There are two front page articles in the Times--yes, we are still
dependent on the Times for our news, very much dependent--that are,
well, positively terrifying. They are about Pakistan.
The first is a story by Sabrina Tavernise who documents the historic educational vacuum in the country, a vacuum that was filled by the madrasas, overwhelmingly of the fanatical Islamic persuasion: their graduates possess a certain limited religious literacy, are militant in matters of God and faith, sworn to a life-long crusade is easily assimilated into the Taliban now sweeping through the country. This force can be traced back to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan when fervent Muslim militants from Pakistan basically eliminated the unmarked border between the two countries.
Tavernise notes that there are now roughly 12,000 madrasas is Pakistan. Of course, these are only the ones that are registered. Perhaps a historical note would be useful. When Pakistan was founded by Mohammed Ali Jinnah in 1947, after Mahatma Mohandis Gandhi's "non-violent" campaign for Indian independence turned into a romp against the Muslims, "the father of the nation" hoped to keep the new country secular and constitutional.
At that point there were only 245 madrasas in the country. In 1960, there were 464; in 1980, 2056. Alas, now there are the 12,000 mentioned above. Pakistan is an intrinsic disaster. As Tavernise points out, one of three children do not attend school at all; a third drop out by third grade. "Girls' enrollment is among the lowest in the world, lagging behind Ethiopia and Yemen." Yes, Ethiopia and Yemen. So is not Pakistan a failed state?
But it is a failed state with 60 to 100 nuclear bombs, as David E. Sanger reports in his account, "Pakistan Strife Raises U.S. Doubt On Nuclear Arms." There are many reasons why these bombs are liable to be seized and used. And one of them is that America has only the slightest notion of where these weapons are dispersed and, for that matter, how many there are. The president has said that he is "confident that we can make sure that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is secure." Still, the fact is that we can't even guarantee that one or two of them are not in Al Qaeda's or the Taliban's possession. Why would Abdul Qadeer Khan, the country's mad nuclear physicist and weapons entrepreneur, now completely free, have not sold some of his products to some party in the Islamic Internationale?
Besides Israel, another reason that Shi'a Iran is frantically pursuing a nuclear arms capacity is that Sunni Pakistan already possesses one. There is no hatred in the world that has taken as many innocent lives in recent years as the hatred between Shi'a Islam and Sunni Islam. This is a rancor that goes back a lot longer than a millenium. But since our leaders have convinced themselves that Islam is a peaceful religion--intrinsically and presently--they are reluctant to confront the terrible truth that would give them nightmares and trouble their sleep.
I read in Saturday's Wall Street Journal an op-ed by former American ambassador to the U.N. John R. Bolton titled "The Taliban's Atomic Threat." Oh, yes, I know, some of you think that Bolton is a fear monger. Well, read Sanger's Times piece together with Bolton's op-ed. This is not the best of all possible worlds.In fact, it's pretty close to the worst.
And apropos Palestine: it is an annoyance in world politics. It is not a danger. Put it in perspective and put it in the drawer. You won't solve it anyway.