Indians and Pakistanis unite in their demand: ‘We want war! We want war!’

Drums of war are beating loudly!! In response to a small but brutal skirmish on the India–Pakistan border, ordinary people on both sides of the border are making emotional appeals to go to war.

Let us place the morality of such actions aside for the time being; a large concern about this is that it appears we are not ready to learn anything from history. Two wars fought in the recent past – the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the American invasion of Iraq – should be enough to teach us some important lessons.

To recap the history in brief: Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979; it was the beginning of the end of the Cold War. The invasion was not successful, with thanks due in part to covert American support to the mujahideens. The Soviet empire started collapsing soon thereafter. In 1985 Gorbachev, determined to change the Soviet economy and foreign policy, decided to unilaterally withdraw from Afghanistan.

What are the lessons from this war? First and most obvious is that even Soviet forces who were free to utilize and deploy brutal measures could not keep the invaded country under control. The second lesson is that Soviets ended up destroying any semblance of governance; the result of their actions was that anarchy was allowed to rule (read Taliban) once they vacated Afghanistan.

There is another nasty lesson here. A religious fanatic named Osama Bin Laden was among the mujahideens fighting against the Soviet army. As are all fanatics, Bin Laden was a delusional person – his thinking went something like this: ‘We (Bin Laden’s poorly trained gang of mujahideens) defeated the Soviet army and soon the Soviet empire was destroyed, so it could be said that it was us who destroyed Soviet Union. Now since we could destroy one super-power, it should be possible to bring down the other super power – the USA’. In reality, however, it was the Cold War that led to Soviet withdrawal, which makes the reasoning of the mujahideens laughable but completely plausible for a bunch of religious fanatics. This is why they thought that since ‘god was on their side, it would be possible to bring even US down (*sic*) by launching terrorist attacks.

To summarize, the Afghan war not only created a safe haven for the Taliban; it swelled the ranks of mujahideens and nurtured what we think of as the demon called Osama. This post summarizes how the Cold War stoked the flames of religious fanaticism in the Arab states as well.

There was nothing covert in case of the Iraq war. The USA invaded the country for reasons that still escape many of us – whether it was for reasons of morality, ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) or even because of oil. What happened during the invasion is well known; the United States conquered the country with relative ease, and President Bush quickly declared victory. What happened later is also well-known; there is no need to repeat the details.

What is important to note and many agree that the primary reason for chaos in Iraq is because the U.S. did not have any plan of action for post-invasion Iraq. Another post provides important insight into what happened in Iraq.

So this is my question to Indians: Have you thought through your plan of going to war? What is the plan after taking Karachi or Islamabad or the entirety of Pakistan? Do you really think that you have the resources to hold captive the entire country? If the Russians could not do it to Afghanistan and the Americans could not do it to Iraq then by what reasoning you think you can do it to Pakistan? Do you not realize that going to war with Pakistan is a futile effort that will result in more deaths of Indian soldiers?

Do you really want to destroy the barely surviving democracy in Pakistan and install a Taliban government in its place?

If not, and hopefully you will realize the folly of your demands, then please sit down, think it through and come to a more viable option.