2009/03/11

Pakistan's nukes

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What would happen if Pakistan becomes indeed a theocratic extremist-led country?

Let's assume that the old government destroyed all nukes or interned them in a safe country.

Iraq did that with its NBC programs. It really did, and allowed quite humiliating, seemingly never-ending inspections.
The USA didn't believe them and invaded nevertheless, of course.

The destruction of the nukes by Pakistan would therefore be no solution - no matter whether Pakistan would have any nukes left after a change of government or not - it would likely be assumed that they still have a few left.

So what would the great powers do?

There's no way how some limited conventional strikes could create certainty - the suspicion that some nukes would be left could survive for decades.

What else - short of nuclear annihilation of a 179 million country - could create certainty? Probably nothing.

Would Pakistan be nuked by USA, UK, France, Russia, Israel and/or India?

India would take more damage than one or two direct hits could cause (if done during the summer, due to southwest monsoon - not so during winter).

Should the Pakistanis be informed in advance that a Taliban takeover would be suicidal for the country as a whole?

Did I miss a public discussion about this scenario?
I certainly didn't see one yet.


This scenario holds a strange twist in nuclear deterrence - (imaginary) nukes might actually encourage an attack instead of deter one. The second strike capability is questionable and the government might be perceived as mad enough for a first strike - contrary to merely mad enough for a second strike.


I personally think that a nuclear devastation of Pakistan is entirely possible at least if Pakistan does not (attempt to) destroy all nukes in advance of a later successful take-over by Islamists. I consider the USA and Russia as possible attackers (fearful/paranoid enough = mad enough for a first strike).

Such a ten minute war could cause more than twice as many dead of WW2.

An alternative could be that India urges the nuclear powers not to attack but attacks itself (conventionally) before the Islamists could establish enough control to use the nukes. India's military is usually being considered to be vastly superior in conventional power.

Sven Ortmann

P.S.: I'm aware of assertions that the U.S. has somehow been successful enough with its intelligence services and has the Pakistani nuclear arms arsenal somehow under control or at least under close observation.
That would not hold if Pakistan's government changes, though.
Such activities could buy time for an Indian intervention, though.

2 comments:

  1. I always wonder if - deep down in the sub-basements of the Pentagon - there isn't a contingency plan to pre-emptively nuke Pakistan's nuclear storage sites in the event of a government collapse. You know, just to be sure.

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  2. Such plans are exercises for staffs. I bet they have one. The more interesting question is how serious they take it.

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