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Commentary on the present and future of culture, politics, economics, and social values................... "At any given instant/All solids dissolve, no wheels revolve,/And facts have no endurance." W.H. Auden.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Pakistan's Fragility 

The most dangerous situation in the world today is not North Korea, Iraq, Palestine, or Iran. It is the coming collapse of Pakistan.

The instability of Pakistan is related to its large and growing population (over 170 million), its fractured ethnic composition, its low stage of economic development, the high level of poverty among its people, and the presence of several active fundamentalist Muslim groups. It is also that Pakistan is a major nuclear power. The problem, were Pakistan to implode or explode politically, is the nuclear weapons that would become loose cannons on the deck of the ship of state. In whose hands would they end up?

The Taliban has targeted the government of Pakistan for overthrow. There is widespread support for the Taliban among Pakistan's population. There is also strong support for it in the Pakistan military forces and in the intelligence services. Last week's move by the government against a cadre of airforce officers for planning a coup is an indication of how seriously the stability of Pakistan is disintegrating.

The United States is building its South Asian foreign policy and its war against terrorism on Pakistan's President Musharraf. That is the weakest of foundations. President Musharraf is just barely holding on to power. Pakistan is one assassin's bullet or one military coup away from having a nuclear-armed fundamentalist Muslim state. That change would alter the balance of power in the world, to the detriment of the US. The US could not militarily intervene in Pakistan, even as it watched its power in the world decline.

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