Osama Bin Laden was found hiding in plain sight in Pakistan, in a town just thirty or so miles north of its capital that also hosted the Pakistan military academy. The United States essentially ignored Pakistani sovereignty to launch a military raid into the heart of the country to execute Bin Laden in his compound in Abbottabad. It might help to view a map:
Pakistan is none too happy about the raid, from the Los Angeles Times:
At a marathon closed-door session, Pakistan’s parliament Saturday joined the country’s intelligence chief in strongly condemning the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The lawmakers also threatened to prohibit NATO from ferrying military supplies into Afghanistan if Washington continued its campaign of drone strikes against militants.
The head of Pakistan’s powerful spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, vehemently defended his agency’s track record for hunting down and capturing Al Qaeda operatives. Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha denounced Washington’s decision to carry out the raid without informing Islamabad or seeking its permission, according to accounts from lawmakers that were leaked to Pakistani media.
Will Pakistan be the next territory into which the American empire expands? Indeed, it seems nigh well inevitable.
Pakistan is a putative ally in the American “war on terror”, a concept that is conveniently amorphous, like the boundaries of American influence in the Southwest Asian region which comprises its front lines. Fighting against terror–a tactic and not a foe–is calculated to better justify the oozing, amoeba-like expansion of empire that 9-11 instigated. Pakistan stands in the way of empire expansion. Which is why, until lately, it has been treated as if it were just an extension of Afghanistan, now a client state of the empire.
The Bin Laden operation revealed how little the US thinks of Pakistani military and intelligence capabilities and of its value as an ally. It was tantamount to a diplomatic slap in the face. Pakistan, if it is to retain any vestiges of sovereignty, will have to retaliate. Nations, like feudal barons, can not endure without retaliation the humiliation of a direct slap in the face. The US knows this, and so knew that its raid would provoke retaliation from Pakistan. In fact, it is hard to imagine that there was any other purpose to the raid than provoking Pakistan. Capturing or killing Bin Laden certainly had no military or strategic significance. Al Qaeda was already defeated and irrelevant, and anyway never–not even at the height of its glory–represented anything more than a niggling irritation to the United States. But Bin Laden did provide an excuse for the most extensive expansion of the American empire since the end of World War Two. The American empire now has established beachheads in Mesopotamia and Southwest Asia. The raid into Pakistan for Bin Laden will provide the impetus for the next expansion, because it will necessarily provoke retaliation, either official (Pakistani government) or otherwise (more likely; the Pakistani Taliban). Bin Laden has been to post Cold War American imperialism what Voltaire said God was to man: If Bin Laden hadn’t existed, America would have had to create him. Now the privilege of succoring American expansionistic impulses falls to Pakistan, and Pakistan is playing right into America’s hands. Official denouncements (as noted above) will eventually be followed by retaliatory actions, which is precisely what America seeks.
Any fool that thinks capturing Bin Laden would mean the US could extricate itself from Southwest Asia has simply been ignoring reality. The US could have extricated itself from Afghanistan about ten years ago, as soon as Al Qaeda and its Taliban protectors fled to the hills, and done more good at protecting the homeland from terrorism by doing that than did the entire ensuing decade of wallowing in the Afghanistan mud as an occupation force. The US remains in Afghanistan because Afghanistan is the frontier of American expansion. But Afghanistan is, about now, as subdued empire-wise, as is possible. The US’ imperialistic impulse has now turned its attention to Pakistan.
Sometime about mid-2012, Obama will desperately need a war–not just a military occupation–to divert American eyes from the dismal state of the economy and the bankrupt fisc of the government. What better foe could there be than the nuclear-armed Pakistan? Pakistan is big enough (187 million) and significantly powerful enough (about 100 nukes) that war would mean real sacrifices could be asked of Americans–sacrifices that the political system would otherwise be incapable of imposing, yet that must necessarily accrue else the nation will spend itself into oblivion.
Today (May 16, 2011) marks the beginning of the countdown to debt default. The Treasury can employ creative accounting to get to August, but after that, real bills don’t get paid without an increase in the debt ceiling. Republicans want fiscal reform to accompany increasing the debt ceiling. Obama, being the leader of the entity subject to reforms that would necessarily result in a reduction in its power and influence, wants to raise the debt ceiling without enacting any structural reforms. Obama is president, and such is the power of the executive that one president trumps a house full of representatives every day. So the debt ceiling will be increased, but nothing substantial will be done to cure the problem requiring its continual increase. The federal government will continue to hemorrhage money. Which will cause a loss in confidence that will exacerbate the already gathering economic slowdown. But just as Germany rode to FDR’s rescue from the 1937 depression within the Depression, Pakistan (probably the Pakistan Taliban) will ride to Obama’s rescue from the recession within the Great Recession.
A perfect political and economic storm is brewing in the US. Pakistan lies directly in its path.