“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Snatching Pakistan's Nuclear Arsenal

This is so audacious it would seem to be best left for Hollywood. It is inconceivable that there would be enough Pakistani military cooperation to make such a snatch and grab successful.

If we could not get bin Laden at Tora Bora, what chance do we have to capture 50-100 nuclear weapons, many disbursed on mobile missile launchers? We tried freeing US military captives in Viet Nam and US Embassy hostages in Iran, both failures.

There is no likelihood that there would be anything close to 100% cooperation. 70% would leave 15-30 nuclear weapons in hostile hands. Simple nationalism would deny cooperation with invading US forces, and a hot entry would worsen the welcome. Fantasy and wishful thinking are fine but Murphy rules.

Bush handed blueprint to seize Pakistan's nuclear arsenal

· Architect of Iraq surge draws up takeover options
· US fears army's Islamists might grab weapons

Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark
Saturday December 1, 2007
The Guardian

The man who devised the Bush administration's Iraq troop surge has urged the US to consider sending elite troops to Pakistan to seize its nuclear weapons if the country descends into chaos.

In a series of scenarios drawn up for Pakistan, Frederick Kagan, a former West Point military historian, has called for the White House to consider various options for an unstable Pakistan.

These include: sending elite British or US troops to secure nuclear weapons capable of being transported out of the country and take them to a secret storage depot in New Mexico or a "remote redoubt" inside Pakistan; sending US troops to Pakistan's north-western border to fight the Taliban and al-Qaida; and a US military occupation of the capital Islamabad, and the provinces of Punjab, Sindh and Baluchistan if asked for assistance by a fractured Pakistan military, so that the US could shore up President Pervez Musharraf and General Ashfaq Kayani, who became army chief this week.

"These are scenarios and solutions. They are designed to test our preparedness. The United States simply could not stand by as a nuclear-armed Pakistan descended into the abyss," Kagan, who is with the American Enterprise Institute, a thinktank with strong ideological ties to the Bush administration, told the Guardian. "We need to think now about our options in Pakistan,"

Kagan argued that the rise of Sunni extremism in Pakistan, coupled with the proliferation of al-Qaida bases in the north-west, posed a real possibility of terrorists staging a coup that would give them access to a nuclear device. He also noted how sections of Pakistan's military and intelligence establishment continued to be linked to Islamists and warned that the army, demoralised by having to fight in Waziristan and parts of North-West Frontier Province, might retreat from the borders, leaving a vacuum that would be filled by radicals. Worse, the military might split, with a radical faction trying to take over Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.

Kagan accepted that the Pakistani military was not in the grip of Islamists. "Pakistan's officer corps and ruling elites remain largely moderate. But then again, Americans felt similarly about the shah's regime and look what happened in 1979," he said, referring to Iran.

The scenarios received a public airing two weeks ago in an article for the New York Times by Kagan and Michael O'Hanlon, an analyst at the Brookings Institution, who has ties to the Democrats.

They have been criticised in the US as well as Pakistan, with Kagan accused of drawing up plans for another US occupation of a Muslim country.

But the scenarios are regarded with some seriousness because of Kagan's influence over thinking in the Bush administration as the architect of the Iraq troop surge, which is conceded to have brought some improvements in security.

A former senior state department official who works as a contractor with the government and is familiar with current planning on Pakistan told the Guardian: "Governments are supposed to think the unthinkable. But these ideas, coming as they do from a man of significant influence in Washington's militarist camp, seem prescriptive and have got tongues wagging - even in a town like Washington, built on hyperbole."

Kagan said he was not calling for an occupation of Pakistan.

"I have been arguing the opposite. We cannot invade, only work with the consent of elements of the Pakistan military," he said.

"But we do have to calculate how to quantify and then respond to a crisis that is potentially as much a threat as Soviet tanks once were. Pakistan may be the next big test."

The political and security crises there have led the Bush administration to conclude that Pakistan has become a more dangerous place than it was before Musharraf took over in the coup of October 1999.

One Pentagon official said last week that the defence department had indeed been war-gaming some of Kagan's scenarios.

A report by Kagan and O'Hanlon in April highlighted their argument.

"The only serious response to this international environment is to develop armed forces capable of protecting America's vital interests throughout this dangerous time," it said.

But in Pakistan, aides to Musharraf yesterday dismissed Kagan's study as "hyperbole".


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. well what would happen if paki's nukes just went off where they are by themselves?


    and yes... I still have a 50 cent bounty on hugo's ass..

    still not takers...

    I will now REDUCE my offer to 45 cents....

    btw, i did put 10 gallons of soy into the benz today and said my pagan prayer...

    dear gods of corn & soy,

    please shove a boot up opec's collective ass and cause them much pain and misery by not getting my cash for this fine clear cheap cooking oil!


    ps may the oil fields or iran, arabia and hugoville burn up if a hugh fireball...

  3. You can just see O'Hanlon and Kagan's eyes lighting up when they wrote it.

    Don't pay attention to it.

    Interesting intellectual enterprise, buts nuts and we know it.

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  5. Of course, the realization that we are in many ways completely helpless to events isn't exactly encouraging either, but we'll get used to it and adjust, hopefully...maybe...pretty please?

  6. Well, Dr. Michio Kaku, 1st in his class at Princeton or Harvard, PhD in physics U of Cal, Berkeley, one of our best physicists, said on the Art Bell Show last nite, we have about a 50-50 chance of making it through the century without a catastrophe, then said maybe less than that, in his view. Things are out of control for sure. We might have been better off letting the Soviets stay mired in Afghanistan, you never know. Counting on the saner wing of the Pakistani army, counting on MAD with Iran. I'm pessimistic, something's going to blow. We were supposed to have made some kind of deal with the Norks, with Chinese help, and we read Israel blowing up something in the desert that is connected somehow with the Norks. Things don't look good, alas, fanaticism and nukes, a perfectly demonic equation.

    Dr. Kaku however was upbeat on the new collider to be opened in Europe. Going to learn alot. Also thinks there's intelligent life out there somewhere. Life that's gotten through the discovery of U235. There's going to be a new SETI(search for extre terrestial intelligence, site up soon, too, you can help on your personal computor, look for ET)

    Life is strange.

  7. "Well, Dr. Michio Kaku, 1st in his class at Princeton or Harvard, PhD in physics U of Cal, Berkeley, one of our best physicists, said on the Art Bell Show last nite, we have about a 50-50 chance of making it through the century without a catastrophe, then said maybe less than that, in his view."

    94.5345% of statistics are made up.

    Judging by the last century, 50-50's a pipe dream.

    We'll live, almost certainly.

    It is amazing to think how much more eventful the past 3,000 or so years on this planet have been than the prior 4 or so billion. How many more billions is it going to be around?

    Long act to follow.

  8. The recent and very vague NYT and WaPo front-pagers on securing Pakistan's nuclear arsenal came from where?

    I do love me some anonymous "defense officials" out earning their pay.

  9. "I still have a 50 cent bounty on hugo's ass.."

    Good luck with that.

    Me, I have dibs on habu.

  10. Yeah baby, snatch and grab 100 nukes from an country with an army of 600 000 (a number not including air force, navy, paramilitaries, army reserves or police).

    And the other guy involved in the articles is O'Hanlon, who is damn fool by any measure.

  11. The president has already been badly burned once by the Cakewalk Crowd. Unless he wants to have another "helicopters abandoned in the desert" legacy he better table this motion.

  12. Sure thing. We can snatch the Pak nukes in a simultaneous attack on the Iranian nuke facilities.

    Hell, why don't we throw in a snatch 'n' grab operation to get the mullahs, Kim Jong Il, Putin and the Chinese government while we're at it.

  13. Unless he wants to have another "helicopters abandoned in the desert" legacy he better table this motion.

    Sun Dec 02, 07:59:00 AM EST

    What motion?

    The WH started this with its own reactive panic and fumbling leaks.

    Now everybody gets to jump on board.

  14. Writing in today’s New York Times, Frederick Kagan and Michael O’Hanlon discussAmerica’s military options in the wake of a possible collapse of Pakistan’s government. The authors start off sensibly enough by describing Pakistan’s insuperable conditions:
    After declaring that stabilizing Pakistan is beyond the means of the United States and its allies, the authors then go on to describe a U.S. military expedition to do just that:
    Messrs. Kagan and O’Hanlon are depicting a fantasy. The best way to stir up a large-scale civil war in Pakistan and ensure Pakistan’s conquest by radical Islamists would be to inject a large Western military expeditionary force into the country. Pakistani society is substantially anti-American; a large Western army inside the heart of the country would be a dream-come-true for the Islamists.

    Contrary to the authors’ assertions, the U.S. cannot accept responsibility for Pakistan’s political course. The U.S. military has no ability to influence Pakistan’s politics and would only make matters worse if it tried.


  15. "Yeah baby, snatch and grab 100 nukes..."

    You forgot - "find them first."

    Don't worry, it is almost certain that noone's going to attempt to pull this off. It's too crazy on its face.

  16. Given the likely circumstances under which Pakistan would fall apart, it also requires a sudden boldness that our government generally isn't in the business of. (I.e., in comparison to a "Rush to War" of 13 months.)