Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Don't Buy That New Atlas Just Yet

The way things are going today's Atlas might be out of date before you know it, at least from the Middle East to the Caucasus.

Georgia seems about to look a lot lighter with the loss of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as "independent" republics under Russian protection.

Oh yeah, then there's the Crimea. Maybe you haven't read about this one but there's a move afoot by the Russian-leaning Crimean peninsula to say "no" to a Ukraine enlisted in NATO. That would, of course, leave Sevastapol, whose port is under lease to the Russian navy until 2017,under Russian control and eliminate any ideas of a viable Western presence in the Black Sea.

But wait, there's more.

Afghanistan, as we know from our Furious Leader's recent tacit admission of failure, remains very much in play. It's not just the Taliban any more. Other tribes are beginning to turn on Kabul as well. We've long since gone from "liberator" to "occupier" in the minds of the locals and, as Petraeus himself noted in his counterinsurgency field manual, once you lose your moral legitimacy in a guerrilla war, you've lost the war. Shit, oh dear!

It wasn't supposed to be this way. It was supposed to be a strong American military presence in Iraq and a strong American military presence in Afghanistan with Iran caught right in the middle. Like all half-assed plans, this one doesn't seem to have worked out as hoped.

You see there's Pakistan messing up the gears. Ah Pakistan, a classic example of a Western attempt to hobble together disparate tribes into a modern country. Ouch! Think I'm kidding? Look up the history behind the country's name.

Pakistan is somewhat less than the Western ideal of a stable, nuclear power. But we cannot sort out Afghanistan until we overcome the refusal of the Pakistanis to do our bidding in the untamed tribal homelands. Here's where we begin to run out of options.

One of these is to try to pursue al Qaeda and the Taliban into the agencies, particularly Waziristan, as US special forces have done a couple of times recently. It sounds like a plan except it infuriates the Pakistani people and turns them against us. That's why their military has issued orders to fire upon Western forces who show up inside Pakistan.

Maybe we should just wipe out the Pakistan military. Trouble is it's too large and far too well trained to be taken lightly. It's not at all a pushover outfit like Saddam's army was in 2003. And then there's that business about Pakistan's nukes. Add to that the inconvenient fact that America's ground forces have been all but trashed by the protracted nonsense in Iraq and you've got a problem, but that's just the start.

Pakistan, if pushed too hard, could jump into the other camp. I'm talking about the Shanghai Cooperation Organization or SCO, the ascendant East's equivalent of NATO for the 21st Century. Guess who else is trying to get under the SCO's skirts? You're right - Iran. Best get that map out again.

Think of these numbers. Kabul to Islamabad - 374 km. Kabul to Tehran - 1614 km. Kabul to Moscow - 2,095 km. Kabul to Beijing - 4,183 km. Kabul to Washington - 11, 134 km. Get the picture?

Paskistan already has observer status at the SCO. So does Iran. That's sort of like the touchy-feely deal Washington is forcing NATO into with Georgia and Ukraine. Is this beginning to sound blurry? It is.

Back to the map. Take a look at Afghanistan. Now imagine it isolated, surrounded on all sides by decidedly anti-Western Iran, Kazakhstan and Pakistan under the protection of Russia and China. Do you begin to see the picture? Hell, all China would have to do is to announce it would refuse to buy any more American debt. It doesn't have to raise a gun barrel to inflict crippling damage on the West. We can hardly grouse about it, we put that little weapon in their hands.

For more than two centuries Asians and South Asians have borne the yoke of Western domination. If you were in that situation, how would you feel about that?

Sorry, folks, but I think we may must have screwed the pooch this time. The Atlas, the one we created, may be about the change.


Altavistagoogle said...

Just use a digital Atlas. There isn't anything inherently wrong with borders changing.

Even VP candidate Joe Biden one mused that Iraq should be split into three. And VP candidate Palin once supported independance for Alaska!

LeDaro said...

Dominos falling all over, including US economy, and in the general region of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Kazakhstan and even Iraq in a way that it does not favour US anymore and favours Russia and China. Bush the Chimp did it by jumping all over the globe, causing mayhem and changing the game may be forever, towards the fall of US empire. Your analysis is very realistic.

The Mound of Sound said...

No, AVG, there isn't anything inherently wrong with borders changing - in those extremely rare instances when it's not accompanied by armed conflict.
I'm not sure that Biden's wrong either. The three-nation scenario may have already been set up thanks to the incorporation of the constitution of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region (or Kurdistan as realists call it) into the Iraqi federal constitution. The Kurds have a couple of primed grenades in their constitution that now tick away embedded deep within the Iraqi constitution. Sooner or later - BOOM. See Kirkuk.

And I fear you're right, LD, things are beginning to fray all around the edges. We may not have foreseen it but this sort of thing is actually quite common in the midst of global power transitions.

What astounds me is how we never seem to see these things coming. We still see the world as it was in 1980.