« To One and All.... | Main | "The Mendacity of Hope" Richard Cohen »

01 January 2008

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

JohnS

This is interesting. From McClatchy:

NAUDERO, Pakistan — The day she was assassinated last Thursday, Benazir Bhutto had planned to reveal new evidence alleging the involvement of Pakistan's intelligence agencies in rigging the country's upcoming elections, an aide said Monday.

Bhutto had been due to meet U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., to hand over a report charging that the military Inter-Services Intelligence agency was planning to fix the polls in the favor of President Pervez Musharraf.

Safraz Khan Lashari, a member of the Pakistan People's Party election monitoring unit, said the report was "very sensitive" and that the party wanted to initially share it with trusted American politicians rather than the Bush administration, which is seen here as strongly backing Musharraf.

More here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/homepage/story/24001.html

Yohan

I don't understand why the fact of ISI or other official Pakistani support to the Taliban to this day is nowhere to be seen in the US press but is so obvious to anyone on the ground in Afghanistan or border Pakistan, and has been for years now.

Sydney

It is only now that I am learning about Bhutto. I have written a synthesized post of recent news on my site http://skcvoyager.blogspot.com/2007/12/implications-of-benazir-bhuttos-death.html
But your comments, really do open up something that I had thought about before. Her connection with the U.S. I knew she was backed by US govt, but I didn't know the reasons why. But if the US govt is backing somebody there is definitely a reason. Your comments puts many things into perspective. I have link your post to my site. Thank you Richard

mike

So whatever happened to Generals Aziz, Gull, and Nadir. Where did they end up after they were relieved. I can't imagine them tending roses or refereeing cricket matches in their retirement.

mike

PS - Off topic, Colonel, but have to say the The VMI Regimental Band and Pipe Band looked sharp in the Rose parade this AM. Shenandoah never sounded better. First time I have heard it done on bagpipes, is that a VMI tradition??? My wife was worried though that one of the swordsmen leading the band was going to chop his ear off when he got in the spirit and started strutting.

W. Patrick Lang

mike

The Band is a company in the regiment of cadets and so the fellows with swords would have been cadet company officers. Yes. Occasionally someone "pinks" himself in the ear. Oh, well..

The pipers have been around for about 30 years. "Shenandoah" has always been a favorite in the corps of cadets. "Balm in Gilead" is another and of course these days thay play "The Bonnie Blue Flag" a lot. If they could escape the bonds of their PC elders, they would play something else. pl

Saleem Siddiqui

Listen to the conversation from a Muslim analyst on the political ramifications on the War on Terror in Pakistan.

Coverage of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
http://www.hotconflict.com/blog/2008/01/benazir-bhutto.html

Andy

This discussion and the other thread made me open my copy of Ghost Wars in which I found this passage on Bhutto's first foray as PM in 1988:

Pakistan's newly elected prime minister was Benazir Bhutto, at thirty-six a beautiful, charismatic, and self-absorbed politician with no government experience. She was her country's first democratically elected leader in more than a decade. She had taken office with American support, and she cultivated American connections. Raised in a gilded world of feudal aristocratic entitlements, Bhutto had attended Radcliffe College at Harvard University as an undergraduate and retained many friends in Washington. She saw her American allies as a counterweight to her enemies in the Pakistani army command - an officer corps that had sent her father to the gallows a decade earlier.

She was especially distrustful of Pakistani intelligence. She knew that Hamid Gul's ISI was already tapping her telephones and fomenting opposition against her in the country's newly elected parliament. Stunned by Zia's death, the Pakistani army leadership had endorsed a restoration of democracy in the Autumn of 1988, but the generals expected to retain control over national security policy. The chief of army staff, Mirza Aslam Beg, tolerated Bhutto's role, but others in the army officer corps - especially some of the Islamists who had been close to Zia - saw her as a secularist, a socialist, and an enemy if Islam. This was especially true inside ISI's Afghan bureau. "I wonder if these people would ever have held elections if they knew that we were going to win," Bhutto remarked to her foreign policy adviser Iqbal Akhund on a flight to China in 1989. Akhund, cynical about ISI's competence, told her: "You owe your prime ministership to the intelligence agencies who, as always, gave the government a wishful assessment of how the elections would - or could be made to - turn out."

It's alleged that despite purges, many of those in the Afghan bureau still exist and still support Islamist elements both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Maybe after two turns as PM they decided to ensure she would not have a third....

Frank Anderson

There are at least a few reasons to question the rush to judgment that ISI is behind Bhutto's murder. There are multiple suspects with equal of great motive, means and opportunity.

It's certainly risky to base any conclusions re ISI on the comments of their rivals in Indian intelligence.

Richard's comment that Benazhir took ISI out of the job of supporting the Taliban in 1993 is questionable in light of Taliban history. They didn't appear on the scene until 1994. When they did, it was Benazhir and her police force, not ISI, that supported them. They did so simply to protect Pakistani trucking interests (much owned by the Bhuttos) who needed a force to get their cargoes safely across Afghanistan.

It might also be useful to remind ourselves of the Bhutto family history. The old man was not a clean handed martyr when he was executed (not assassinated). Benazhir's brothers were terrorists who lined up with our Soviet "rivals." ISI is by no means the only or even the most likely suspect in the poisoning death of her brother, Shahnawaz. The evidence is strongest that it was Benazhir and her police allies who killed the other brother, Murtaza in 1996. (He'd become a politcal rival and had set up a rival PPP.). There was no indication of ISI involvement.

The idea that Benazhir had a serious intention to "do more" about jihadis in the frontier provinces is questionable. The proposition that she would have had more motivation or capability than the Musharraf regime to do so is close to laughable.

Sauron

Mushraff is the CEO of Terrorist Inc. in an Armani Suite. He pretends to have switched sides, he was bullied as he says in his book for what 12 billion $ of aid over 5 years . He and his ISI were caught red handed after 911, with no other choice. He signed on to play pretend game for a pay than get bombed. All the weapons he bought with this aid are all to fight India not terrorism. After all he and ISI are Terrorism inc. ISI is comprised of Pakistan military officers moon lighting through. Point being Pak military and ISI are also connected.
Mushraff has not closed down any madrassas, remember them the terrorist indoctrination centers funded with Saudi petro$ aks charities. Over last 5 -6 years I am sure hundred thousands of graduates are itching to blow something somewhere, or renamed as Taliban.
What he really wants? To Islamize south Asia in the long run, a reason why pakistan itself was created ,and in short run control of Afghanistan directly or its proxy Taliban.
The only confusing part is how this is in US interests.

Mad Dogs

While the witless talking heads in most of the Broadcast MSM propound about the Great Surge Success in Iraq, about the smell of a wee bit of smoke in that forgotten place Afghanistan, they now witlessly pontificate about whether it was a bullet or the sunroof lever that did Bhutto in.

I don't place Richard Sale in the witless category. Not at all!

The Broadcast MSM constantly promotes the idea that the American Public has a short-attention span, so they must of course, present us with nothing more than a corporatized YouTube sliver of "if it bleeds, it leads."

After all, a picture is worth a thousand words, isn't it? NOT!

The fact is that it is the Broadcast MSM which has the short-attention span.

In-depth reporting like Richard's is far too weighty to fit between Broadcast MSM commercials, so it rarely if ever sees the light of day.

Thank doG for the blogosphere!

W. Patrick Lang

All

I think it should be noted that FA was the boss ofthe Greek guy in the movie. pl

Cold War Zoomie

If any of you folks are like me, the complicated interplay between so many groups in this region makes my head spin.

Here's something that helped me understand the ISI a little better:

Jane's Article from 2001

My memory is that Jane's is pretty darn good at digging up the truth.

The main point that popped in my head while reading Mr. Sale's post, as well as other info scattered around, is "why" - why would the ISI support the Taliban?

This helped me understand even more...

In 1996 he [bin Laden] returned to Afghanistan from Sudan, forced to leave that country under U.S. pressure. The motivations for these ongoing connections among the Taliban, ISI and bin Laden made for an interesting case of "I scratch your back if you scratch mine"-- or, as I prefer to view it, an "unholy trinity."

By 1996, small Arab groups in Afghanistan had linked up with the warring Taliban, cemented ties with Pakistani religious radicals, particularly groups associated with the Jamiat-e-ulema-Islam, a political party closely allied with the ISI. The purpose for Pakistan was to unleash an uprising against Indian-occupied Kashmir, long contested by the two subcontinent rivals. Guerrillas for Kashmir were recruited from the same talent pool of JUI seminaries supplying young fighters for the Taliban against the Northern Alliance.

To avoid Indian detection, the ISI conducted much of the training for its Kashmir campaign in Afghanistan, with the cooperation of the Taliban. In turn, several camps were placed under bin Laden's control for the use of the terrorist network he was creating for his own longer term goals:...

AFSA Article by Arnie Schifferdecker

These articles make sense to me. It sure does smell like an inside job.

Col, looks like you and Mr. Schifferdecker would have crossed paths at some time. Can you lend any credence to what he says in that article? Sad to say, he's gone.

Now it's becoming clear why you posted that picture of "Archie Duke" in your original post back in October.

Mad Dogs

Frank Anderson said: "Richard's comment that Benazhir took ISI out of the job of supporting the Taliban in 1993 is questionable in light of Taliban history."

Richard's comment did not say what you think he said.

Read it carefully: "When she became PM again in 1993, Bhutto followed the custom of letting an Lt. General of the Army head the ISI. But she transferred the handling of operations supporting the Taliban from ISI to the Interior Ministry."

The date of 1993 refers to when Bhutto became PM. The date of 1993 does not refer to when she transferred Taliban support from the ISI to the Interior Ministry.

This transfer occurred after 1993. Hence you have conflated 2 different events.

Additionally, you've made some authoritive statements of your own such as: "Benazhir's brothers were terrorists who lined up with our Soviet "rivals."" (My Bold).

Terrorists? Can you cite authoritive sources for such a claim? I'm not ready to dispute such a claim, but I would like to know from whence it came.

And this claim of yours too would do for some substantiation: "The evidence is strongest that it was Benazhir and her police allies who killed the other brother, Murtaza in 1996. (He'd become a politcal rival and had set up a rival PPP.). There was no indication of ISI involvement." (My Bold again)

Who says Benazir killed or had killed, her last brother?

Who says that there was no indication of ISI involvement?

Again, your statements may all be true. But without citing your own sources, you cannot expect us to disclaim the truth of Richard's report.

Jose

If Mr Sale is correct, then our current Dumdya administration is way over its head with this mess, so 48D's unlike 48G's, enlighten the neocons sooner, rather than latter.

Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent's fate. - Sun Tzu

Cold War Zoomie

For everyone's enjoyment:

GWU's National Security Archive Taliban File

I've used these guys in the past, but had forgotten about them. Lots of FOIA docs, redacted of course.

Cheers.

bob randolph

Frank Anderson's post begins to clear away some of the haze that the MSM has gullibly published to maintain the myth of BB as Pakistan 's martyred democracy princess. The BB brothers, Shawanaz and Murtaza were indeed terrorists who hi-jacked a PIA plan to Soviet Controlled Kabul in 1981. A young military officer on the plane was murdered during the hi-jacking.

Only one brother, Shawnawaz, was poisoned in France.

Murtaza survived to become a bitter enemy of his Brother-in-law and BB's husband, "Mr. 10 % Zardari." Murtaza returned to Pakistan in 1996 to challenge his sister for control of the family political heirloom, The Pakistan People's Party (PPP). Murtaza was ambushed and assassinated outside his home in September, 1996 by individuals who were quite obviously police or government security forces. BB's involvement in the assassination is murky, but she was quite openly involved in the cover-up and, as Prime Minister, made no effort to bring the perpetrators to justice.

BB was removed from power in November, 1996, and she and her husband, Zadari, subsequently went into exile where they were followed by money laundering and corruption cses brought by the authorities in Spain, England and Switzerland.

The best exposition in English of the shenanigans of the Bhuttos and the events that led to the return of BB to Pakistan and her subsequent assassination was recently penned by Tariq Ali in the December 2007 London Review of Books in an article entitled "The Daughter of the West.". http://www.lrb.co.uk/v29/n24/ali_01_.html#postscript.
In the article, Ali uses the metaphor of the “arranged marriage” to explain how it happened that Bhutto returned to Pakistan to share power with Musharraf. This marriage between these two people who loathed and hated each other was brokered by Condi and Negroponte in an effort to save the US bacon in Pakistan. Ali presciently predicted that the probable outcome of such an arrangement would be “misery and possibly violence.”

Ali writes mostly truthfully and unusually beautifully to provide the facts and balance so lacking in the pablum regularly now being doled out by our MSM on the life and times and martyrdom of Pakistan's democracy princess. In the final analysis, as our MSM will not tell us, our leaders are bush leaguers at the "great game." I commend Ali's exposition and analysis to readers of this blog.

Clifford Kiracofe

Although I am no regional specialist, I have been out that way on occasion. My recollection from the late 1980s and 1990s, is:

1. The majority of the Taliban were Pushtun, (Hanafi, with many belonging to the Qadriya silsila of the saint Abdul Qadir Al-Gilani). They insisted they were not Deobandis or Barelvis. Omar is a Gilzai Pushtun and the number 2 back then Durrani was a Durrani Pushtun. Omar's decision to take action to promote "Islamic values" in Afghanistan is dated by some observers to September 1994.

2. Saudi Arabia financed many of the madrassas from which talibs emerged. There were clear Deobandi connections in some. Other outside interests financed various madrassas in Pakistan including: Libya, Iran, and Iraq.

3. Experienced Afghan war veterans integrated into the Taliban.

4. The able former UK High Commissioner to Pakistan, Sir Nicholas Barrington (fluent in Persian, Pushto, and Urdu), was "reportedly" quite active behind the scenes.

5. A cohort from Yunus Khalis' faction of the Hizb-e-Islami joined the Taliban. A cohort from Abdul Rasul Sayyag's Ittehad-e-Islami joined the Taliban.

6. The Paks, emboldened by the Taliban's success in "controlling" two-thirds of Afghanistan, then attempted to create an anti-Rabbani alliance of: the Taliban, Dostum, Hikmetyar, and Mojeddedi. But Hikmetyar bolted to Rabbani's side.

7. The Paks, with Benazir (PM 1988-1990 and 1993-1996) at the helm, shifted to launching overtures to both Rabbani and the Taliban. Benazir created a committee to deal with this new situation composed of: Major General Babar, Interior Minister; Ijlal Haider Zaidi, Advisor on Afghanistan; Major General Khurshid Ali Khan, Governor of NWFP; the Additional Secretary-Foreign Office, Iftikar Murshid, and representatives of GHQ and ISI.
For General Babar see Wiki at:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naseerullah_Babar

8. There was an energy angle to the Pak strategy involving access to Central Asian hydrocarbons/Turkmenistan and the well-known UNOCAL pipeline project.

9. But the Pak pro-Taliban policy increased regional tensions. India and Iran aligned and India aligned with the Central Asian states. Russia had some new opportunities.

10. Internally, the militant Islamist activity rose particularly with the threat of Qazi Hussain Ahmed to launch an "Islamic Revolution" and Maulana Fazalur Rahman and Samiul Haq keen to promote the Taliban way in Pakistan.

11. Nawaz Sharif (PM 1990-1993 and 1997-1999) changed Pak policy and shifted important responsibilities to the Foreign Ministry in an attempt to resolve issues through negotiation and diplomacy. Additional Secretary Murshid, a senior diplomat, had the portfolio. The Taliban regime was recognized by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.

12. US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright refused to give the House Foreign Affairs Committee access to documents relating to the Clinton Administration's Afghan-Taliban policy. A Congressmen on that Committee told me this in some detail a decade ago in his office.


All this was back a good 10-15 years ago so...plenty of time for reflection and the "lessons learned" bit....should be no surprises in all this at least for regional specialists. But W and Tinkerbelle don't seem to have any use for regional specialists....

Sydney Freedberg

"The NWFP was Bhutto’s political base..." -- surely there is a typo here?

Curious

BB obviously has no base within the military and Pakistan intel people. Even if she won election, I doubt she will survive assassination or ousted for corruption again. She's been out of the country for so long, she doesn't have her own info channel on security threat.

All in all this whole thing start to read like replacing bad guy with worst gal.

Well the damage has been done. now what?

- Musharraf is going to win that election.

- Condi's Pakistan ground crew is now completely screwed.

- Assuming Hillary is in office, the two will have patching up to do since Hillary was calling for investigation.

Let's see if Musharraf can keep Pakistan afloat and back on previous growth track.

First back envelop calculation is out.

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/JA03Df06.html

Early estimates put the loss in revenues in the economy in the days following the December 27 assassination at 50 billion rupees. According to one estimate, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) would need 2.74 billion rupees in additional receipts per day in the coming days to meet the 1.025 trillion rupee revenue target set for the current fiscal year, which runs to July.

The FBR faces lost collection of income tax, federal excise duty and other levies due to closure of banks and damaged economic activity. Further delay in the clearance of transshipment goods and cancellation of export orders will also cause revenue losses, which in turn could have a negative impact on development projects.

The present crisis may help to derail economic reform initiated under the administration of President Pervez Musharraf if political stability is not restored. The perceived risk of Pakistan defaulting on its dollar-denominated debt rose after Bhutto's death, with five-year credit default swaps, used to insure against restructuring or defaulting debt, widening by around 100 basis points on the news.

Harper

In response to Richard Sale's excellent analysis of the Bhutto assassination, I can add in the following observations and readings that I have gotten from USA and India-based informed contacts over the past several days:

I have indication that there were two kinds of outside meddling in Pakistan. First, the US bungling, just as you characterize it, was clearly a decisive factor in her return to Pakistan, walking into a death trap. Yes, she was played as a Washington pawn, which even further angered her long list of enemies in country. The whole idea of composing a "democratic unity government" with Bhutto, Musharraf (without uniform) and an American trained general was pure fantasy, a replay of the same "cakewalk" psychology that we saw in Iraq. There was also a British factor. This is more sophisticated "Great Game" stuff. Bhutto was always much closer to the British Labour crowd than Washington, dating back to her Oxford days, and her husband's corrupt business ties were more London than New York. The Brits are not naive and irresponsible the way Bush was. They have an agenda, including the breakup of Pakistan. They have their mind on Northwest Frontier, tribal areas, Waziristan, bordering Afghanistan and Central Asia. This is the area of Pakistan with the gas and oil, and Brits see the importance of having a toe hold there, to play a new Great Game with both Russia and now China over Central Asia. They are coming at it from a weak position, but their imperial pretensions are not to be ignored. A whole bunch of the Islamist gang have their international headquarters and support operations in London. Some see it as a quid pro quo so Brits are not targeted for terrorism from them. Others see a broader game, almost on automatic pilot, given their century or more of playing on that turf.

Some additional readings I have gotten on the Bhutto assassination from Indian military sources in New Delhi. They are looking closely at Hisbit Tahrir, an Islamic fundamentalist organization, headquartered in London, that has a very strong presence in Pakistan. Over the past seven years, since just before 911, they have been sending their people back to Pakistan, and into the Army. They now have a substantial penetration of the officer corp at the lower ranks, and have many people in Rawalpindi. A few months ago, there were a pair of suicide bombings at Rawalpindi. The bombers had the relevant codes to get inside the gates of the garrison city, meaning they were either in or close to people in the military. The codes are regularly changed, and in one of the two instances, the person had a code that had been changed several days before the incident and he was prevented from entering the city, and blew himself up at the gate, killing several people, along with himself.

This is not at all contradictory to the ISI angle, but may indicate a larger network at play here. Hisbit Tahrir is all over the Sunni world, is not listed by the British, the Americans, the Canadians or the Australians as terrorist, but the group is banned in all Sunni Arab countries, even Saudi Arabia, because they are fanatical proponents of the new Caliphate, and reject any kind of independent nations or kingdoms within Islam. The group recently held a rally in Ramallah (the founder was a Palestinian lawyer, member of the Muslim Brotherhood, founded the group in the 1950s) attended by 65,000 people.

One other added thought on Bhutto. Again, from senior India military people in New Delhi. Benazir was a shrewd and ruthless politician. She took over the Bhutto political clan after manuevering around her uncle and brother. She apparently did not spill any tears when her brother, who was a leftist hot head, was wacked by ISI. She is not, these sources, emphasized, someone who would take a huge risk. She stayed in self-imposed exile for eight years of Musharraf. She was well aware that if she didn't come back now, she would become increasingly more irrelevant to the power struggle underway in Pakistan. But she was also given very strong security guarantees from BOTH Washington and London. US security people I talked with right after her assassination were in total shock. There was a gigantic failure here, either by intent or fuck up. A senior Indian diplomat I met with this week in Washington was adament that it was "an inside job." ISI is obviously part of the equation, but I am also certain that there was some kind of close-in security screen of American and British personnel with her. I don't buy the Robert Novak story that Musharraf didn't let her bring in British and American private security.

FB Ali

I would caution against regarding Richard Sale’s piece as a reliable account of the recent history of Pakistan, or a good analysis of the current situation there (though his final words on Benazir Bhutto’s misadventure, which led to her murder, are an accurate assessment). Much sounder are the posts by Clifford Kiracofe and Bob Randolph. If someone wishes to get a good understanding of the situation in Pakistan I would recommend Barnett Rubin’s articles on Juan Cole’s other blog (Global Affairs). The latest one is at : http://icga.blogspot.com/2008/01/pakistans-power-puzzle.html.

Richard Sale’s last piece on this blog (on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, posted on 2 Dec 2007) was so far out that it seemed to me that he had been used by someone to spread deliberate disinformation. For a much more reliable assessment see this article in the Washington Post at about the same time : http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/01/AR2007120101618.html?hpid=topnews.

W. Patrick Lang

FB Ali

I would caution you, or anyone else against implying that I am involved in "disinformation."

My purpose in posting items written by anyone other than me is to stimulate discussion. My willingness to post them does not mean that I necessarily agree with them. pl

FB Ali

Colonel,

I did not at all think of you when I made that remark, nor do I believe that you would do anything of the kind. I hope no one thought that that was in any way implied.

My remark was directed at the possibility that Richard Sale's source(s) for that piece may have been trying to do that.

Clifford Kiracofe

OK, so instead of the Washington "wallowing in the mire" (2 Peter: 2:22/King James) perhaps a rethink of policy is in order.

Seems to me a US policy aimed at reducing regional tensions and promoting economic development and integration is in order.

Last time I thought about the subcontinent prior to giving a talk, in Berlin of all places, touching on US relations with the region it occurred to me that the US has been out there (as the US) since 1782 when we loaded a ship under Danish colors at Serampore near Calcutta. Our ship "The United States" which cleared Philadelphia March 24, 1784 reached Pondi at 6 PM December 26, 1784 and was the first under US flag.

Of course, a New Englander Elihu Yale was out there as of 1672 and became the Governor of Madras. Having myself visited the museum there some two decades ago, I noted some of his possessions on display including a very large pewter plate.
http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/mp/2004/05/10/stories/2004051000220300.htm

For starters, rather than violently oppose the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline project, why not support it and get some US companies involved?

The "Yalie" Decider (Boolah Boolah, Skull and Bones, and all that) and Tinkerbelle might do better on this tack.

David Habakkuk

FB Ali

Thanks for the reference to the Washington Post article on the Pakistan nuclear arsenal.

There was certainly one sentence in the piece on the subject by Richard Sale which does sound as though someone is trying to put a very optimistic gloss on things:

'So while the nukes of any country are allegedly in danger of hijacking, apparently the new safeguards are such that the slightest error in procedure renders the weapon null and void, a system much like the one the Russian used with their portable nuclear weapons systems.'

One of the world's leading experts on nuclear command and control is the former Minuteman launch control officer Bruce Blair, currently president of the World Security Institute.

In a commentary last November Blair raised a range of troubling questions about claims made by the U.S. permanent representative at the U.N. Conference on Disarmament, Christina Rocca, about the alert status of U.S. nuclear forces. One of the claims Blair disputes relates to the security of safeguards against accidental or unauthorised launch. In fact, he writes, there is 'reason to believe that state and non-state actors, including terrorists, may be able to exploit weaknesses in these systems of control by physical or informational means, heightening the risks of unauthorized or accidental launch.'

If there is reason to believe that controls are less than foolproof in the case of the U.S. -- where an enormous amount of thought and money has gone into trying to make them foolproof -- then it is hard not to be somewhat skeptical about suggestions that they are secure in the case of other nuclear powers. Certainly there is still a great deal of reason to worry about the security of the Russian nuclear arsenal, and I would imagine the same would be true about that of Pakistan. (About the British, I am ignorant!)

This and other commentaries by Blair are available at http://www.cdi.org/program/issue/index.cfm?ProgramID=32&issueid=110.

Quite clearly, there are deep inherent tensions between what is called in the jargon 'negative control' -- preventing unauthorised use -- and 'positive control': ensuring that instructions to launch nuclear weapons will be implemented. The imperative of 'negative control' suggests that the launch of nuclear weapons should be physically impossible without the relevant instructions from the top political command; the imperative of 'positive control' suggests the physical ability to launch nuclear weapons needs to be delegated sufficiently far down the chain of command to make a knock-out first strike impossible.

In his 1993 study The Logic of Accidental Nuclear War, Blair showed how the bias of the American system was towards guaranteeing positive control, while that of the Soviet was towards guaranteeing negative control. It seems to me that similar tensions between conflicting imperatives must be being confronted by nuclear war planners in the subcontinent. My worry would be that fears over the security of their arsenal from enemy attack may end up driving planners towards stressing positive control over negative -- and in the process increase the risk of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of jihadists.

Another related fear is that strategists on the subcontinent may take too seriously the theorising of Western academics about the virtues of nuclear 'deterrence'. I started out taking the virtues of these academic theorists very seriously. Subsequently -- largely as a result of encountering Blair's work -- I realised that most of these theorists did not take adequate account of the operational difficulties facing nuclear planners.

A key problem was precisely the vulnerability of the command and control systems on which 'positive control' depends. As a result, while the U.S. strategic posture was supposed to be based upon notions of an assured second strike retaliatory capability, the actual posture was one of launch on warning: as also was that of the Soviet Union. As Blair further demonstrated, the interactions of two command and control systems postured for launch on warning, in a crisis situation, are quite capable of generating catastrophe.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

December 2020

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31    
Blog powered by Typepad