Saturday, April 21, 2012
While the American mainstream media wrestles with the semiotics of George Zimmerman's bail hearing, it largely ignores news that will have vastly greater consequences.
India successfully test-fired on Thursday a nuclear-capable missile that can reach Beijing and Eastern Europe, thrusting the emerging Asian power into a small club of nations that can deploy nuclear weapons at such a great distance....This is an important development not only for those of us who believe that the world needs a counterweight to China, but also for security in the Indian Ocean, now the most important body of water in the world. As I have been writing for years, the further development of our young but productive relationship with India is quite possibly the most important foreign policy requirement of the next five presidents of the United States.
Only the U.N. Security Council permanent members - China, France, Russia the United States and Britain - along with Israel, are believed to have such long-range weapons.
When a good history of the George W. Bush years is finally written, his breakthrough with India may turn out to be the most important foreign policy initiative of his administration. The Indian Ocean hosts lanes for the oil from the Persian Gulf and an ever larger share of its trade, and India sits in the middle of it. It is also the geographical center of transnational Islamic terrorism. It is essential that the United States maintain a strong deterrent in the Indian Ocean, and that it preserve and enhance its ability to coerce whatever clown revue happens to be governing Pakistan at the moment. India is the key to both.The question for the world, of course, is whether an Indian strategic nuclear deterrent is stabilizing, or destabilizing. The large and long term answer depends in part, but not entirely, on one's view of Chinese geopolitical ambitions, not just now but in a world where China might wish to exert leverage over the supply of oil coming out of the Persian Gulf. Regarding Pakistan, an Indian missile might be destabilizing if it encourages further weapons development. The last thing India (or the world) needs is a strategic arsenal in the hands of a government that might flip in to jihadi control. Presumably the Indians considered that risk, and concluded that a long-range missile would not increase Pakistan's motivation to develop its own strategic nuclear capability.
I'm not convinced Pakistan has the economic or technical wherewithal to develop a strategic nuclear weapon, missile or otherwise (in some respects, it already has access to strategic nuclear weapons--suitcase bombs aren't that hard, and their reach is global).
I'm also not convinced Pakistan has the political interest in developing a strategic nuclear weapons. It's enemies are nearby: India, an uncertain Afghanistan, an uncertain Iran. It already has adequate (though it would like more) nuclear weapons capable of reaching India (and so the others), their primary concern. An Indian strategic weapon, shooting over Pakistan, presents no added threat worth the effort to counter.
The arms race will be between India and the PRC, and when it's fully engaged, the Pakistanis will have no capacity to keep up, regardless.
As to whether a nuclear arms race between India and the PRC would be stabilizing or destabilizing, I think that's a bit of a non sequitur. The arms race between the US and the USSR wasn't very much of either; it was just expensive to the point it destroyed one of the competitors.
I actually think that strategic nuclear weapons were stabilizing, as between the Soviet Union and the United States. Without them, there almost certainly would have been a third world war, and (in all probably) Europe at least would have been destroyed for good. Of course, the price of that stability was the possibility of a global cataclysm, but it turned out well in the end.
"The arms race will be between India and the PRC, and when it's fully engaged, the Pakistanis will have no capacity to keep up, regardless."
And I think that all the hand-wringing about what is "stabilizing" and what isn't is ossified Cold War reasoning. "Stability" was championed, theoretically, because anything else would 'tip the world into war,' as TH said.
But that's absurd. There was an enormous amount of warfare during the Cold War: Grenada, Iran-Iraq, Lebanon, Israel in 73, 67, and 48, Korea, Vietnam and the other local SE Asian regions, the Suez Crisis, Afghanistan, Africa, Latin America, the Chinese Civil War, Pakistan and India several times, and so on. Entire nations were born, destroyed, and split apart with coups, civil wars, and revolutions aplenty, including in Europe. Tens of millions of lives were destroyed. There was no stability at all, except in the narrow definition that NATO and the Warsaw Pact didn't fight an overt conflict (but there was plenty of shooting, I promise).
As far as strategic arsenals as 'stabilizing' forces, I think it's been pretty conclusively demonstrated (in game theory and Cold War history) that that is true IF both sides have secure second strike capability. Without that, a first strike may succeed and may even be likely to succeed so that a rational actor who sees war coming has incentive to attack preemptively with nuclear weapons.
This is one of the reasons that the USSR and US signed an actual treaty forbidding the placement of nuclear-launch submarines off the coasts of one another's territory, and the Russians actually followed it; a Russian sub could theoretically set up 20 miles off the coast of Maryland and nuke the Pentagon in about two minutes. That was an unacceptable strategic risk.
No such "hands off" gentleman's game is possible between Pakistan, India, and China. They are immediate neighbors. Their game takes on a whole new color.
On the bright side, nuclear weapons are less dangerous long term than popular understanding thinks they are.
"There was no stability at all, except in the narrow definition that NATO and the Warsaw Pact didn't fight an overt conflict"
It wasn't quite that narrow, from the standpoint of Europe. Even taking into account Bosnia/Serbia, Chechenya, and some of the anti-Soviet uprisings in the captive states total European casualties from 1945 until, well, now have been trivial compared to the cataclysms that engulfed the continent from 1914-1945. You are right though that the conflicts were essentially pushed out to the Third World.
An interesting question might be whether this comparative peace in Europe was the result of mutual deterrence or simple exhaustion from the devastation of the two World Wars.
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I think the option with respect to the Cold War is economic and moral exhaustion by Europe. The bloodiest wars for "National Liberation" took place in Asia and Africa, largely in former colony states of Europe where the Europeans were either too weak or too stupid to manage the situation (Viet Nam, the Congo, Angola, Nigeria). And the millions killed in the Chinese "civil war", from the war between the Reds snd the Nationalists, to the end of the Cultural Revolution.
It is also notable that there were no major wars and only a few "national liberation" skirmishs in the New World (Cuba, Nicaragua, etc.).
"It is essential that the United States maintain a strong deterrent in the Indian Ocean, and that it preserve and enhance its ability to coerce whatever clown revue happens to be governing Pakistan at the moment."