Pakistan may lose the war in Afghanistan
It is not likely that the new book on Charlie Chan (Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History by Yunte Huang) contains the aphorism, "War like bamboo; once started, hard to contain," since, among other reasons, I just made it up. Still, that happens to be the case, and for proof of that just look at what is happening to Pakistan. It may lose the war in Afghanistan.
Pakistan teeters. Today's Post says that the Obama administration now frets about that nation's stability. The Pakistani military is making those low, growling noises that precede a coup or an attempt to place yet another civilian at the head of the government. At the same time, the government that remains is making a show of slapping down NATO for the occasional air strike that kills Pakistani civilians. As with the drone attacks, the government pretends abhorrence -- but would find their cessation even more abhorrent.
The problem with Pakistan is Afghanistan. The war next door has pushed the Taliban into the rugged no-man's land of Pakistan. NATO, meaning mostly the United States, chases the Taliban there, spreading the war and helping to destabilize a country that was already on the edge. This could have been foreseen. It is what happened in Vietnam. The war there spread to both Cambodia and Laos. To say that both governments were destabilized is to compliment the Khmer Rouge. They were imploded.
The classic example of a war that got way out of control is, obviously, World War I. Before your knew it, the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo resulted in Turks and Arabs duking it out in the Arabian desert and Brits and Germans even fighting in Africa. All of Europe got involved, and so did its colonies and former colonies way away from the Balkans. Aussies and Kiwis fought at Gallipoli, which was not only a long way from Tipperary, but on the other side of the globe from Canberra.
Now a new book, Richard Overy’s "1939: countdown to War" shows that not even Hitler knew how to contain war. I say "not even" because early on Hitler was assumed to be in control of events. It was his war. He started it, and it was assumed he wanted it. Not so, Avery says. Hitler wanted a wee war with Poland, a minor dust-up that would have given him Poland and the Danzig Corridor. He absolutely believed that the British and the French would chicken out, as they had done at Munich. Of this, he was assured by his foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop. When they instead issued an ultimatum, "Hitler turned to Ribbentrop with a savage look and asked, "What now?" Overy writes.
Britain and France had had it with Hitler. They had a commitment to Poland, and they were going to honor it. Hitler was both shocked and shaken. He had assured his generals that the war would be contained and that, in fact, the pact he had signed with Stalin had virtually assured a limited war. He was wrong, disastrously so as far as his generals were concerned. They did nothing about it, of course. The plot against Hitler came much later -- much too late.
It may not be always thus, but it is often thus. Wars have a way of spreading. The chaos of violence is not containable. This is what's happening in Pakistan on account of a war that President Obama didn't really want to fight in the first place. NATO can't win this war. Afghanistan can't win it. But Pakistan sure can lose it.
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