March 4, 2019

India/Pakistan Conflict

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

Hostilities escalated rapidly [between India and Pakistan] following a suicide car bombing on Feb. 14 that killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police in Indian-controlled Kashmir… Indian warplanes carried out air strikes on Tuesday inside northeast Pakistan’s Balakot… [and] Pakistan retaliated on Wednesday with its own aerial mission…

“The flare up appeared to be easing on Saturday after Pakistan handed back a captured Indian fighter pilot on Friday night.” Reuters

See past issues

From the Left

The left believes both countries share some responsibility for continued tensions in Kashmir, and urges them to reach a permanent peaceful resolution.

“What led that young Kashmiri man, Adil Ahmad Dar, to become a suicide bomber who brought South Asia to the brink of war?... Handlers from the Jaish-e-Muhammad, the Pakistani terrorist group behind the attack, exploited the young man raised in a pitiless war. But the structural violence and political repression in Kashmir are equally responsible for turning Mr. Dar into a weapon…

“His father told a reporter that he often spoke about the day a group of policemen stopped him on the way back from school and made him circle their vehicle while rubbing his nose on the ground. During mass protests in Kashmir in 2016, when Indian troops killed about 100 protesters and blinded several hundred, Mr. Dar was shot in his leg… India and Pakistan blame each other, each country obsessed with proving itself better than the other, but they share the responsibility for reducing Kashmir to a ruin and destroying generations of Kashmiri lives.”
Basharat Peer, New York Times

“Pakistani officials are unwilling or unable to challenge the violent sway of underground, anti-India groups… Jaish was banned in 2002 after it attempted to assassinate the country’s military ruler at the time, Pervez Musharraf. But prosecutors and judges have been reluctant to aggressively pursue or punish militant leaders because of their religious influence and military ties.”
Pamela Constable, Washington Post

Nevertheless, India’s use of air power inside Pakistan for the first time since 1971 “represents a major departure from existing norms of engagement between the two sides… The model of America's operation against Osama-bin-Laden — daring, precise, effective — was hard for Indian leaders to resist. Indeed, to do so given that America used it to such good effect against a similar adversary residing in the same country would have been an admission of impotence… [But] having now upped the ante, India is going to have a hard time dialing back its future response

“Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan… has counseled calm and, in a show of maturity and goodwill, [returned] the Indian pilot captured from an attack plane that Pakistan downed. However, it is unclear if Khan or his successors will be able to maintain such composure if India makes a habit of encroaching on Pakistani sovereignty to hunt down terrorists.”
Shikha Dalmia, The Week

“The nuclear-armed rivals have been here before, many times, and the fact that they’re now in yet another conflict can mean only one thing: that their past actions haven’t worked for either country – and most definitely not for Kashmir. It is time for the two states to give up their intransigent positions.”
Mirza Waheed, The Guardian

“The main question about the strike isn’t moral or even legal—it’s strategic. Soleimani was a supremely powerful leader of a state apparatus, with his own cult of personality, but he was not a terror kingpin. His death doesn’t decapitate anything. He had the blood of tens of thousands of people—overwhelmingly fellow Muslims—on his hands, but he was only the agent of a government policy that preceded him and will continue without him…The only reason to kill Soleimani is to enter a new war that the United States can win… [Yet] No one seems to have thought past the action itself…

“What would [a] war [with Iran] look like? How will Iran fight it? How will the U.S. respond? What credible allies will we have, after Trump’s trashing of the nuclear deal thoroughly alienated Europe? Who will believe any intelligence about Iran’s actions and intentions from an administration that can’t function without telling lies?…What is our war aim, and how can it be aligned with Trump’s obvious desire to be rid of any entanglement in the region? What will happen if Jerusalem becomes a target and Israel enters the conflict? What will the American people accept by way of sacrifice, when nothing has prepared them for this? There’s no sign that anyone in power, least of all the president, has even asked these questions, let alone knows how to answer them.”
George Packer, The Atlantic

“By declaring that the United States will respond with airstrikes to any attacks on American targets or assets, Mr. Trump is drawing a bright red line that Iran cannot cross. And yet, Iran relies on a network of proxy actors from Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Must they all respect Mr. Trump’s red line? There are plenty of hotheads in those proxy forces that will be incensed by the assassination, the same way young men with weapons and minimal discipline often are… Mr. Trump can’t keep an entire region from crossing his red line, making violent conflict all the more likely if the president holds to it…

“It is crucial that influential Republican senators like Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Mitch McConnell remind Mr. Trump of his promise to keep America out of foreign quagmires and keep Mr. Trump from stumbling further into war with Iran.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

From the Right

The right criticizes Pakistan’s support for terrorists and worries about the potential for future escalation.

From the Right

The right criticizes Pakistan’s support for terrorists and worries about the potential for future escalation.

The underlying problem here is that Pakistan won't stop supporting terrorist attacks on Indian soil. Although recent former Pakistan army chief Raheel Sharif and the former head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Naveed Mukhtar showed true leadership taking the fight to terrorists on their soil, powerful cabals of the mid-senior ranks of the security establishment are constantly acting to restrain these efforts.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

“The time has come to cut Islamabad loose and recognize Pakistan for what it is: a state sponsor of terrorism… Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI, tips off jihadists in Afghanistan and elsewhere to help them avoid U.S. actions… [and] provided safe haven to the Taliban and other jihadists…

“India, in contrast, is the most natural of U.S. allies, and not only or even principally because of its robust democracy and increasingly global economy. The facts on the ground are this: India is a country with China on one side and a world of bloody-minded jihadists on the other; its two most consequential foreign-policy variables are also our own.”
Kevin Williamson, National Review

Some, however, point out that India’s “airstrikes are more likely to embolden Pakistan’s army than force its hand. The army’s credibility rests on a narrative that sees Pakistan as under permanent threat from its belligerent Hindu neighbor. This case fits the narrative like a glove: an oppressed Kashmiri Muslim kills 40 Indian occupying soldiers, and India wrongly blames Pakistan…

“The airstrikes’ intended audience, given their foreseeable limited costs on Pakistan’s military, was thus most likely commentators in Delhi and voters… [By that interpretation], the airstrikes were a success. In their aftermath, an editorial in the influential Times of India praised Modi for making it ‘amply clear to Pakistan that it will hit back quickly and impose costs,’ while Bollywood stars flooded Twitter with nationalist messages.”
Max Frost, American Enterprise Institute

Many predict that “the next India-Pakistan crisis will be worse… Having demonstrated they are comfortable engaging in increasingly provocative uses of military force under the nuclear umbrella, they will have an incentive in the future to go up a few more rungs on the escalatory ladder to try to achieve goals that couldn’t be achieved further down that ladder…

“If New Delhi wants to pressure Pakistan into rethinking its decision to provide support to India-focused terrorists, then it will need to turn to measures more muscular than a few airstrikes. Likewise, if Islamabad wants to pressure India into rethinking its policies in Kashmir, it too will need to turn to something more aggressive than a few airstrikes.”
Michael Kugelman, The National Interest

It’s worth noting that “conservative ideas were much more popular when not associated with the Republican party. In Washington State, voters narrowly rejected bringing affirmative action back to state contracting and university admissions…

“In Seattle, the self-proclaimed socialist city-council member appears to have lost her seat to a pro-business challenger. In Colorado, voters gave fiscal conservatives a big win by rejecting letting the state keep any tax revenues above the state spending cap, money that the state Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights currently guarantees as refunds to taxpayers. In Sussex County, N.J., voters approved, by a 2-to-1 margin, a referendum directing the local freeholder board to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Washington, Colorado, New Jersey — notice these are places where Republican candidates have had no luck lately.)”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“While running for president in 2000, George W. Bush derided ‘nation building’ and said American foreign policy should be ‘humble’ rather than ‘arrogant.’ As president, Bush brought us the disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq… While running for president in 2007, Barack Obama rejected the idea that the president has the authority to wage war without congressional authorization whenever he thinks it is in the national interest… As president, Obama did that very thing in Libya… A few years before his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump said the U.S. should withdraw immediately from Afghanistan… As president, he sent more troops to Afghanistan…

“Three men with little or no foreign policy experience entered an office where they were surrounded by experts, and they quickly shed their initial skepticism of military intervention… we should worry about a president with little knowledge of the world whose military decisions are driven by anger or domestic political considerations. But it's not clear to me that such a president poses a bigger danger than the experts who have been disastrously wrong more times than we can count.”
Jacob Sullum, Reason

On the bright side...

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