Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Given the Shiavo case and the shooting in Minnesota, it's a little unclear to me what kind of press our recent F-16 sale to Pakistan has received domestically. But overseas at least it's been predictably slammed. India isn't a fan for obvious security reasons, while both China and the EU are against it primarily for the principle of the thing: how can the U.S. protest arms sales to China on account of its human rights record, only to then turn around and sell even more sophisticated hardware to a country whose humanitarian record is worse?

The answer is that China has no negative to play against, but Pakistan does. By that I mean no credible internal threats to Chinese sovereignty exist, whereas there is one within Pakistan; public resentment towards Musharraf's current government is high enough that Islamic extremists could plausibly gain the support needed to oust that regime.

If this scenario seems far-fetched, bear in mind that extremists have already come close to ousting Musharraf himself. Fifteen months ago one assassination attempt very nearly killed him -- and if he were to go, it's likely his successor would employ far more draconian measures to secure his authority than Musharraf has. Needless to say, such a military crackdown would invariably exacerbate public resentment and so increase the likelihood of Pakistan resembling more Iran than India. Since Pakistan is already a nuclear power, this is not a comforting thought.

As a result, if Musharraf feels a few F-16s are necessary to secure the internal sovereignty of his government -- let alone his border with Iran -- then I'm inclined to let him have them. As China and India in particular should be aware (they share a border with Pakistan), when dealing with Musharraf's government, we could be dealing with far worse.


Post a Comment

<< Home