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April 14, 2005

Bush's Plan for Peace: Unlimited F-16's for Pakistan

Leah Maloney

      In recent decades, the relationship between the United States and Pakistan has been a tumultuous one. The U.S. has been desperate for allies in their fight to root out terror in the Middle East, and Pakistan has been one of its only supporters. Since 9/11, Pakistan has become an important partner in fighting terrorist organizations—it is one of the only Muslim countries that publicly supports the U.S.

      As a reward for their support, President Bush has decided to sell F-16 warplanes to Pakistan. Simply stated, this will undoubtedly create turmoil within the region's balance of power. Pakistan's rival, India, responded with "great disappointment" to the decision. In response, the U.S. has announced it will allow New Delhi to purchase "sophisticated weapons" from the military to quell their fears of an "anti-status-quo" Pakistani state, proving the decision to be disruptive to the region only hours after the initial announcement was made.

      Considering Pakistan's recent history, this decision is absolutely absurd. Pakistan originally signed an agreement to buy the F-16 fighter jets in the late 1980s, however, were unable to do so after the U.S. government imposed sanctions on Islamabad because of its nuclear weapons program. In addition to its illegal nuclear arms program, the Pakistani government has acknowledged that a rouge scientist from their program provided nuclear centrifuges to Iran. In providing Iran with the means for nuclear power and developing its own WMDs, Pakistan has upset the dynamics of an already charged region. India is concerned that Pakistan will use its increased military capabilities to over take Kashmir, a region over which the two countries have consistently battled. Pakistan and India have fought three wars in the past fifty years over Kashmir.

      President Bush has claimed that the sale of unlimited F-16s to Pakistan is meant to aid our joint fight against terrorist groups in the region. These types of fighter jets, however, are unnecessary for such conflicts. It is unlikely that F-16s will be useful in a struggle, as reported by a U.S. official, of "7,000 to 10,000 Pakistani troops courageously battling 200 al-Qaida guys to a standstill." F-16s equipped with AMRAAM air-to-air missiles and precision guided bombs are hardly typical weaponry to be used against the small terrorist cells in the mountains of Pakistan. These weapons are, however, extremely threatening to Pakistan's neighbors who have grown weary of the thinly veiled autocracy of Pakistan, where for a time the president General Pervez Musharraf was also the Army Chief.

      The Administration's recent decision to sell Pakistan the F-16s is yet another glaring inconsistency in the Bush Doctrine's commitment of democratization. For all of Bush's grandiose claims and tough talk that the enemies of freedom will be destroyed, this decision gives power to an autocratic state suspected of developing nuclear weapons and selling nuclear technology on the black market. If the Bush administration is really committed to a free and peaceful world, it must stop applying its ideology inconsistently for it to have any legitimacy. As Pakistan becomes more and more aggressive, it threatens to provoke an arms race or direct retaliation from its neighbors. The decision is especially insulting to India, as the world's largest democracy. India is an example in the region of a multiplicity of ethnic and religious groups forming a high-functioning state. Following this insulting move by the US, it will be likely to disregard future attempts at diplomacy. Former senator Larry Pressler (R-S.D.), who wrote and sponsored the 1985 law that derailed the first sale of F-16s, called the decision "an atrocity" that goes against "everything the Bush administration [allegedly] stands for." How can the Bush administration hope to foster democracy when its policies encourage militarism and violence in an already unstable region?

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