Twenty years after the End of History

Seymour Hersh has an 8 page article in the New Yorker which basically says that after nearly a decade of trying and despite any assurances from Washington, the nuclear weapons in Pakistan are far from secure. The wheedling, perpetually offended and self-righteous nature of America's ally is evident on every page alongside with Washington's self-deception to provide a Laurel and Hardy style tragi-comedy which would be hilarious if it weren't so sad. Here are some highlights from from the article:

In an actual crisis, would the Pakistanis give an American team direct access to their arsenal? An adviser to the Pentagon on counterinsurgency said that some analysts suspected that the Pakistani military had taken steps to move elements of the nuclear arsenal “out of the count”—to shift them to a storage facility known only to a very few—as a hedge against mutiny or an American or Indian effort to seize them. ...

Zardari offered some advice to Barack Obama: instead of fretting about nuclear security in Pakistan ... You should help us get conventional weapons,” he said. “It’s a balance-of-power issue.” ...

Leslie H. Gelb, a president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, said, “I don’t think there’s any kind of an agreement we can count on. The Pakistanis have learned how to deal with us, and they understand that if they don’t tell us what we want to hear we’ll cut off their goodies.” Gelb added, “In all these years, the C.I.A. never built up assets, but it talks as if there were ‘access.’ I don’t know if Obama understands that the Agency doesn’t know what it’s talking about.”

The former high-level Bush Administration official was just as blunt. “If a Pakistani general is talking to you about nuclear issues, and his lips are moving, he’s lying,” he said. “The Pakistanis wouldn’t share their secrets with anybody, and certainly not with a country that, from their point of view, used them like a Dixie cup and then threw them away.”

Tarar, who retired in 1995 and has a son in the Army, believed—as did many Pakistani military men—that the American campaign to draw Pakistan deeper into the war against the Taliban would backfire. “ The Americans are trying to rent out their war to us,” he said. If the Obama Administration persists, “there will be an uprising here, and this corrupt government will collapse. Every Pakistani will then be his own nuclear bomb—a suicide bomber,” Tarar said....

I flew to New Delhi after my stay in Pakistan and met with two senior officials from the Research and Analysis Wing, India’s national intelligence agency. (Of course, as in Pakistan, no allegation about the other side should be taken at face value.)

“Our worries are about the nuclear weapons in Pakistan,” one of the officials said. “Not because we are worried about the mullahs taking over the country; we’re worried about those senior officers in the Pakistan Army who are Caliphates”—believers in a fundamentalist pan-Islamic state. “We know some of them and we have names,” he said. “We’ve been watching colonels who are now brigadiers. These are the guys who could blackmail the whole world”—that is, by seizing a nuclear weapon. ...

Others are less sure. “Nuclear weapons are only as safe as the people who handle them,” Pervez Hoodbhoy, an eminent nuclear physicist in Pakistan, said in a talk last summer at a Nation and Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy forum in New York. For more than two decades, Hoodbhoy said, “the Pakistan Army has been recruiting on the basis of faithfulness to Islam. As a consequence, there is now a different character present among Army officers and ordinary soldiers. There are half a dozen scenarios that one can imagine.” There was no proof either that the most dire scenarios would be realized or that the arsenal was safe, he said.

The long and short of Hersh's article -- sensational as always -- is that nobody is quite sure how "safe" the Pakistani nukes are. "A senior Obama Administration official brought up Hizb ut-Tahrir, a Sunni organization whose goal is to establish the Caliphate. 'They’ve penetrated the Pakistani military and now have cells in the Army,' he said." The fact that Hersh could repeat many assessments, some of them wildly conflicting with each other is an indication that a lot of variables are in play. This suggests there is some probability greater than zero a scenario could come in true in which weapons could be taken over by a Pakistani "Major Hasan" and that the contingencies planned for the event would be just as effective as the recent response to the disturbance at Fort Hood.

The first decade of the 21st century is ending on a scene of uncertainty. The old comforting verities can no longer be taken for granted. The confident dreams which characterized the turn of the millenium are tempered by the idea that it may all vanish in an atomic cloud unleashed in the desire to return to the eighth century. America, which was once the sole superpower in the world, has unaccountably taken a vacation from the world. Perhaps not so unaccountably, but even Europeans, having long expressed their desire for a diminished America, are beginning to worry about the "missing President" -- nowhere to be found in the 20th anniversary commemoration of the fall of the Berlin Wall, nowhere to be found in Afghan policy, apparently indifferent to a resurgent Russia, impotent in the Middle East and on passively good terms with every dictator and authoritarian in the world.

Joe Loudon who was in Berlin on the day the Wall describes what has changed. History ended in 1989, but not quite in the way people thought. Fundamentally this generation of Americans and Europeans lost the will to pay for anything while its appetite for everything remained unabated. The eventual result was Barack Obama. In the next few years the heirs of the victory of the Cold War will get to live out the adage that one ought to be careful what one wants in case those wishes come true.

Now we have a new face of America. We elected Barak Obama, and he does not feel that moral duty to you as Reagan did, at least not enough to stand up to the shrill American voices that hate the American military. So he will not be there on November 9th to Celebrate the Fall of the Berlin Wall. I do not think he sees it the way you do. He will also not participate in the festivities on the campus of my College. Westminster College, in my State of Missouri, is where the great Allied leader Winston Churchill gave the Iron Curtain Speech. He told the World how millions of our fellow human beings were being stuffed into the cage, the very cage I was privileged to help dismantle. He had a way with words. On the campus of another American College he gave his shortest speech “Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give in.” But I digress.

Our new President believes that you are on your own. As the KGB agent-turned-billionaire, puppet master of the Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin conducts war games of an assault on Poland, Obama has decided to tear down the American missiles from Poland. We knew that he cared less as he promised to remove our protection from the Iraqi people. 150 of them were slaughtered just this week. He really wants to find a way out of Afghanistan and pull our soldiers out just as you are pulling your U.N. workers out right now.

So my new President will not be there with you, like John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan were there for you. He has other priorities. I really wish I could be there to celebrate with you. Unfortunately, with the passing of time, I have five children, our economy is bad, and I too, have other priorities. So I am sorry that my President, the American face to the World will not be there for you. I feel just a little better knowing that you asked America to give him to you. I hope you like him.


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