Thursday, April 16, 2009

Piracy, Pakistan, and the 1st 100 days of Obama

My MBA classes have kept me superbusy and kept me from writing.  But this piracy phenomenon in East Africa merits discussion.   I am obviously pleased at the rescue of Captain Phillips and the professionalism of the Maersk Alabama's crew & captain, as well as the decisiveness and effectiveness of the US Navy.  The debate about what to do now seems curiously stupid.  The Somali pirates have declared that they will attack any US flagged ship they run across. If that is not a declaration of war, then what is?  By the precedent of centuries, the US should bomb, shell, and destroy any and all pirate ports, harbors, ships, and assets.  Then to prevent this from happening again, mine or blockade the Somali coast to the degree possible.  And if it still persists, burn down the pirate's on-shore havens.  This should be a no-brainer.  

The bigger concern for me is what is happening in Pakistan. The Taliban have basically morphed into land pirates - taking the resource of establishment parties and flouting any notion of law.  The Taliban have identified the Achilles' heel of the Pakistani nation-state - the long-standing feudal structure of rural Pakistan, where an oligarchy of wealthy landlords hold sway. By grasping the vulnerability of this ossified social structure, the Taliban have set the stage to potentially pull off a Bolshevik-style revolution. Pirates garbed as revolutionaries - that is a difficult problem to redress.  

Democracies have historically and generally successfully met the challenge of bandits/pirates attired as demagogues by simultaneously enforcing the rule of law and breaking the outlaws while engaging in land reform and economic aid to take care of the populace's real grievances. Pakistan is so dysfunctional it cannot do that - a significant part of its military is in in league with the Taliban, while there is no economic sector separate from the military or the landlords that could be an outlet for the rural poor to focus their energies on.   It has no politicians with charisma and credibility who could be a magnet for others to rally around.   

So what should we do?  I really have no idea.  Is the occupation of Pakistan a viable option? The answer would appear to be no, but the time may come for it to be necessary.   Alternatively, the break-up of Pakistan into its provinces may make the problem more manageable.  I just hope we have some really smart people thinking this through.  But what comes after the fracture of an abyss?

Which brings me to the 1st 100 days of the Obama administration.  Many of my readers will likely wonder if my extended silence is due to buyer's remorse regarding President Obama. Maybe. I must confess to chagrin at the administration's budget policies, Russia approach, and initial statements on health care.  But he has not screwed up Iraq and has left options open regarding Iran and North Korea.  I sense the administration is just in a mode of trying to concentrate on the economy and keep options open to the degree possible on everything else.  That sounds sensible for now but the rest of the year may not be as kind to President Obama as the 1st 100 days. 


At 6:59 AM, Blogger Singularity said...

Pakistan is slowly but steadily becoming a fundamental Islam state. Makes me wonder at times what the true value of democracy is. Will democracy work everywhere? Will it work only in civilized countries? Should there be a democratic government in 'tribal' communities like Afghanistan?

If you looked at the history of Pakistan, you will see a definite pattern - when the country was under a dictator, it has prospered or at least remained out of the radar.

I guess this is my interpretation of history.


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