Saturday, January 5, 2008

Pakistan: Just How Safe Are The Nukes?

I was recently linked a Newsweek article by Graham Allison that raises questions about the safety of Pakistan's nukes. The article suggests that the barriers between terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda and Pakistan's nuclear technology have been weakening steadily in recent years - and particularly in the wake of former Prime Minister Bhutto's assassination - and that the nightmare scenario of 'The World's Biggest Suicide Bomber' is becoming increasingly possible. This is an issue I've been pushing for some time and Allison does a good job of summarizing the principal concerns.

"As recently as November, Musharraf told reporters that Pakistan's custodial arrangements for nuclear weapons and material are 'the best in the world' and that so long as he is in power 'Pakistan's nuclear weapons will be safe.'"

As I posted earlier, Musharraf is holding on to power by a thread and US politicians like Hillary Clinton and Bill Richardson and endeavouring to undermine what little control he has left.

Allison points to the real threat of corruption in the Pakistani government as a source of concern:

"The design of Pakistan's nuclear control system creates risks of insider theft. This system addresses first and foremost Pakistan's fear that if India, its archenemy, knew the location of the country's weapons it could launch a pre-emptive attack that eliminated them. The notion that there are sophisticated electronic locks on all Pakistani weapons and that only Musharraf has the codes just isn't credible. Were that the case, an attack that killed Musharraf could eliminate Pakistan's ability to retaliate. Instead, Pakistan has dispersed its weapons and distributed oversight to multiple strategic and security authorities. But these arrangements by necessity increase the likelihood that corrupt officials could successfully divert weapons or materials."

It is no secret that the Pakistani government is riddled with corruption and, even worse, Islamic radical sympathizers. The risk is nothing to scoff at as it stands today. Now remove Musharraf from the situation and you understand just how vulnerable the country is right now. There is exactly one - that's right, one - man standing between al-Qaeda and Pakistani nukes and that is General Musharraf. Hillary's characteristically parochial approach to foreign policy would be absolutely disastrous to the health of Musharraf's regime and, as a result of the instability his failure to retain power or legitimacy in Pakistan would cause, could more than feasibly lead to terrorists packing dirty bombs.

Of greatest concern, of course, is the threat that Pakistan poses to North America. Musharraf's decidedly pro-Western policies have been a crucial element in the US government's avoidance of major conflict with the Islamic state. Without the General at the helm of the country, Pakistan would quickly descend into anarchy and warlordism and it would then become impossible for the West to ignore the threat such a state would pose. Calls for revamped democracy from the leftists in North America are supremely unhelpful, with all this is mind, since democracy in Pakistan would be a death-blow to Musharraf's rule by providing power and legitimacy to socialist and jihadist political parties. The biggest advantage of Musharraf's rule is that his policies do not reflect in any real way the spirit of the people of his country.

As the article explains:

"The larger society [of Pakistan] has a decidedly negative view of the United States. In a 2007 Pew poll, two out of three Pakistanis named the United States as the greatest threat to their country."

Anti-Americanism (and don't think that gets us off the hook, Canada!) has never been stronger in Pakistan and with Bhutto's assassination, anti-Musharraf sentiment is becoming dangerously popular as well. A worrisome combination by any measure.

Those are just the highlights of the article. Read it in its entirety if the subject interests you.

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