Some bloggers are as notable (or more so) for what they post in the form of comments on other people’s blogs as they are for what they post on their own. That’s true of Jeff Medcalf of Caedroia, for example. I’ve seen comments from Jeff on other blogs that are articulate, well-reasoned, and researched and, honestly should be posts of their own. That was also true of the blogger formerly known as praktike, now posting under his autonym, Blake Hounshell, at Foreign Policy.
I think it’s also true of Cernig of Newshog. If you’re not familiar with his work, Cernig is a reasonable fair-minded left of center blogger and I honestly think his comments are better than his posts. I may blogroll him for them yet.
Lately Cernig has been dogging me about why Americans are so concerned about Iran and not about Pakistan. Apparently, he isn’t alone:
IT HAS more than twice as many people as Iran, six times more than Iraq, many primed for Islamic extremism by a legacy of poverty and illiteracy left by decades of misrule by corrupt secular leaders, civilian and military.
It already has nuclear weapons, and ballistic missiles made with North Korean help. It shelters jihadists battling Western forces across its border, and fanatical cells training Muslim youth in Western countries to put bombs on buses and metros.
If Iraq has turned into a nightmare for the US President, George Bush, think about Islamists gaining power in Pakistan, population 166 million, and their hands on its nuclear arsenal.
Musharraf is trying to shore up an administrative system left by the British based on government political “agents” supervising the traditional maliks, while the Taliban’s parallel authority is spreading to “settled” areas of the North-West Frontier.
The “Talibanisation” of Pakistan itself is now a looming worry for the West.
Soon after he seized power in 1999 – ahead of being sacked by Sharif – The Economist magazine called Musharraf a “useless dictator”.
Seven years later, he hangs onto power without having achieved much in the way of reform, largely because the US regards him as key to keeping the Islamists out of power.
That is turning out to be another big misconception in Washington.
I think that there are a number of reasons that Pakistan gets a lot less attention from Americans, the American press, and me than Iran does. Iran is perceived as a greater threat.
Iran’s location in the Gulf and its previous attempts at disrupting traffic in the Gulf have redlighted Iran as a threat. In 1979 they seized and held our embassy and diplomats. Since then they have demonized us, declared war on us, and demonstrated against us.
Despite Iran’s population being half that of Pakistan its total GDP is significantly higher. Much of that income is in the form of oil revenues that go directly into government coffers. That government is obviously and unquestionably using those revenues for nuclear development, purchasing weapons, supporting terrorists. It’s doing so to the detriment of its domestic industries.
Iran’s government is theocratic and Islamist and our declared enemies. Pakistan’s is secular and, nominally at least and for the time being, our allies.
Iran is the Gulf’s regional superpower. With Iraq in chaos it really has no challengers. Pakistan shares a long, fractious border with India, which dwarfs Pakistan in population, size, economic resources, and military resources.
Pakistan is the only country I know of whose name is an acronym (Punjabi-Afghan-Kashmiri-Iranian-stan). Its intrinsic instability is simultaneously a source of concern and a reason it’s not a greater threat.
This is not to say that Pakistan isn’t potentially a problem. It is. An Islamist takeover in Pakistan would be enormously concerning particularly because of the country’s possession of nuclear weapons. So we should certainly have one eye on Pakistan as will its neighbors India and China.