Tuesday, November 06, 2007

While We're At It, The United States Is Pretty Artificial, Too . . .

I often wonder if people realize how truly dumb they are. Do they say something, and then realize, "Man, that was just about the worst arrangement of words possible. My bad, everybody!" I am not talking about garden-variety stupid, here, like the Uncle at the family reunion who goes on and on about his prostate treatment as everyone tries to hide in embarrassment. I am speaking about, well, about people who are supposed to be really smart saying things that are just God-awful.

Our entry today in the "I Wish I Could Take It Back" contest is this piece over at Newsweek/Washington Post on-line by Ali Ettefagh entitled "Why not Dissolve Pakistan, Too?" Mr. Ettefagh is Director of something called the Highmore Global Corporation, an investment group specializing in emerging and Third World markets. Here is a rundown on Pakistani history, accurate enough, given by Mr. Ettefagh:
Pakistan was a phrase coined for an idealistic confederation of five Muslim provinces within the old British-controlled India (Punjab, Northwest Frontier Province or Afghania, Kashmir, Sindh and Baluchistan). However, these are tribal lands with distinct traditions and have very little in common. These provinces were all knocked together, on presumption of a common religion, and a “dominion” was fabricated within the Commonwealth with self-governance authority akin to independence after World War II.

Before he gives this roughly accurate account of the emergence of Pakistan from the British Raj, however, he goes all Winston Churchill on us (during the 1920's debate in Britain on giving India dominion status, Churchill insisted that "India" was an artificial term, and trying to give coherence to what had never been coherent, or to unify what had never been unified was not just dangerous for the people of India, but historically dishonest) and writes in his very first sentence:
Pakistan is not a country. It is a failed British fantasy about the fabrication of a nation-state. It has other failed and failing peers in the Middle East, all fabricated during the 20th century. It is time to seriously review all of these structures and redraw the borderlines.

Red flags abound. While it is true that Pakistan has had its share of crises, coups d'etat, and is currently undergoing a profound political crisis not helped by Washington ambivalence (I do believe the US is sitting this one out because they have yoked themselves to Pres. Prevez Musharraf, a man with a clock ticking above his head if ever there was one), it is nonetheless quite frightening to offer up for serious discussion the thought of redrawing national boundaries by an outside party.

At the end of the First World War, the map of Europe was redrawn. At the end of the Second World War, it was done so again, including the elimination of the old Kingdom of Prussia within Germany, at the insistence of Josef Stalin (somehow, the reasoning was, if you got rid of Prussia, you got rid of something people insisted on calling "Prussianism", best described again by Winston Churchill with the bon mot "A Hun alive is a war in prospect."). after the collapse of the Soviet Union and its control over Eastern Europe, the world's map again was changed, but this time by the various countries in question.

Ettefagh is not suggesting the kind of thing done after conquering a defeated nation in war. He is not suggesting the Pakistanis deal with their internal crisis by considering dismemberment. He is insisting that outside powers intervene and decide the territorial integrity question of a sovereign state without its input or its consent.

Then we can all put on our jodhpurs and pith helmets and drink tea on the veranda and complain about the darkies and their lack of political ability, giving thanks for the White Man's burden.

Virtual Tin Cup

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