn’t. The fear is that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons may fall into the hands of Pakistani Islamists in the event of turmoil or, worse, if the Islamic fundamentalists were able to take power in Pakistan.
The problem, however, is that ‘US military might’ is largely a myth – they’ve been in Iraq nearly five years now and are nowhere near having any more control over the country than they did on the day they invaded it. Furthermore, the entire Iraqi quagmire has bogged down the US military to such an extent that it is totally incapable of putting troops on the ground anywhere else in the world in any numbers that could possibly make a difference, especially in a place the size of Pakistan that has a population of some 160 million people, the vast majority of whom are not exactly US friendly and certainly wouldn’t be if US troops decided to turn up on their doorstep. Massive bombing, which the US is very much capable of doing, is out of the question for a number of reasons, not least of which is that the US do not know where Pakistan keeps its nuclear weapons and even those Pakistanis that are pro-US that do know are hardly likely to tell the US if they know that the US are going to attempt destroying them.
Kagan and O’Hanlon are aware of these problems but become vague about how to overcome them. They write: “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.”
This is all wishy-washy stuff. There is no plan; there are just some very vague ideas, none of which have any merit. The problem with neocons is that, because they have concentrated so hard on military might style foreign policy, they have forgotten entirely that there is such a thing as diplomacy and that it is something that should be used always as a first resort and not, as neocons seem to think, as a last resort.
It’ll be interesting to see whether the neocons will attempt to use the Pakistan crisis to change their propaganda tack on Iran away from the now discredited rhetoric of accusing Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons for themselves to a rhetoric that now more urgently seeks regime change in Iran through fear of a radical Islamic regime gaining power in Pakistan and then supplying nuclear weapons to an Islamic Iran.