From Iraq to Pakistan

I was hoping to comment on John Robb’s latest at length, but I’ll have to be brief as I have a looming deadline.

Robb begins by noting that the present picture in Iraq isn’t pretty.

The only US “success” in the “surge” was to accept the regional dominance of the open source insurgency and rebrand them as “legitimate” militias.

There is considerable truth to this. And yet this “rebranding” has helped reduce communal violence, and it offers the prospect of a broader reconciliation of some nontrivial number of militias to the idea of settling their disputes through politics.

After Robb’s characteristically grim (and, frankly, very convincing) analysis of the present situation in Iraq, he goes on to describe the next flashpoint, Pakistan.

Al Qaeda’s departure from Iraq frees it up for a new focus on Pakistan, where it will:

* Extend the reach of the Taliban supported tribal revolt in the northwest territories into the major cities. * Hit social and infrastructure systempunkts (critical nodes), as demonstrated by the attempted assassination of Benazir Bhutto. The intent of these attacks will be to create cascades of disorder that sweep the country. * Manufacture a plausible promise (a compelling act that demonstrates the viability of further warfare) of an open source insurgency that will cobble together hundreds of violent groups unearthed through waves of disruption.

The most potent Iranian threat, to my mind, is the threat of total state collapse. Pakistan is much closer to collapse, flourishing economy aside. Keep in mind that Pakistan has long suffered from urban terrorism, and that much of Baluchistan is in open revolt against the government. The Pakistanis have done a truly impressive job of muddling through. The question is, what do we do when things go (further) south?

I say: we hide under the bed.

Actually, I somehow think Pakistan won’t erupt. Call it a hunch. Please call me on this when it does.