Friday, January 18, 2008
The End Of Deterrence
Recently reports surfaced that Pakistan had used huge chunks of American cash grants to procure military hardware better suited to a conventional conflict with India than to the counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations the money had been earmarked for. The obvious conclusion was that as long as Pakistan feels more threatened by India than it does by the Taliban and Al Qaeda, the problem on the Afghan border will remain a low priority in Islamabad. Another obvious conclusion was that a coherent American policy in the region would be to encourage to the greatest degree possible a detente between the two nuclear-armed countries, thereby progressively freeing Pakistan up to concentrate on counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency.
Instead, Lockheed Martin is in discussions with New Delhi to help the Indians polish off their homegrown ballistic missile defense system. The system, once perfected, would effectively counter the threat of both Pakistan's and China's strategic forces, destabilizing what's already a precarious regional balance of power and possibly provoking a nuclear weapons build-up. Of course, America could not very credibly try to dissuade India from developing its own missile defense system, given our own insistence on dismantling the ABM regime. But we shouldn't be helping them put the finishing touches on it either.
The issue brings into focus one of the less-covered developments of the past seven years. The attacks of 9/11 demonstrated how non-state actors could use assymetric tactics to render conventional deterrence useless. Simultaneously, the Bush administration has worked tirelessly to render conventional deterrence between state actors obsolete. The net result is a world in which the threat environment has dramatically proliferated and diversified, and the disincentives to using force have been dramatically reduced. Either one would be alarming. The two together are potentially catastrophic.