America might be best served if it were to leave both Iraq and Afghanistan today because there might be nothing to gain by staying in either place apart from having a front row seat to watch the unraveling of nuclear armed Pakistan. The Times of India is reporting today about attacks by Islamic extremists on several Pakistani nuclear facilities. Per The Times, “The incidents, tracked by Shaun Gregory, a professor at Bradford University in UK, include an attack on the nuclear missile storage facility at Sargodha on November 1, 2007, an attack on Pakistan’s nuclear airbase at Kamra by a suicide bomber on December 10, 2007, and perhaps most significantly the August 20, 2008 attack when Pakistani Taliban suicide bombers blew up several entry points to one of the armament complexes at the Wah cantonment, considered one of Pakistan’s main nuclear weapons assembly.” The article goes on to describe how even US terrorism experts were not aware of the attacks, which have not been widely reported. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Pakistani nuclear sites are located far from India, in areas where both al-Qaeda and the Taliban are strongest.
Playing soldier around all over the world diminishes one’s ability to act when there is a really important national interest at stake. Iraq never threatened the US, nor does Afghanistan or Iran. The US is engaged everywhere but where it really matters, in Pakistan, where a whole lot of nuclear weapons can suddenly and dramatically wind up in the hands of people who can do a lot of harm with them and kill a lot of people. Is it our problem? Sort of. We had a friendly dictator in Pakistan who had the support of the middle classes and the army. His name was Pervez Musharraf. We decided we needed someone who looked better to the media so we undercut him and supported Benazir Bhutto, whose previous time in office was distinguished only by corruption. Bhutto’s husband is now president and is both weak and completely corrupt. The government is incapable of controlling an insurgency that dominates nearly one third of its territory. So why did we meddle in the first place and what do we do now? It would be a tough one to just walk away from because wholesale nuclear proliferation is a serious issue for the US as well as for Pakistan’s neighbors. It is perhaps a lesson of sorts. When you are crying wolf constantly it is tough to figure out what to do when the wolf actually appears. Another big problem that Obama will be unable to solve.