Sunday, November 11, 2007

Secret Plans

The US has "secret plans" to secure Pakistani nukes in case the country falls into the wrong hands, according to a report by the AFP.

The United States has secret contingency plans to safeguard Pakistani nuclear weapons if they risk falling into the wrong hands, the Washington Post reported Sunday.

But US officials worry their limited knowledge about the location of the arsenal could pose a problem, it said, a week after Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency.

"We can't say with absolute certainty that we know where they all are," one unidentified former US official told the newspaper, adding that any US effort to secure Pakistan's nuclear arsenal "could be very messy."

The messiness is probably inherent in a situation where you have to trust someone to help you take something away from himself at the moment when he loses control of himself. The problem is similar to taking away a gun from somebody when you've decided he's gone nuts. The need for cooperation will be greatest just when it is least likely to be afforded.

Senator Joseph Biden provides an insight into Washington's thinking.

"I'm very concerned about it. Not immediately, but over the next year to two years," Senator Joseph Biden, a Democratic presidential contender, said on CNN.

Biden, chairman of the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, said the United States needed to shore up anti-Musharraf moderates or risk seeing Pakistan go the way of Iran three decades ago.

That sounds suspiciously like a program for a controlled regime change; one in which the Pakistani Army's power over politics is reduced while simultaneously ensuring that the "right" persons come to power. Taken together with the need to keep Pakistan's nukes from falling into the wrong hands it seems like the political equivalent of yanking a tablecloth from underneath a set dinner without spilling the soup.

Two questions immediately arise in this regard. First: what levers of power can the United States avail of to pull off this result? Are US diplomatic and intelligence assets equal to this task? Second: the security of the nukes is probably best achieved sooner, rather than later. It is probably unwise to wait until Pakistan slides into chaos before taking decisive steps because by definition a country slipping into anarchy provides progressively fewer options to intervene peacefully.

Whenever a person is afflicted with a progressively degenerative disease prudence requires that all arrangements be undertaken before the patient slips into a coma or dementia. Similarly, preparing a "secret plan" to secure the Pakistani nukes when things become "too bad" is like waiting for a person to get full-blown Alzheimer's disease before getting him to settle his estate. Maybe a nonsecret, open approach to the problem would work better.

The opposition and the Army could together sign a consensus pact which would place nuclear weapons in an agreed state of storage. International guarantees could be made to protect those storage areas from a pre-emptive strike by India. This would be the equivalent of a national Pakistani program to store all the dynamite in designated places in place of having sticks of it lying around in secret places. It would be like a Living Will executed by a patient who suspects he might be losing his faculties.

This would have the effect of addressing the security fears about Pakistani nukes early. By moving its resolution forward to a time when the Pakistani state is still relatively stable, the uncertainties inherent in dealing with a possibly collapsing state can be avoided.

Richard Armitage asserts that everything is under control -- for now.

Richard Armitage, who as deputy secretary of state led the US effort to get Musharraf on board the anti-terror struggle after the September 11 attacks of 2001, dismissed fears over the safety of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.

"You know as well as I do that that nuclear arsenal is one, dispersed, and second, carefully guarded by the army," he told CNN.

"Now we have had, historically, discussions with the Pakistani army about the safeguarding of those nuclear weapons," the former official said.

"So I think in the short or even medium term, should things turn badly, we are not going to worry about nuclear weapons in the first instance."

This may in fact be the time to initiate strong political action. Now, while things are still under control.


Blogger davod said...

Of course Armitage would know this how? Isn't he out of government.

11/12/2007 02:17:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

He's got Credentials:
He and Powell put Libby and the country through that damaging phoney Plame Fiasco when he knew but did not tell, even in time of War.

11/12/2007 03:28:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Who really knows?
Prediction is very hard, especially about the future.
- Yogi Berra

11/12/2007 04:08:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

I'm waiting for somebody on the DailyKos or DemocratUnderground to proclaim that Pakistan doesn't really have WMDs. It's all a Bush Lie in order to seize their oil!!!

Happy Veteran's Day.

11/12/2007 05:12:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Victor Davis Hanson on what to do about Pakistan

11/12/2007 05:16:00 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

Could we get India to agree to a similar "Nuclear Escrow" option? I think that would go a long way to getting Pakistan's agreement.

Putting the nukes out of play would also make Pakistan a less attractive target for attacks and instability.

11/12/2007 07:18:00 AM  
Blogger brough said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11/12/2007 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger brough said...

Leg Before WMD!

it would be more akin to taking a terminal cancer patient's last bullet.

Pakistan essentially relinquishing her sovereignty does not seem like something that will encourage stability. Not that they are in any way entitled to nukes, but if they admit they can no longer safeguard them, to the extent that nuclear security is a graver threat than India (which is in some ways seen as a threat to Pakistan's very existence), they're screwed. They already pulled tens of thousands of troops away from the Indian line according to some reports, which seems destabilising enough. Once internal security overtakes priorities you have reached a tipping point.

Who knows maybe their Saudi paymasters will be the next ME country to harbour a cargo ship full of 'sand' for safekeeping.

The story about the 'snatch squad' seems to be perennial.

I won't be worried until there are stories leaked to the media to the effect that "we know where they are, and have to consider the possibility that we will have to recover them"... ie, "could you move them around, please, so we can see where they are? thanks. :/ (Hey! we can read a Rickshaw's green glow from space.) "

11/12/2007 10:04:00 AM  
Blogger davod said...

It doesn't matter what the US plan is. I don't see Pakistan relinquishing its weapons.

11/12/2007 01:32:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...


I don't think you can ask a sovereign country to relinquish its weapons. But is there some prospect of pressuring Pakistan into improving its "command and control" over them? This might have some appeal to a broad spectrum within Pakistan. Consider that if some of the nukes get loose the first targets might be domestic. Moreover, India would probably be reassured if it knew the probability of the nukes accidentally falling into the wrong hands would be reduced.

One might add that China and Russia, both of whom have problems with their Muslim minorities, might take an interest in ensuring an improvement in command and control.

11/12/2007 01:51:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

desert rat said...
"In other news, Senator Kyl (R< AZ) writes to Ms Rice, concerning India and it's relationship with Iran.

India's willingness to keep doing business with Ahmadinejad's government is jeopardizing U.S. congressional approval of the nuclear accord negotiated by President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Democrats and Republicans who backed the arrangement a year ago are expressing dismay over India's pursuit of a natural-gas pipeline, military-training program and other projects with Iran that they say undermine efforts to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.

``The potential support that existed at one time I'm not sure remains,'' says Senator Jon Kyl, an Arizona Republican who supported the U.S.-India accord last year. Kyl co-signed a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in September, complaining about India's dealings with Iran.

Those apprehensions, on top of political resistance in India, threaten Bush's quest to deepen ties with the world's most populous democracy. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates the India deal might bring $100 billion in nuclear-technology business to companies such as General Electric Co.

While our number one ally in the War on Terror, Pakistan, is reportedly ready to sign an agreement on the "Peace pipeline" with Iran, tomorrow.

Pakistan is where Mr Bush's legacy will be written.
Mon Nov 12, 06:16:00 PM EST

11/12/2007 07:13:00 PM  

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