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What the escalating conflict between India and Pakistan means for America

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What the escalating conflict between India and Pakistan means for America

Update: It’s escalating faster.

Original Story:

When Americans think of the risk of nuclear war, they often think of North Korea or Iran in their pursuits of nuclear weapons that can strike the United States. Others might look to Russia or China, the two largest nuclear arsenals that are both capable of striking the United States today. We rarely consider the most volatile potential nuclear standoff in the world right now between India and Pakistan.

This is a mistake made by American media, as the tensions between India and Pakistan have been the most likely catalyst for a nuclear war since both nations acquired nuclear weapons capabilities. If World War III starts any time in the near future, it will likely start in south Asia between these nuclear neighbors.

Tensions have been high for decades and reached a critical tipping point two weeks ago following a terrorist attack in Kashmir. Since then, there have been exchanges between the two sides, including an air strikes on terrorist training camps by India’s air force and the downing of two Indian fighter jets yesterday.

The geopolitics surrounding this conflict are as complicated as they get. Both governments are considered friendly with Washington DC, though there have been diplomatic conflicts with Pakistan’s government in recent years.

China is not officially allied with Pakistan, but that’s just on paper. They have strong ties with Islamabad and consider their neighbors in India to be a major potential threat.

Russia, like the U.S., has relationships with both sides, but may lean towards Pakistan if push comes to shove.

Could a war start between India and Pakistan soon? If things don’t deescalate quickly, it seems almost inevitable. Both sides are leaving room for deescalation despite the increased military activity, but they have gone to war in the past with less provocation. There seem to be two possible ways for this to turn into a nuclear war.

Scenario 1: Pakistan counters Indian military incursions with tactical nuclear weapons

Pakistan is the only nuclear armed nation that does not have a policy against first nuclear strikes. All other nuclear armed nations (other than Israel, which denies having a nuclear arsenal) state as national policy that they will never use nuclear weapons unless nuclear weapons are used against them first.

Nobody knows what the threshold is for Pakistan to use their nuclear weapons. This is by design. Because India’s conventional military forces both outnumber and are better equipped than Pakistan’s, they’ve always used the threat of nuclear weapons as their countermeasure to India’s superiority. This is similar to NATO’s stance against Russia through the Cold War. Russia was militarily capable of running over Europe through sheer size, but the presence of nuclear weapons in Europe was always viewed as the balance.

Pakistan views their nuclear arsenal the same way. They may not be able to stop India head-to-head in a conventional war, but they would be willing to nuke Indian forces, possibly even within their own borders if necessary. If this current conflict continues to escalate and India gets more aggressive with their military strikes, Pakistan may feel it necessary to use tactical nuclear weapons to level the playing field.

Scenario 2: India fears a nuclear strike so they preemptively attack known launch facilities in a counterforce offensive

If diplomacy breaks down, either through escalation of military strikes and counterstrikes or through a terrorist attack similar to the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, it’s very possible pressure for action by the vast Indian population would result in an attempt by India to take out Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities before they’re able to use them. India has extremely accurate ordinance delivery systems that are capable of pinpoint strikes. They also have intelligence about all of Pakistan’s launch facilities… at least they hope they have information on all of them. Combine those two ingredients with a strong, albeit untested missile defense system and we may have a recipe for a counterforce offensive.

This scenario would make it much more likely China would get involved early. They may view the action against Pakistan as a precursor to action against Chinese nuclear facilities. If that’s their perspective, they may attempt to take out India’s nuclear capabilities shortly after India takes out Pakistan’s.

America would be drawn in

Two things are certain about America’s response to a nuclear war regardless of how it starts. First, there is very little chance anyone will want to get involved directly in a nuclear war in south Asia. Second, any action by either Russia or China would make it nearly impossible for us to stay out of it. Nearly 1/5th of the world’s population is in India and Pakistan. The economic fallout from any nuclear war in the region would be crippling to much of the developed world.

Public sentiment will initially demand that we stay as far away from the conflict as possible. If India is able to take out Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities without China getting involved, it’s possible we could stay out of the conflict and focus on building a lasting peace. But that may be wishful thinking. India is strong and technologically advanced, but it’s hard to imagine them completely incapacitating Pakistan. It’s even harder to imagine China not getting involved.

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The most unpredictable components are the terrorist organizations on both sides. Pakistan has multiple Islamic terrorist groups that want India out of Kashmir. India has Hindu terrorist groups that want a deeper separation from Muslims, a goal that becomes easier to achieve through a war with Pakistan. Meanwhile, the Islamic State and al Qaeda are still active in the region and would love to see these countries at war.

Any one terrorist organization could engage in an operation that prompts either or both sides of the conflict to get more aggressive.

If tensions are not brought down quickly, war seems inevitable. While American attentions are directed towards Michael Cohen’s testimony or Jussie Smollett’s latest claims, WWIII may be ramping up in south Asia. From there, it will spread. We need to be watching.

 


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Foreign Affairs

Here’s hoping there’s a plan we don’t know about with North Korea

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Heres hoping theres a plan we dont know about with North Korea

In a move that many, including supporters on the right, are calling a move of weakness, the President reversed the Treasury Department’s additional sanctions on North Korea.

My Take

I’m just not sure what to make of this. I understand many have been concerned about how nicely the President has treated Kim Jong un, but I’ve always felt there was some sort of plan happening behind the scenes that would justify it. Now, I’m not so sure.

This move emboldens Kim to continue avoiding any compromise on his nuclear weapons program. It tells him and the rest of the world President Trump isn’t going to be playing hardball and intends to coax the North Korean dictator into signing some sort of agreement before the 2020 elections.

Dare I say, this seems very Obamaesque? Where’s the hardball? Where’s the threats against Rocketman? If there’s some sort of 4D chess being played in the background, I seriously hope we see it in play soon. This is a strange move.

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Foreign Affairs

Mike Pompeo responds to Venezuela, Biden’s world tour, Hezbollah, and Israel

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Mike Pompeo responds to Venezuela Bidens world tour Hezbollah and Israel

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared on Fox News last night to talk to Shannon Bream about the tumultuous state of affairs around the world and how the United States is handling them.

First, he discussed Venezuela and recent developments where Nicolas Maduro’s regime has essentially framed members of Juan Guaido’s team in an effort to jail and stop the opposition to his presidency there. The Secretary of State said they would hold Maduro’s regime accountable for their actions, but would not elaborate on how U.S. intervention in the poverty-torn nation would manifest.

He jabbed at potential Democratic 2020 candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden, who is being allegedly courted by world leaders to run for the White House in hopes he could bring back proper relations. As Pompeo noted, our relations with world leaders is in a current state of positive action despite the President’s harsh stance with many of them.

As for Hezbollah, Pompeo said the U.S. would press Lebanon for the sake of its people to facilitate change from the anti-Israel, anti-American Hezbollah rule that has basically made the nation a pawn for Iran.

As for the Israel front. where Pompeo was speaking from, he said calls by people like Beto O’Rourke and others to undermine the conservative base shared by the United States and Israel would not help the situation. Only through the President’s peace plan can the Middle East move forward, according to Pompeo.

My Take

Until the Venezuelan government asks directly for help, there should be no action by the United States other than aid for the people. This is an internal affair. Just because the leadership is challenged doesn’t make it our problem. If there was ever a time when the United Nations should flex its puny muscles, that time is now and the place is Venezuela.

Any foreign leaders calling on Biden to replace Trump are doing so because they do not want the United States to continue to maintain and improve upon its position of strength on the world stage. They prefer the good ol’ days under President Obama when the United States was a pawn for many other nations.

Hezbollah must go. That’s not to say we need to be involved with that, but Lebanon will never be free and prosperous as long as they’re the proxy for Iran.

Lastly, the Secretary of State seemed to be echoing a notion that the President would push for a 2-state solution. If that’s the case, it’s a huge mistake. Otherwise, Pompeo is correct in asserting the backwards notions of the Democrats lashing out against President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

We’re in a time when foreign affairs are starting to take center stage. Yes, we have problems of our own, but to ignore the growing threats abroad would be a mistake. It’s good the administration is handling these issues.

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Foreign Affairs

Kudos to the President for calling on the U.S. to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights

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Kudos to the President for calling on the US to recognize Israels sovereignty over the Golan Heights

It’s always hard to tell where the administration may be going following policy Tweets from the President. He’s been known to say one thing, then the administration slowly shifts reality away from the initial intent of the Tweet. On the other hand, many of his Tweets have turned into policy. It’s just a matter of waiting and seeing what the official word from the White House is.

In this case, it’s the President’s bold declaration that the Golan Heights, considered by enemies of Israel to be disputed territory, is actually sovereign Israeli land. As he noted in the Tweet, this is long overdue.

Considering the stances the President has been taking on Twitter this week with sustained attacks on George Conway and John McCain, this is a breath of fresh air. If Israel ever gave up he Golan Heights, they would be losing one of the most important strategic areas through which enemy militaries could easily become entrenched and launch attacks that would be difficult for Israel to counter. While the IDF enjoys technological advances over their enemies, terrain and proximity are still major factors in the defense of their lands. The Golan Heights represents a piece of land that must never be given easy access to their enemies.

There’s one important caveat to the kudos I’m giving the President. If it turns out acknowledgement of the Golan Heights as sovereign territory is used as a precursor to asking Israel to give up the West Bank in a Middle East peace agreement, then it’s a whole other situation entirely. Just as giving up the Golan Heights would make Israel a very easy target, so too would the idea of a two state solution that grants “Palestine” control over the West Bank.

If the motives are pure, this is a great move. If this is an early olive branch, it’s dangerous.

Israel’s control of the Golan Heights is absolutely essential to its security. The lands just south would be completely indefensible if the United Nations ever got its way and the Golan Heights fell under control of Israel’s enemies.

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