Sunday, December 30, 2007

Henry Sokolski misses the point!

One of my readers pointed me to an article by Henry Sokolski.

Henry is on his usual anti-nuclear deal kick, and is keen to use the possibility of proliferation at the Pakistani end as a result of the deal. Frankly given the reception to the deal in India, I cannot at this point say that India wants the deal anymore than Henry Sokolski does. Needless to say I speak only for myself and not for anyone else I may or may not know.

What I have an issue with however is that I feel, Henry's lack of understanding of Pakistan is glaring and I think this needs to be fixed right now.

Henry is under the impression that he is smarter than the American State Department, and for all I know that is true. I am not well placed to tell you how smart the State Department is or how smart Henry is.

However I do know the following things are true:
  1. Pakistani Armymen believe that America is forcing them to kill their Pakistani Islamic Jihadi brothers and
  2. America is using "democracy" as a way to curtail the Pakistan Army's influence on politics in Pakistan.

Taken together, these ideas hold the natural implication that America is trying to drive the Pakistan Army from power in Islambad. I speculate that this "natural implication" is gaining currency inside the Pakistan Army.

When you interfere like this in a nuclear armed military dictatorship, you create use-or-lose type pressures on the regime.

A fractious leadership within the regime makes an accurate analysis of the effects of such pressures difficult and consequently, it becomes exceedingly easy to invite a failure of deterrence.

So while Henry Sokolski is busy worrying about the possibility of a larger nuclear arsenal in Pakistan some five years down the road, I am worried that the Pakistani leadership has an increasingly itchy finger on the big red button!

Henry's view of Pakistan relations is in sync with the history of US-Pak ties, but it appears to me to be out of touch with the reality in Pakistan right now!

US-Pakistan ties despite their rich history - are in a very different and difficult place today - and I feel - Henry and his friends completely miss that point.

If America as a whole shares Henry's lack of understanding, then the consequences of that - i.e. a mishandling of the "transition to democracy" in Pakistan will in my opinion produce disasterous consequences for the World.

A world where deterrence has demonstratably broken down is beyond the ability of American spinmeisters to fix. Such a world will find America's claims of global leadership lacking in credibility. That may be the "New World Order" that a scared and disoriented regime in Pakistan pushes us towards.


At 7:38 AM, Blogger quantum chaos said...

it seems you dont share the optimism of US having secured nukes of pakistan(through APLS) when you talk of breakdown of deterrence.

At 7:56 AM, Anonymous Alok_N said...

Sokoloski Mian has two things on his mind:

1. How to keep a paycheck coming.

2. How to sell a book on Pakistan when everybody else seems to be writing one as well.

So, when he is asked to comment on BB's death, all he can say is that "Deal with India sucks" ...

scroll to the bottom of the pdf to read and ROFL ...

At 8:06 AM, Anonymous Alok_N said...


folks like Sokolski have an "understanding" of Pakistan that they have gleaned from chai-biskoot or kabab-roohafza sessions in Pindi/I'bad ...

one can't blame them ... they don't have access to desi psyche like folks in India do ... over the years, due to large NRI influx, Indians have gained a good understanding of amreeki psyche ... it comes from living and breathing together for decades ... going to Pakistan for a few weeks at a time and living in 5-star hotels is hardly the way to learn about a peoples ...

Sokolski still talks about "our friends in Pakistan" ...

all he has in the "friends" column is a few pliable jernails ...

this is like my saying "my friends in my in-laws clan" when the only ally (I hope) is the SHQ ... :)

At 7:48 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Quantum Chaos,

I believe that the Americans know about a certain fraction of the Pakistani nukes and have some plans about how to prevent them from falling into Jihadi hands.

I cannot comment about the effectiveness of such plans as I do not know the details.I doubt even Henry knows the details and I am completely clueless as to how he boasts such a high level of confidence in these things.

However from all American public utterances, they require the cooperation of the Pak Army to secure the nukes from the Jihadis.

If this is true, then it is unlikely that the Pakistan Army would have given America so much access that the Americans would be able to prevent the Pakistani Army itself from using the nukes.

If American "democracy" related shenanigans scare the Pakistani Army into believing that America is trying to remove it from power in Islamabad - then I feel that the Pakistan Army will experience use-or-lose to type pressures.

Use or lose type pressures typically occur between nuclear adversaries when one side feels that the enemy may have already launched an full fledged nuclear attack. The leadership of the country then has to decide whether to launch a nuclear strike itself or to wait and see if the information it has recieved about the enemy's actions is correct. At this point, the leadership faces the prospect of using its nuclear weapons or losing them.

In US-USSR confrontations, this kind of situation could arise for example if the early warning systems of either country had a misfire. If for some reason the long-range missile surveillance radars picked up incoming missiles from the USSR, the US leadership would have to decide whether to launch its own missiles or wait for a determination of whether the reports of a Soviet first strike were real.

Once use or lose pressures manifest - the entire deterrence idea is dead.

A Pakistani Army leadership that feels utterly betrayed by the US, is likely to provoke terrorists into striking at the US.

A Pakistani Army leadership that feels that the US is likely to interfere with Pakistani nuclear arsenal will be keen to indulge in proliferation activities.

However, a Pakistani Army leadership that becomes convinced that the US is trying to drive it out of power in Islamabad will seriously start thinking about using the bomb.

I do not know if Henry is prepared for a scenario of that nature.

I am certain that the Pakistanis are pouring money into the Non-Proliferation community's coffers to get them to stop the India-US nuclear deal (Krepon's peculiar posturing leaves little doubt about where the money for this is coming from).

But .... I do not know how Henry will live in a world where the very same Pakistanis that are seriously considering nuking America are paying out his paycheck.

Can Henry really qualify as a patriotic American under such circumstances? I sincerely doubt it.

Will he be able to live with a newer - perhaps - less pleasant label? - I do not know.

At 7:59 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Alok,

I think Henry is definetely only looking out for himself and his little think tank's paycheck.

I think that is okay - everyone has a right to be worried about their paychecks.

Since the NPA were set up purely for the purposes of psywar (mostly on the American people) - they are doing the only thing they can or know how to do - they are conducting a psywar against the deal to secure their own funding.

However the NPA preoccupation with their bank balances is leaving a vital function exposed - no one is thinking about real proliferation threats.

All these self-appointed guardians are thinking about is how to feather their own nests.

There is a steadily declining interest in this community in addressing genuine security threats or emergent scenarios. Since the US government dumped their golden calf - the NPT - the NPA have seen it fit to dump the American people.

It is true that most of these people have grown up in the US-USSR Cold War where a sizable part of the deterrence calculations could be neatly tabulated in terms of numbers of missiles, airplanes, ships and bombs. They are ill placed to deal with the present threat environment where the nuclear peril is more ambigious and their auditing skills are useless.

I mean seriously how does one do any serious counterproliferation efforts when the error bars on the estimate of Pakistan nuclear weapons that Albright and Co talk about is 20 nuclear weapons?

Boss, ISIS puts out reports where they claim 30-50 weapons - now is it 30 or is it 50?

If even one bomb goes missing there will be hell to pay for it and these fools talk of error bars of 20 weapons!

This is a joke.

At 8:27 PM, Blogger quantum chaos said...

thanks for reply MAV. btw is this Larry Chin guy an alter ego of abidullah jan? i mean this article.
the article looks suspiciously like abidullah jans book.if in abidullahs book it was implicit that ISI is doing CIAs bidding,this article does away with that pretence also. assuming ISI paid for it what do they want to convey?that army is paranoid and rest should lay off?
please enlighten


At 8:29 PM, Blogger quantum chaos said...

and have a look at this one too.heh. i am enjoying spamming your comment box.:)


At 7:12 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Quantum Chaos,

I think that Musharraf the Magnificient has many friends. I wish you luck in your search for them, but my dear fellow, I must remind you, it is not polite to point fingers.

At 9:04 AM, Blogger quantum chaos said...

as you say mav.

At 6:32 AM, Anonymous Alok_N said...


David Halfbright-ji is well known for guesstimating ... his brilliance includes the "Crystal Ball" software which is a prime example of garbage-in-garbage_out ... read all about it here:

In Pakistan's case, he has diligently guesstimated the output of supposed centrifuges ... what he does not realize is that counting the Uranium stockpile is pointless if the bumbs are made of Plutonium ... :)

At 7:05 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Alok,

Even if I assume that the Kr-85 measurements are an accurate reflection of the Pu production - I still have to admit that a model which returns error bars of 50% on the estimate of Uranium bombs is useless in an environment where ONE jihadi with ONE nuclear bomb can change the world order.

At 5:17 PM, Anonymous Sparsh said...


After Benazir's assassination, at first, watching the American news outlets run around like headless chickens uttering the words "civil war", "Pakistan", "loose nukes", and "Al-Queda" in the same sentence as hysterically as possible was pretty amusing. The talk of possible military plans for seizing Pakistan's nukes was even more hilarious. However, the length for which this nautanki continued is a bit disconcerting. It was getting downright dangerous when the Pakistanis were forced to issue public reassurances about their nukes on several occasions. I do not believe that the USG's media managers are incompetent enough to let things slide to such a level.

What gives?

P.S. - The 50% error bars are a huge improvement for the NPAs. I remember a time when their estimates have 100% or greater error bars

At 8:21 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Sparsh,

I suspect we are seeing what heppens when there is a shift away from President Bush in the media.

The nautanki aspect may be intentional - a fool's errand has being deliberately crafted
- part of a strategy to defeat real adversaries of the admin's close relationship with the Pakistan Army and Allah's men at arms.

The naivete with which the Pakistnai political classes appear to buy into this is startling.

Or perhaps as Sri. Raman implicity suggests, the powerful sense of opportunism drowns out more sensible voices inside a Pakistani's head.

At 4:21 PM, Anonymous Sparsh said...


I am considering the possibility that the Americans are using this media nautanki whenever there is a spike in instability in Pakistan as a part of some sort of opportunistic strategy to try to make the nuclear houbara run in Pakistan. Too far fetched?

On a related note, I can think of no way in which an effort to secure the physical custody of Pakistan's nukes with an intrusive American involvement or presence will not precipitate the kind of use it or loose it pressures on the Pakistani side that you talk about. At the very least it will precipitate proliferation pressures on the Pakistani side. Also, I can not figure out why the Americans think they can count on the PA's willing cooperation in such an effort.

Far too many people in the US are talking far too casually about all this for my comfort. The mass of conflicting and contradictory signals about Pakistan emerging from the US these days carries with it its own proliferation pressures. The NPAs would be better off focusing their efforts at home than abroad.

At 7:27 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hello Sparsh,

It is not far fetched. In fact it is at the core of my point about use/lose pressures.

If Kagan and O'Hanlon at AEI are to be believed, then the only way in which the US will get access to Pakistani nukes is if the "Pakistani Special Forces" protecting the nukes will "invite" US cooperation to secure the nukes. It appears unless the "Pakistani Special Forces" tell the US where the nukes are, the US has no way to be certain about exactly how many nukes there are in Pakistan, or even where exactly these nukes might be stored.

Ofcourse the "Pakistani Special Forces" would only do that if Pakistan was becoming "too unstable". Ofcourse, as you very well know, the "Pakistani Special Forces" to some extent rely on American media support for perception management inside Pakistan. An American led media nautanki may go some distance in making the "Pakistani Special Forces" feel insecure about their nukes.

I also believe that the Saudis and other middle eastern countries are an extremely large number of paper dollars. As the value of the dollar falls against other currencies - these countries are ... well... losing money... a lot of money. These countries have looked to Pakistan's nuclear status for a peculiar and independent sense of security.

It is unclear to me, how these countries will react to American houbara hunting schemes. Houbara hunting is quite a spectator sport but bearing in mind that this houbara has a bomb... one should be more circumspect.

At 7:30 AM, Blogger maverick said...

All this comes across is a very half assed attempt at trying to get the PA to invite the US into Pakistan to secure Pakistani nukes.

That idea is beyond fiction!

At 4:59 PM, Anonymous Sparsh said...


Beyond fiction is too mild a term to describe this American PR tamasha that we are expected to believe about them securing the Pakistani nukes. Surrealistically nonsensical horseshit is more like it.

From all public utterances, the entire American establishment right down to the last man seems utterly convinced that either they will be able to convince the PA to accept intrusive American involvement and presence in ensuring the physical security of their nukes in times of a crisis or be able to take unilateral military measures to remove or destroy the same if the PA does not go along with the first option. All of this without any adverse repurcussions or consequences from the Pakistani side.

What exactly are they smoking? Or rather what exactly do they think we are smoking for us to buy into this?

Words are cheap I know but the Americans by gassing off like this at every available opportunity are pushing the Pakistanis into precipitating something that will spiral out of anyone's capacity to control.

Why don't the Americans seem to realize that all this talk will only feed into the PA's paranoia about American intentions and fickleness when it comes to Pakistan and will rub off on whatever else the Americans are doing with Pakistan on the security front.

I hear that the Americans want to vastly increase their SF presence in Pakistan for the ostensable purpose of training the FC in COIN operations. Is it really that or are they simply wanting to preposition their SF personnel for military strikes against Pakistani nuclear targets? The same goes for this latest talk about a "covert surge" and a vastly increased scope for unilateral American actions in Pakistan with respect to terrorist targets. Is is really that or are they simply gearing up for eventual strikes on the Pakistani nukes. The same can be said about pretty much the entire American intelligence and military presence in Pakistan. If I were a Pakistani, it wouldn't be too unrealistic to assume the same and act accordingly. Afterall look at the talk coming out of the US these days. The Americans risk a meltdown in their relationship with Pakistan if this sort of loose talk continues for too long. I for one do not want to see that happen. The Pakistanis have a rude habit of dragging us into their problems with the Americans.

And just how do the Americans expect to either snatch or destroy Pakistan's nukes without trigerring open war with Pakistan?

While on that topic, do the Americans really know where each and every last nuke in Pakistan is? The 50% error bars in the NPAs' estimates do not seem to inspire much confidence. What about the entire infrastructure behind the Pakistani nukes? Will the Americans be able to destroy every last kilogram of HEU and every last component of a nuclear weapon and the ability to make them in Pakistan? What about the scientific and engineering personnel who work on the program? Will the Americans track down and kill the most important and critical of them? The Americans seem to be indulging in way too much masturbation about their own machogiri. Somebody should point out to them that this activity is best done in private.

One last thing. If I were a Pakistani, why on earth should I invite the Americans in when I am in danger of loosing my nukes or have already lost them to the jihadis? Do I expect them to snatch them back from the jihadis and return them to me in a nice gift wrapped box? I would rather loose my nukes to the jihadis than the Americans. Atleast I have the capacity to get them back from the jihadis by force.

Somebody needs to sit down with the Americans and make it clear that all their loose talk is dangerously destabilising.

P.S. - I know that you had asked me (and KG) a question related to the subprime mess a long time ago that I haven't answered. I apologize for that. My workload ramped up by a musharaffian 400% right around that time and didn't let up until a couple of weeks ago. I will try to get around to composing a reply to it. Maybe via email since that post is ancient history.

At 8:57 PM, Anonymous alok_n said...


a passing thought ... if Paki Nukes = 0, a 50% error on zero is acceptable ...

but really, the Paki arsenal is a virtual number ... it is dynamically proportinal to the number of C-130 flights between Beijing and Islum ... in some ways the number is similar to "how many fairies can dance on a needlepoint" ...

hence, uncle's utterances could be reflecting his understanding with the dragon ...

At 6:48 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Sparsh,

Election fever ensures that self-appointed foreign policy experts rule the debate and all long term interests are sacrificed for a gain of a few points in some opinion poll.

Even if someone talks, the likelihood that they will be ignored is high.

I suspect that is why the Pakistanis have not said anything yet.


If the Americans are completely reliant on China for intelligence on the state of the Pakistani arsenal, then I fear that would be a even more worrisome state of affairs.

That said, it does increasingly seem that way in North Korea.

Such a situation should give people like BC pause when they surreptiously advocate an alliance with America. I would think at this point an alliance with China may be far more economically sensible.

At 4:03 PM, Anonymous Sparsh said...


The Pakistanis *have* said something. They have issued official reassurances about the safe custody of the nukes a few times now. I don't think the talk coming out of the US is being completely ignored as pre-election PR bakwaas. It was taken seriously enough for official reassurances to given out.

Also, I don't get that part about BC advocating an alliance with the US. In fact from his public "I am the greatest patriot ever and everyone else is a traitor" posturing on the nuclear deal, it seems that he is advocating the exact opposite.


I have grave doubts about the "Nook Nood" conjecture and believe the Pakis do have a number of nukes entirely under their control. If you are interested, I can spell out my reasons for thinking so.

Keeping that in mind, the point that I was making is the following:

With American assistance and guidance, the Pakistanis have instituted a safe custody program for their nukes. Now, the Americans may not know the locations of all the storage sites but the sites themselves are suceptable to detection by American technical survelliance. The more secure the site is, the more physical protection measures it will contain and the security contingent manning it will be correspondingly greater. You can see what this will lead to. The more secure the site is, the more suceptable it will be to detection by the Americans.

So if the Pakistanis are sufficiently confused about American intentions and are convinced that the Americans are seriously considering an attempt to snatch or destroy their nukes then they will have to move the nukes and thin out the security measures that surround them in an attempt to make them harder to detect by American surveillance. This is where they become more suceptable to being snatched by the jihadis acting on inside information.

IMO, if the Pakistanis loose a nuke to the jihadis it will more likely be as a result of irresponsible rhetoric from the Americans much like what we are seeing these days than as a result of whatever India might do.

At 3:42 PM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Sparsh,

BC as I am sure you recall was unusually receptive to US views back when Mohammed Israr and his boys were being cut to bits on the Parikrama.

Since then I have been told that he changed his mind but you I never quite forgave him for wanting to get Joint Secy level appointment and payscale for writing his garbage at the NSAB.

I find the enthusiasm with which he pushes the idea that we should be more sensitive to what Americans write into their laws, a bit strange.

I suspect that he is the fishing/houbara hunting for the Americans.

At 11:33 AM, Anonymous Sparsh said...


Now *that* is interesting.

Since I was still crawling around in a diaper at the time of Bluestar, I have very little idea about who publicly said what and took which position in the media at the time. All of my info comes from summary accounts written after the fact with little if anything about who said what in the media. The only one whose actions I am aware of is Shekhar Gupta.

There is one thing that I have noticed in BC's writing about the nuclear deal. An unstated message that he seems to want to convey is that he understands the Americans better than the GoI, that he can deal with them better than the GoI can and that he should be the GoI's pointman in its dealings with the Americans.

I had merely notched that down to an over inflated sense of self importance. I hope the large number of his fans in a certain disreputable corner of the internet are aware of his past behaviour with regards to the Americans before they go around canvassing his greatness.

At 1:13 PM, Blogger maverick said...


That is exactly right, he thinks he is smarter than everyone - including GoI. I think that is an unbroken thread in his way of talking.

Sadly, I remember Bluestar too well. I remember guests in our house discussing it and their deep sense of regret that prevailed throughout the country after the event. I recall with crystal clarity what happened at dinner a week or so after the operation concluded, I attempted to justify the operation - my father was visibly upset and simply said "we have deeply deeply wounded the Sikh psyche and for that we will pay a terrible price". His words are seared on to my mind.

It was kutta (Shekhar Gupta) brought out the picture that graces hundreds of gurudwaras abroad whenever Khalistanis want to get some money. Some think this was a good thing because it showed everyone what had to be done. It created a more educated sense of public opinion. Some say that is the function of the press, but I have always had mixed feelings about this act and I have never felt 100% comfortable with Kutta after that.

In polite society in India we do not speak of Bluestar because everyone knows what was done was a deeply disturbing thing. We have paid a price for that act. Not even the chatterati dares to forget that. I was shocked to see Farah Khan of all people, in her movie Main Hoon Na, had attempted to show photoshop a picture of Kabir Bedi on to the famous picture of Vaidya, Sundarji and Brar outside the Akal Takht. I was deeply disgusted by this act on her part.

I never saw the re-education of BC personally, I was only made aware of it years after the event had occured.

The demand for a payscale and position matching his "stature" appeared in some media channel, but I do not recall who broke the news.

Honestly, in my very limited understanding the NSAB was originally formed by the NDA to get a better handle on the security administration which the NDA leadership was convinced was not completely politically reliable. It attempted to meet demands for reform inside the security community and provide the NDA leaders with deeper insights about its working.

Yet even someone as experiencd as Sri. Vajpayee was not prepared for such an act of insolence from these resume-building idiots inside NSAB and hence the administrative counsel prevailed.

I know of BC's popularity with the DCH and their NRI friends, but honestly I am too old to buy into that.

At 2:17 PM, Anonymous Sparsh said...


I am going to go off on a tangent here so pardon the digression.

I have no conscious memory of Bluestar. The Punjab insurgency too was over by the time I was old enough to read about and think about these things. And while I can conclude that Bluestar was a deeply hurtful incident from all that I have read post facto, I do not really *get* it deep down inside of me. I never will since I did not go through those times as an adult.

Of all the things that I have read on the topic (I make no claims of comprehensiveness), the pain and the hurt of Bluestar was best depicted in YIP's biosketch of the fictional Brig. Randhawa. It was a deeply moving piece of fiction and I feel it needs a wider audience.

On that note, where is YIP/VV these days?

Anyway, enough of a digression.


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