More on the fate of the American Empire

Tomgram: Juan Cole, Empire’s Paranoia About the Pashtuns

Excellent read exposing the similarities between the British and American imperial experiences in the sub-continent.

“…we now live in a thoroughly ramped-up atmosphere in which “American national security” — defined to include just about anything unsettling that occurs anywhere on Earth — is the eternal preoccupation of a vast national security bureaucracy whose bread and butter increasingly seems to be worst-case scenarios.”

North Korean nukes to Mexican gang wars… a simple consequence of American primacy or perhaps something else? It has been pretty clear since WWII that our power has been on occasion channeled to produce, often highly undesirable outcomes – such as the CIA/MI6 backed coup in 1954 in Iran which arguably laid the groundwork for the ’79 Islamic Revolution and the situation we now face w/ Iran today. These are undoubtedly the consequences of a modern day empire – one that is global in its (indirect) reach. My question is… with our focus on AfPak (Afghanistan+Pakistan), what are the concerns of the rest of the world… i.e. other regional players. Hypothetically, if the Taliban were to re-establish itself in Afghanistan/Pakistan, wouldn’t the Chinese have just as much to worry about as India and the United States? I can’t exactly see China being to keen about having militant Islamic states on its border while simultaneously suppressing domestic Muslim Uighurs in Northern China… not that those things are entirely related, but the point is, why does Af/Pak continue to be the sole responsibility of NATO/US? If we learned anything from the Soviet/British experience in Afghanistan we’d be out of there right now… but then what would we have? Perhaps… we could just give half of Afghanistan to Iran, in exchange for abandoning their nuclear ambitions, and the other half can be absorbed into Pakistan – a good old partition party just like 1947!

“In our own day as well, pundits configure the uncontrolled Pashtuns as merely the tip of a geostrategic iceberg, with the sinister icy menace of al-Qaeda stretching beneath, and beyond that greater challenges to the U.S. such as Iran (incredibly, sometimes charged by the U.S. military with supporting the hyper-Sunni, Shiite-hating Taliban in Afghanistan). Occasionally in this decade, attempts have even been made to tie the Russian bear once again to the Pashtun tribes.”

“Nothing the British tried in the North-West Frontier and its hinterland actually worked. By the 1940s the British hold on the tribal agencies and frontier regions was shakier than ever before, and the tribes more assertive. After the British were forced out of the subcontinent in 1947, London’s anxieties about the Pashtuns and their world-changing potential abruptly evaporated.”

Could this be us a decade or two down the road? Who would the responsiblity to deal w/ Af/Pak fall to, if not the Americans the present moment?


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