Saturday, September 27, 2008

War Number Three

What is it called when one country's military invades another country and that other country's military fights back? The term "war" usually comes to mind. Using that line of thinking, Andrew J. Bacevich (professor of history and international relations at Boston University) makes the case that the US has initiated a third war, this time against Pakistan, in his op-ed piece in today's Los Angeles Times.

Prof. Bacevich describes the foolhardy rush by the Bush administration to embrace former President Musharraf as an ally in the Global War On Terror. Musharraf, who took power in a military coup, was only too happy with the new arrangement, especially since it involved billions of dollars of shiny new military equipment as part of the deal. Unfortunately, that military equipment wasn't used to weed out the Taliban and Al Qaeda forces nested in Pakistani's tribal regions along the border with Afghanistan. Instead, the Pakistani military was more interested in stockpiling the weaponry for the next battle with its traditional enemy, India. And then Musharraf (who didn't have enough of a grip on his own country) was toppled by an election. The Bush administration's response was entirely too predictable.

As measured by return on investment, Musharraf turned out to be a lousy bet. By the spring of this year, with Musharraf's days obviously numbered, the Bush administration abandoned its friend and ally. In doing so, it found itself without a policy as far as Pakistan was concerned.

To fill the void, Bush turned to the Pentagon. Nearly seven years into the Afghan war and five years into the Iraq war, Pakistan has become the next problem that the president intends to solve through the application of armed force. Without congressional authorization and almost entirely shielded from public view, a new war has begun.

Rather than a partner, Pakistan is becoming an area of operations. Even as Washington denounces Russia for violating Georgian sovereignty, U.S. violations of Pakistani sovereignty have become routine. The most commonly employed tactic relies on missile-firing drones to patrol Pakistani airspace and attack suspected Al Qaeda or Taliban militants. Yet there is also evidence of a growing willingness to put boots on the ground. On Sept. 3, in a widely reported incident, U.S. special operations troops raided a village in South Waziristan, leaving a dozen or more Pakistanis dead.
[Emphasis added]

Initially, such US incursions into Pakistan were claimed to be with the approval of the Pakistani government, but apparently that process became too onerous for the Pentagon, so a new executive order issued from the White House giving the US military the ok to just do what was necessary, the new and very fragile Pakistani government be damned.

And the results of this new war have also been pretty predictable. Pakistani soldiers have fired on US forces edging too close to the Pakistan border. The Pakistani military has claimed that it shot down one of the missile-bearing drones sent into the tribal regions. Sounds like war to me.

So, the next President will have three wars to contend with in January, not just two.

Heckuva job, George.

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