Random Thoughts

US, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India – What Next?

The idiocy of Bush policies has decimated the US army and marine corps. Both have failed to meet their recruitment quotas for two months. Their equipment is in tatters and 200+ billion dollars will be needed just to replenish it. Health care and disability payments for wounded troops will cost nearly 500 billion dollars in the future. Nearly the same amount has been spent in five years of war. The increase in oil price and the oil import bill for the US have been another 500 billion dollars. That makes the cost of the Bush-Cheney folly nearly two trillion dollars so far.

The US is superbly capable of using air and naval power to decimate any opposing force. It nearly destroyed the Taliban in 2001 merely with two thousand special forces and massive air sorties. It has foolishly still not learned to fight a counter-insurgency despite the lessons of Vietnam and now Iraq and Afghanistan. The factors responsible for this are the unwillingness to suffer casualties, a xenophobic and more often racist prejudice towards enemy troops and population, which exacerbates the paranoia by humiliating treatment of belligerents and populations that become dragon's teeth and further inflame insurgencies and increase their recruitment to become a self-fulfilling outcome of a positive feedback cycle. 

The US and its quadrennial defense review and military transformation are lopsidedly biased towards technology and warfare by machines, with little or no human casualties. There is a clear strategy of bombing civil infrastructure and civilians to achieve regime change to install pliable puppets to exploit a country's natural resources at the cost of impoverishing the target nation and alienating its population. Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and other energy rich Middle Eastern and West African countries are classic examples. Where the ruler is not compliant, the US engineers a regime change like in Haiti, Panama, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan and Venezuela by coups or military means. The destruction of water, electricity and sewage plants leads to such severe deterioration of civil society that sectarian intra-population divisions are inflamed (Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan & Afghanistan), criminal enterprises (Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia & Haiti) flourish due to lack of law and order, educated middle class exodus is accelerated leaving behind a failed state with only the destitute poor and uneducated and the criminal amoral opportunists. An inexorably vicious meltdown of the failed state begins.

Total air superiority is an unbeatable US strategy and this is why it spends 250 million dollars for a single F-22 Raptor airplane. The lack of adequate boots on the ground with terrorizing and humiliating the population are equally matched perpetually losing strategies. The US saw in Saddam, a rogue tyrant who could be overthrown without international protest. It thought it would acquire control of huge Iraqi oil reserves with reliable supply at a discounted price and be able to intimidate, Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia and keep the EU, Japan, China and India toeing its line. The Republicans also wanted their war profiteer financiers to feed at the trough of taxpayer's money. As sane foreign policy mavens had predicted, the misadventure is now haunting the Republican administration and may even lead to the demise of the party in the next elections. It will also lead to unraveling of Afghanistan and Pakistan in the future.

Currently the US army, marines and reserves cannot sustain the surge in Iraq beyond March 2008 due to lack of manpower. Thus the US has to start withdrawing troops from Iraq. It failed to realize that removal of Saddam would strengthen the Shias and Iran and now in desperation is trying to balance by arming Sunnis and sowing the seeds for a more protracted civil war between them which could spread to other Gulf States. It has only two equally unpalatable options, extend the war to Iran at the behest of Israel and alienate its EU allies or trifurcate Iraq and move its forces to a base in Iraqi Kurdistan and try to police the area with minimal US casualties. The first option will push oil above hundred dollars a barrel and wreck the world economy and the second will involve high expenditures but make Iran even more intransigent. The second option will embolden the insurgency in Afghanistan and will eventually engulf Pakistan.

Mounting Canadian casualties are souring that country's commitment to Afghanistan. Other NATO countries are unwilling to let their troops take a combat role or police narcotics trade. The Lal Masjid attack by Pakistani troops has sunk the truce in its Northwest Frontier Province and increased the militancy of the Taliban supporters. If Musharraf is unwilling to let the Pakistani army fight the militants, the only way for the US to stabilize Afghanistan is to attack by air and occupy the NWFP. This will increase US casualties and alienate Muslims around the world even more. US reluctance to push for a fair peace process in Palestine, its arming and funding of the Fatah to fuel a civil war between Fatah and Hamas and also between the Lebanese Sunni government and Shia Hizbollah will only help Al Qaeeda and other insurgencies. It may start more fighting between Shias and Sunnis in Pakistan.

Many naive Indian pundits and politicians do not understand that despite all the debacles, 25 to 33% of Americans still support Bush. This means one in four to one in three still want to fight it out in Iraq. Most of the others including Democrats were strong supporters of the war initially and are just trying to extract their pound of flesh now for political gain in the 2008 presidential elections. They still support a South Korea, Japan or Germany like long term presence of US troops in Iraq. They are like thieves who wish to keep the proceeds of their illegal crime, they just don't want to do the time (price of jail) for it. In the same way the US sale of nuclear capable F-16s is not to combat terrorism. The US has given Pakistan over ten billion dollars since 9-11 and forgiven or rescheduled about five billion dollars of debt. This has made Pakistan a more formidable enemy of India and if anything increased terrorism threat for the West and India. They were a sop to Musharraf and Pakistan to garner and mobilize the anti-India sentiments to support Pakistani co-operation in US occupation of Afghanistan and control the terrorists to the West but not those who attack India in Kashmir or elsewhere. It would also force India to seek comparable technology and may promote the sale of US planes to India and increase the profits of US arms manufacturers who finance both US political parties.

If the disintegration of Iraq is inevitable, then India needs to prepare for the same in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Karzai government is corrupt and ineffective and a more radical Pashtun leader is likely to lean more towards the Taliban and Pakistan. It would then be in India's interest to have Afghanistan break up into an western Iranian section, a northern Uzbek section, an eastern Tajik section and a southern Pashtun section. Iran, Russia and India would all benefit. The Pashtun section could lead to destabilizing the NWFP of Pakistan and deny Pakistan the strategic depth of a Taliban ruled Afghanistan. It may even promote an implosion of Pakistan into a Pashtun north joined with its counterpart in Afghanistan, a western Baluchi section and a southern Sindhi section with a less threatening landlocked weaker Punjabi section of Pakistan and a reluctant occupied Kashmir section.

Finally, there is nothing wrong with signing the logistical agreement with America or buying another landing craft like the USS Nashville. India is not likely to need logistical support from the US and unlikely to get it in a war with Pakistan or China and if we are a status quo power with no expansionist designs, we don't need multiple large landing platforms. I am not averse to acquiring discounted ships but what we need are long range cruise missiles, an impenetrable air defense, submarine based nuclear missiles and the new modern fighter interceptors which have been delayed for years due to the ineptitude and hope for bribes by our politicians.

Even more importantly, as I have screamed to the point of becoming hoarse, signing the humiliating nuclear deal and giving up our independent nuclear deterrent and foreign policy would be a total disaster. Recently a new proposal for India to have US and or internationally supervised reprocessing of nuclear waste is meant to make India the dumping ground for nuclear waste and exploit its cheap labor, as is done in ship breaking in Saurashtra and toxic computer waste all over India. The current Indian government is hell bent on selling India's security and future. Since a number of our leaders from all parties have their children living in the USA and the large and economically successful Indian diaspora has an even larger coterie of relatives in India, there is a natural pro-US sentiment. There is nothing wrong with that but it should not lead to policies that neuter the nation. Already there is capitulation to American neo-liberal policies likely to benefit the Indian rich and powerful. India has consented to intellectual property agreements raising the price of common drugs for common Indians and peasant land grabs for the enriching of industrialists have increased the Maoist insurgencies in the eastern states.   


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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