Yes, I am fixed on the question of whether specific polities are actually nations. That is because the international system is organized on the presumption that most and maybe even all of them are. Just as the post-1945 world also presumed that the danger of war would be, as it had been for two centuries, across established borders. Of course, there have been several cross-frontier wars since the Second World War bled to its end -- first in Europe, then in Asia -- and many of them were bloody indeed. But organized bloodshed is now mostly within countries pretending to be nations, and international institutions protect the aggressors within them lest precedents be set that bring the wild mayhem of sect and tribe be brought under control and that those who dominate these institutions will also be brought under control.

Since this is my theme, I was not surprised to read in the Wall Street Journal's January 8 edition a story by Yaroslav Trofimov from Hyderaban headlined, "Bhutto's killing roils her province, spurring calls to quit Pakistan." And sub-headed, "Sindh is the latest fault line in divided nation, exacerbating tension: like 'occupied territory'." Then a concise summation, also in a head: "Welded from disparate Muslim-majority sections of the Indian subcontinent six days decades ago, Pakistan -- meaning 'Land of the Pure' -- has always been an artificial creation. It has been held together by the Islamic religion of most of its citizens and a strong military."

Pakistan fell apart when India cooperated (conspired) with eastern Pakistan (it was split at creation in 1947) to make it independent into what is now, poor souls, Bangladesh. As you read the Trofimov article, you grasp that, however diverse Sindh is, it was also a personal fiefdom of the Bhutto family, unifying rather than dividing. But it is a pathetic bond, the dictator father (murdered by a worse dictator), the haughty daughter and now the nineteen year-old Oxford student whose regent is his crooked father.

Actually, Pakistan is only a slightly more sophisticated version of the model that dominates much of the world. God help them and us.