Growing Dangers Despite U.S. Billions Invested in Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan

Growing Dangers Despite U.S. Billions Invested in Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan

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Those who so jubilantly celebrated Osama bin Laden's demise may be surprised to discover that America's position in Pakistan and two of its neighboring countries remains just as untenable and dangerous as ever.

Three countries which have received billions in U.S. foreign aid -- Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan -- made the top ten list of the world's failed states, in a survey conducted by Foreign Policy magazine.

Moreover, Transparency International reports that Iraq and Afghanistan are just about the most corrupt countries in the world -- edged out only by Myanmar and Somalia -- among the 178 nations rated. Pakistan ranks 143, just slightly better than Haiti and Iran.

When a state fails to provide adequately for its citizens, corruption, theft, bribery and extortion become acceptable means of conducting business. Meanwhile, receiving decent education and healthcare becomes next to impossible as the professional classes flee in droves. Those who remain, reasonably and otherwise, point the finger of blame at America.

Iraq, for example, has seen 12,000 of its 34,000 physicians pick up and leave the country. The ratio of teachers to students in Afghanistan is one to 200, while Afghan poppy fields provide 95 percent of the world's heroin. Given these numbers, it would be absurd to think that the U.S. dollars being poured into these countries, instead of ending up in the pockets of their debased rulers, are going to build clinics and schools.

According to Foreign Policy, "Three million Pakistani civilians were displaced by 'counterinsurgency' operations in 2009—the largest single movement of people since the Rwandan genocide." The raid to kill bin Laden, purported to have been without the knowledge, let alone consent of Pakistani authorities, has eroded the confidence of Pakistanis in their own government even more.

And yet more alarming, Pakistan, unlike Iraq and Afghanistan, is a nuclear power. According to a recent report by the Congressional Research Service, Pakistan has 60 to 90 nuclear warheads, which can be delivered by "aircraft controlled by the Pakistan Air Force, and surface-to-surface missiles controlled by the Pakistan Army." The aircraft in question are American F-16 fighters, which have been modified for the purpose.

While the Bush Administration resorted to the Big Lie of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to invade that country, and succeeding administrations have sanctioned Iran for its nuclear power development, Washington keeps largely silent about a country on the brink of chaos with a verifiable nuclear arsenal.

Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), answerable to no one, is a predatory, opportunistic organization with a deeply ingrained culture of cynicism bordering on psychosis.

It created the Taliban and supports them still, along with certain al Qaeda elements, even as they operate inside Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan. With close ties to a military that controls the nuclear weapons, the ISI has twice leaked the identity of the CIA station chief in Islamabad in recent weeks, forcing the first one to leave the country, most likely in order to deflect attention from its own obvious role - independent of Pakistani government oversight - in helping the CIA locate and kill bin Laden.

It is frightening that such an organization, whose actions are consistently guided by self-serving rationalization, can influence the decision-making process that would commence a thermonuclear offensive.

The growing crisis in that region, as all major disasters, has multiple causes. It stems partially from America's consistent misreading of the region and its overriding interests in it, its oil and geopolitical riches, as well as abysmally poor populations within the region who give rise to the worst of leaders.

Even more dangerous than Pakistan's control of a nuclear arsenal is the growing power vacuum in an area of the world which extends from the Persian Gulf to the Caucuses and Central Asia--where numerous former Soviet republics have become nation states with Muslim majorities -- and from the Turkish border to the Indian subcontinent.

Should the war in Afghanistan spill into Pakistan beyond the border mountains, leaving the United States little choice but to solidify its hold over the landmass by launching the long-dreaded offensive against Iran, other world powers are not going to sit idly by.

Russia cannot remain eternally indifferent to the growing turmoil close to its southern reaches, while China may find the moment opportune to flex its considerable muscles. Even India, the other regional nuclear power, may jump into the fray, helping to create a conflict of global proportions to define our times in the most dreadful terms possible, just as two disastrous world wars defined the previous century.

Least helpful is to stage unilateral, feel-good spectacles to serve myopic political ambitions, such as the raid that killed bin Laden. These actions only give ammunition to America’s most vociferous detractors within the region who have long lambasted it for its willful posture.

Quite to the contrary, America must begin to act multilaterally, not only in conjunction with its European allies, but countries within the region, as well as such sleeping giants as China and Russia. As it stands, every step is being taken in the wrong direction with every promise to put the entire world in unfathomable peril.