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Quickly, before things can get either better or worse, a few words on the impending war between India and Pakistan.
One: Oh, but haven’t these been glorious days for the anti- nuclear weapons crowd! Though none of the doves have as yet come out and said so (and probably won’t), there can only be some quiet rejoicing within their movement that those long-preached warnings of Armageddon – someday, somewhere – are seemingly coming closer and closer to fruition with each passing day. (Quiet rejoicing because no one necessarily wants to see any sort of nuclear endgame, or for that matter gloat over its occurrence.) Those who have so freely advance Doomsday scenarios are certainly not above enjoying the temporary celebrity and respect afforded them when their predictions come closer to coming true, more so when it comes to something as dastardly as the nuclear device.
Of course, no one offers more credence to Doomsayers than the American media, who have finally gotten around to noticing there may be something serious about to happen. Eight days ago in this space, your author made mention of what seemed like an impending war between two countries who have recently tested nukes; it took the mainstream media four or five days to stumble across the story, once it got Chandra Levy’s remains out of its system. (To give credit where it’s due, the BBC’s reporting of the conflict has been stoic, and wonderful.) You could suppose this is because of the Goldberg Standard – electronic media tends to not notice a distant story until it’s reported at length in the New York Times – but come on. Surely the Associated Press newswire would have given someone the heads up.
Two: That said, there isn’t going to be a nuclear weapon launched from either India or Pakistan, at least not this time around. (You couldn’t say “never,” given the fact both countries are about as fundamentally backwards as autonomous countries can be.) This war, if fought, is over Kashmir and will most likely be contained to those borders, fought with conventional weapons.
How do we know this? Consider it this way: No one, no matter their hatred for another country, wants to stand next to the United States as the second nation to open a nuclear salvo, especially now that the weapon’s potential for physical damage is more understood, most especially because of the stigma that has come to be attached to the act itself. There are reasons to launch nuclear weapons, of course – if one of these “dirty nukes” were to make its way to Los Angeles from, let’s just say, Baghdad, Iraq would soon be a field of glass called Bushistan – but neither India or Pakistan, quite frankly, have the guts to shoulder the short or long term responsibilities that would come with a first strike. They would not only be decimated in return, they would be pariahs to the rest of the civilized world, for so long as reasonable men draw breath.
Three: That we are sending Military Czar Stud Rumsfeld the First to the region is good, in that he can go to each leader and (hopefully) say, “Look: Neither of your countries can win a nuclear war, everyone in the world knows this is a pissing contest, so if you must fight over Kashmir, go for it, but knock off this nuclear bomb mess or its ring-a-ding-ding for you bozos.” This would probably work, so long as we explain to India that President Musharraf is less and less in control of his own troops (not to mention where and who they strike), as his military ranks are being infiltrated by al Qaeda, whom we have promised to eliminate.
But at some point, the chips are going to fall where they may. India and Pakistan hate one another, and they’re going to war sooner or later. The questions is, How far is the United States obligated to go in seeing he chips don’t fall in the first place? Part of what is silently bothering conservatives about Mr. Rumsfeld’s visit is, we aren’t the world’s police. If India and Pakistan are truly that dedicated to destroying one another, they will do so with or without our intercession. It just so happens we are here debating whether or not each side will use a nuclear weapon, and even though they won’t, a token effort should be made to remind both countries of the responsibilities to humanity that come with such weapons.
In realizing this, you’d be remiss in not remembering the radical elements within each country’s military, or considering the influence these elements carry. Such influence is legitimate, and powerful. In the end, what will keep a nuclear war from breaking out between India and Pakistan, and we so often forget things like this, is the fact that men in India tend to love their wives and children just as much as men in Pakistan, and would hate to see their imprints blown onto the sides of buildings over something like Kashmir.
Send e-mail to Brian – firstname.lastname@example.org