Do Ya Think?

Fearing Chaos, U.S. Officials Review Stance on Pakistan

Published: October 21, 2007
WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 — The scenes of carnage in Pakistan this week conjured what one senior administration official on Friday called “the nightmare scenario” for President Bush’s last 15 months in office: Political meltdown in the one country where Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and nuclear weapons are all in play.

Franky, Pakistan will rise to the fore with this Administration only when it can be framed as a direct threat to Realm. Contra the claim of a future, ill-defined rogue Iranian missile threat to Europe, the collapse of political order/Al-Qaeda’s access to an existing, tangible, here today nuclear weapon via Pakistan has always been a more substantial clear and present danger to U.S. and European interests.

An emerging Pakistani/Al-Qaeda threat makes the reports coming out of NATO and Europe of the latest Administration bid to gain at least Russian non-opposition to our BMD boondoggle in the Czech Republic and Poland all the more interesting.

U.S. officials said the offer to Russia contained three main elements:

First, the antimissile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic would be deployed on the basis of threat. The United States and Russia would jointly decide the nature of the threat.

“Our missile defense program is threat-based,” said [assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, Daniel] Fried. “If that threat went away, or more realistically was greatly attenuated then obviously we would be much freer to make programmatic adjustments. Our program with the Poles and Czechs is threat-based.

“Russia is interested in this idea,” said Fried. “It has concerns about Iran, too. This could be a beginning in defining together the threats.”

The second element would involve Russian plans to build its own shield in Gabala, Azerbaijan, which Putin announced in July at a G-8 summit meeting in Germany in response to the U.S plan. Obering said “this could be linked up to the U.S. plan through sharing data.”

“By being able to share data across those networks, even at the very preliminary level, to be able to cut radars and that type of thing, you get increased capability,” Obering said. “Then, if you actually tie it to where you could get a radar data all the way through from one U.S radar, for example, or a European radar into the Russian system and vice versa, that’s when you start getting this expansion of capability.”

Third, Russia would also be able to monitor what the U.S. was doing in Poland and the Czech Republic, provided both countries agreed. The plan is that Russia could send liaison officers to these countries. “We said we would be in a position to offer things with respect to our own facilities and command and control elements,” Fried said.

The linkage of the shield debate to other issues represents a big change by the Bush administration which, until now, has had a splintered policy toward Russia over Iran, Kosovo and arms negotiations.

Even with State Department public face, the unusual coherence of this proposal clearly reflects Gates’ experience within the American policy making elite from the old arms control days. Gates understands the Russian/Soviet preference for intellectual coherence and discipline. He alluded to that in his recent speech at a Soviet/Russian military academy. Despite her putative expertise on things Soviet, one can only imagine the Russian bafflement at Condi’s outpouring of ineffectual, shatter shot chirpings.

The American offer we suspect still will in the end likley fail. Why? The entire effort is all about something else — installing an American tripwire further East and finding an outlet for billions of expenditures. We’ve written about the American motivations and regional reactions here. Sure, it’s nice to see an American diplomatic proposal featuring unexpected finesse; should the Russians reject the proposal, European qualms about proceeding notwithstanding are reduced.

The whole thing remains surreal given Pakistani instability with actual nuclear warheads versus some future hypothetical fear mongering over Iran. Sensible analysis of the situation might well conclude that the best response would be base the interceptors and radars in Turkey and Japan, supplemented by boost-phase tracking and possible intercept by AEGIS naval assets. And none of these will mean squat should Al-Qaeda merely put a Pakistani warhead in a truck.


An instructive lesson for us all on how modern day defense industrial economics intertwine with rigid policy fascinations and the spill-over into the real world. Rummy created the new Missle Defense Agency to give the whole BMD effort (and budget) some heft — despite the dubious technical underpinnings. But wasn’t just Rummy.

When we casually asked Cambone what he felt was the single most important transformational program then underway — this was during the war — of course without blinking he said “ballistic missile defense”. He met Rummy running the BMD Commission. He owed his position (and later Fall) to that BMD connection. But on September 11th, remember Cher Condi was slated to give a speech at SAIS. Her topic? BMD. Hadley et al. remain fixated. They all have it on the brain to an extent.

Billions continue to flow; jobs and lobbying are locked in. The technical viability still murky.

To show for it all, we now have holes in the ground in Alaska. These may be the most expensive working/non-working holes ever dug. And we want to dig more holes in Poland (the Czechs only will take the radars and turned down the interceptors). The money has to go somewhere.

The Poles? They really don’t care if they work — although that would be nice. Their requirement? Only that Americans man these holes and die should the Russians come West again.

One could be pardoned for thinking “It’s a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham.”