Monday, July 24, 2006

A conflagration devoutly to be wished

It is difficult to know what to make of the recent observation that Pakistan is upping the nuclear ante. But one thing is sure to result: increased tension in an already fractious part of the world.
Pakistan has begun building what independent analysts say is a powerful new reactor for producing plutonium, a move that, if verified, would signal a major expansion of the country's nuclear weapons capabilities and a potential new escalation in the region's arms race.
There are a lot of "coulds" and "woulds" in here, but if in fact this new reactor is just what is claimed, a weapons-grade facility (Musharraf is a military dictator), I don't think we and the Indians have anyone to blame but Washington and New Dehli. The Bush administration will probably fret about this development and say that they "didn't see it coming" -- quite likely since they seem uniquely gifted with an artless ability to not understand the principle of action/reaction. This is exactly the response that was imagined after Bush visited New Dehli and stroked India's nuclear knob, while refusing to give the reach around to Musharraf, a so-called valuable ally in the War on Terra. Indeed, The Times of India believes that, if China is not already involved in this project -- hardly likely given that China is already helping Pakistan maintain their extant reactors -- they soon will be. And the reason, of course, was the US-India nuclear deal:
If Pakistan is under the scanner for trying to amass nuclear warheads, the world should also look at China's help to Islamabad in setting up a new nuclear reactor at its Khushab nuclear site, sources said.

The Chinese move to assist Islamabad on this issue might stem from repeated requests from Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf and Beijing's own misgivings over the recent Indo-US civil nuclear deal.

Beijing is already involved in actively assisting Pakistan in building and maintaining its existing reactors.
Curiously, WaPo makes no mention that China is involved in any of this. But there is, of course, a much larger context to this potential nightmare scenario and I highly recommend Cernig's in-depth post on the subject, America's Next Big Foreign Policy Disaster.

And just as it dawns on officials that the Iraq "experiment" is over -- an unmitigated disaster -- Afghanistan lurches toward Taliban rule again. And while the Middle East is aflame and the push toward Tehran has begun, Pakistan and India are most certainly going to become bitterly entangled. And there is nary the slightest consideration in main that the Bush administration has been at or near theh center of all these smoldering heaps of conflict, fanning the emergent flames or, in the case of Iraq, completely unable to put them out.

But one thing certain to come of this: US defense contractors are going to make out like bandits.


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