The News, September 21, 2008
Dr Farrukh Saleem
These are the most dangerous of times. The trajectory of events on the Pakistan-Afghan border has a shocking parallel to the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War had begun in 1959 and by 1966 -- seventh year of the war -- the Viet Cong had established safe sanctuaries across the border in eastern Cambodia. The Viet Cong crossed the border through the Sihanouk Trail; crossed the border to rest and to rearm.
For the following three years, a unit of US Special Forces conducted covert intelligence operations across the border. The collected intelligence was repeatedly presented to Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia. Inaction on part of Sihanouk resulted in a regime change whereby Lon Nol was brought in as the new president (Sihanouk ran to China and Russia for help). Cambodia under a new president, and American operations turned from covert to overt.
Look at how history repeats itself: the Viet Cong turned against the Cambodian army. Nixon entered the White House on 20 January 1969 and within a year ordered General Abrams to "launch American forces into Cambodia with the special objective of capturing the headquarters of the entire communist military operation…."
America killed 1.5 million Vietnamese at the cost of 58,159 of its own soldiers. Remember, the only force that pulled the Americans out of Vietnam was the American public opinion (because too many Americans were getting killed). Over the following three decades -- and a dozen wars later -- the Pentagon has learned to keep American casualties low. In Iraq, over a million Iraqis have lost their lives while US casualties stand at 4,159.
Iraq has been destroyed; destroyed for no reason, destroyed for weapons of mass destruction that didn't even exist. Imagine; if there is another 9/11 and it's traced back to Pakistan. They'll have a reason -- a reason to vaporize Pakistan. If they can destroy countries for no reason just imagine what they'll do if we give them a reason.
The Shireen Mazari-Imran Khan-Qazi Hussain Ahmed trio defines 'pro-Pakistan' as 'anti-US'. The trio can make us lose everything we have built by eating grass for the past 61 years. The trio can make us lose everything that's dear to us and everything that's near to us. The Munir Akram-Zamir Akram duo defines 'pro-Pakistan' as 'anti-India'. That definition is no longer in Pakistan's national interest.
The 'Great Game' will encircle us and then crush us, choke us, squeeze us and squash us beyond recognition. There are no morals or ethics on either side. The game is about containing China, and America has already recruited India and Afghanistan. On September 8, Indian army's Corps of Engineers completed the construction of a road by virtue of which Afghanistan now stands connected to Iran's Free Port of Chahbahar. On September 13, India blockaded Chenab River just when our Kharif crops -- cotton and sugarcane -- need water the most. On September 17, Air Marshal P K Barbora redeployed six of his most advanced Sukhoi-30MKI, heavy-class, nuclear-capable, air superiority fighters from Pune to Awantipur Air Base (the airbase is next to Srinagar). Now we have Su-30MKIs in the east, Hellfire air-to-ground missiles in the west and USS Ronald Reagan in the Arabian Sea.
July, August and September are proving to be the deadliest months for American forces in Afghanistan. America's GDP stands at $14 trillion; next in line are Japan, Germany, China and the UK. Imagine; the collective GDP of Japan, Germany, China and the UK is less than America's. The whole wide world outside of the US spends $500 billion a year on killing machines and soldiers. Imagine; the US alone spends $500 billion (China $59 billion, Russia $50 billion, Japan $48 billion, India $27 billion and Pakistan $8 billion).
For the past two decades, Pakistan's ISI has outsmarted all Indian generals by pining down India's 15, 9, 16, 14, 10 and 11 Corps in the northeast in a low-intensity, low-cost confrontation -- and Indian generals have failed to find a way out. General Deepak Kapoor, India's 23rd chief of army staff, would now love a way-out.
America has her own interests and India has her own. We must determine a path that is best for Pakistan. Eventually, we would have to decide -- proxy wars or regional economic integration. Our decision must be knowledge based as oppose to being honour based.
Postscript: we have no intention of either returning their F-16s, stop applying for US visas or deny their wheat under PL-480.
The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance columnist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org