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Friday, April 17, 2009

Troubling Times

If you follow the news, you know that Iran and North Korea are not the United States' favorite foreign playmates.  And they do nothing to make themselves cuddlier.  North Korea, like a bored kid skipping stones into a river, keeps launching semi-functional missiles into the Pacific Ocean; meanwhile, Iran's President insists on saying things like, "The Holocaust never really happened."  (Guess all those Jews and gypsies and homosexuals and commies just skipped off for a quick trip to Mars and never came back.)

At the same time, though, how worried should the US really be about these countries?  North Korea is run by an unpredictable psychotic who could certainly do a lot of damage if he put his mind to it--particularly to South Korea and Japan--but let's face it: If he ever DID launch an attack, North Korea would cease to exist in about a day and a half.  Even China isn't going bail him out.  As for Iran, yes, it is a more functional country than North Korea, but what most people forget is that the president, Ahmadinejad, for all his bluster, really doesn't hold that much actual power.  That power rests with the clerics, who are a little more in touch with the real world; at least, they don't appear to want to pick unnecessary fights.  And from everything you hear, the citizens of Iran are actually largely pro-American.

The Solipsist is reviewing this because he thinks too much attention is being focused on the wrong places.  Have you been paying attention to what's going on in Pakistan?  If not, here's a brief recap:  The Taliban (yes, that Taliban) has basically been granted control over a large province, Swat, in the northwest part of the country.  More disturbingly, they are making large inroads into the Punjab, the most populous province in the country.  They are doing there what they did in Afghanistan in the 1990s: imposing Shariah, terrorizing anyone who is insufficiently devout, whipping (often literally) the poor and the dispossessed into a revolutionary frenzy.  And bear in mind, it is probably in the tribal areas of Pakistan--those largely ungoverned and ungovernable areas on the Afghanistan border--where the remnants of Al Qaeda, including Osama bin Laden, are hiding out.

Oh, and a large proportion of the Pakistani population hates the US.

Oh, and they have nuclear weapons.

YNSHC is not advocating any particular course of action here.  The last thing the US needs is to get involved in yet another war.  But he hopes that the powers-that-be are paying at least as much attention to this very real threat as they are to the illusory or overblown threats we hear so much about.

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