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.”


  1. Dr Leo Strauss says

    New Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich on Monday said Polish participation in U.S. plan is being re-evaluated in Warsaw. Klich just came to power with a new government in recent elections . . . perhaps Novak can find a way to blame a Clinton “agent”.

  2. Comment says

    Don’t the czechs realize that they are just a plot device for future remake of Tinker Tailor?

  3. Dr Leo Strauss says

    The Czechs, it seems, were less than thrilled about the U.S. invitation to bring the Russians back into the Czech Republic after 40 years of occupation:

    From AFP:

    “A photo-montage on the front cover of Monday’s edition of the current affairs weekly, Tyden, showed Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek on all fours like a dog. The lead was held by US President George Bush, pictured chatting with his Russian counterpart.

    “American treachery,” proclaims the headline.

    After initially making no comment on Gates’ suggestion, Topolanek quickly specified that only Russian observers, not soldiers, might be permitted at the facility.”

    Meanwhile, a suicide bomber kills 7 1/4 mile from Mushareff’s HQ.

  4. Comment says

    Perhaps not knowing prosciutto would be ideal – Even better would be someone who did not know Savoy was more than a hotel. But did it happen. Again, we think it’s possible, but unlikely. Another reason to doubt the anecdote is his reference to Luttwakk in a context too near to his mocking Scheuer. Luttwakk had earlier ridculed the Agency for hiring Mormans and “Cow College” graduates who lacked the savoir fair (to eat prosciutto!).
    He could have come up with a better more plausible anecodote to make his point. One a little bit less over the top.
    But this is why George Bush is everyone’s favorite gentleman warrior.

  5. says

    Amusing that the neocons should mock someone for not knowing what prosciutto is; this is, after all, the movement that places less value on practical field knowledge than anyone since the Know-Nothings.

    Recall the witchhunt against “Arabists”, the career of Michael “Iran expert who’s never been to Iran” Ledeen, Goldberg’s efforts to deny that Juan Cole can speak Arabic. Mitt Romney’s thing about temporary French weddings. I would have thought a CIA man who could spend two years in Rome without encountering prosciutto would be their ideal; fresh meat.

  6. Comment says

    We know intelligence has been captured by Cheney – But has it been tortured beyone recognition? We think so.

  7. DrLeoStrauss says

    Charlie Rose:

    I know you know this. That’s one of the questions that has arisen within this administration with the vice president and his office whether intelligence has been captured.

    Gen. Michael Hayden:

    Captured — how do you mean captured?

    Charlie Rose:

    Well, captured, whether the vice president has his own intelligence and whether the vice president, you know, is a different figure in terms of — and you’ve seen this up close, because you were the deputy to John Negroponte when he was a director of national intelligence.

    Gen. Michael Hayden:

    Right. No. I mean all policy-makers come to the creation of policy with their own personal histories, with their own view of man, with their own view of the world, with their own view of the best possible approaches that the republic could have. We’re part of that mix. We bring a view of the world into that — into that conversation.

  8. A Random Quote says

    Section (23) Annex A and the classified Continuity Annexes, attached hereto, are hereby incorporated into and made a part of this directive.

    Section (24) Security. This directive and the information contained herein shall be protected from unauthorized disclosure, provided that, except for Annex A, the Annexes attached to this directive are classified and shall be accorded appropriate handling, consistent with applicable Executive Orders.

  9. A Random Quote says

    “Enduring Constitutional Government,” or “ECG,” means a cooperative effort among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the Federal Government, coordinated by the President, as a matter of comity with respect to the legislative and judicial branches and with proper respect for the constitutional separation of powers among the branches, to preserve the constitutional framework under which the Nation is governed and the capability of all three branches of government to execute constitutional responsibilities and provide for orderly succession, appropriate transition of leadership, and interoperability and support of the National Essential Functions during a catastrophic emergency.
    ~Provision 2E, NSPD-51

  10. Comment says

    “What’s prosciutto?” – never seemed to gain any traction as an anecdote in the meme-sphere. That may mean that people doubt its credibility because otherwise it would make for a good sneer-type put down in a pundity knife fight.
    How often is that Agency personel go on such domestic Italian restaurants missions, after returning from Rome? Why not the Bureau? If that “diplomat” was a suspected spy, then it seems that would make more sense then and be more legal.
    Schoenfeld makes some good points, but his attack Agency diversity seems misplaced – even though it is easy to make cheap shot arguments against affirmative action. Heaven forbid that the Agency reflect the public they serve – Does he really want a bunch of chilly wasps running Langley? Maybe he should think that thru. Take that advice, Gabe – But leave the cannoli …..

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