A metaphor currently in vogue among national security pundits goes like this: The “Af-Pak” problem is like a balloon. If you squeeze it too hard from the “Af” side, it will burst on the “Pak” side, which is way worse than it bursting on the other side, because “Pak” has nukes, and a burst balloon would mean a Taleban finger on the red button.¹
My question is this: Have you guys ever actually handled a balloon full of water? I doubt it, because if you had, you would know that it doesn’t matter how you squeeze the damn thing, it will always burst where you least want it. Even if you try gently opening it to let the water out, you’ll most likely end up wet.
The problem isn’t the balloon. It’s the fact that some jerk decided to turn it into a water bomb in the first place.
As you can probably guess from my ever so subtle sarcasm, I’m getting pretty sick and tired of the analogies and metaphors and armchair nitpicking over what is going on in Afghanistan and Pakistan, what is going to happen, and what “we”² should do about it.
Sure, I’m as guilty as everyone else. Even so, I have to ask: Is there no limit to the absurdity of this quibbling? One blogger says the kill-capture model of warfighting now being taught to the Pakistanis violates Petraeus’s counterinsurgency tenets; another one says no, it’s okay, because it’s not COIN, it’s CT. You think this is a meaningful distinction to a person whose house and family a Hellfire just demolished?
¹ I know I’ve peddled this threat scenario just as passionately as everyone else, but I’m still waiting for someone to explain how exactly the Taleban/AQ takeover of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is supposed to happen.
² I use the quotes here because even though there are some legitimate reasons for Americans to call it “their” war, we have taken to condescendingly talking about these countries as if they had no say over their own affairs.
[Judah’s eloquent reply here. He also answers my question about the threat to “Pak’s” nukes. I kind of knew the answer, but being me, didn’t bother to think it through. More importantly, though, he defends his water bomber bona fides like a true warrior. Oh, and for the record — I didn’t really mean the metaphor is stupid, I was just being ratty. And stupid.]