Thursday, December 27, 2007

Will Benazir Bhutto be the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Our Time?

A lifetime ago, the earth's first war to spread across four continents and all its major oceans began with the deaths of an heir to a declining empire and his wife, for whose love he had foresworn any right of succession to the throne for their children.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Sophie, Duchess of Hehenberg, were fatally wounded on the streets of Sarajevo and died shortly after. He was not the first choice as target; her death was not planned at all. The assassins' goal was modest, a minor piece of secession of no consequence to anyone more than a few miles removed from the southern-slav provinces of Austria-Hungary.

Their results, though unintended, were consequential: 20 million dead and 21 million wounded over the next five years, arguably followed by another 100 million dead over the three decades that followed.

All at a cost of less than a handful of bullets.

Yesterday's murder of Benazir Bhutto, accomplished by assassins presumably intent on broader effect than those in Sarajevo, has the potential for far greater harm than the 20 million or 100 million lives cut short on the streets of an inconsequential city of an antique empire.

Bhutto's death will likely tear Pakistan as much as did Ferdinand's finally render his empire beyond repair. Her murder has the capacity to destroy not only democracy in that frail land, no matter how fragile, no matter how corrupt, but also to destroy any pretense of civilization within that country's porous borders.

Truth to tell, not much of the world has reason to care whether Islamabad is governed by a former general Musharraf or a former Citibank VP Aziz. Except that…

Pakistan is the only declared Muslim nuclear state, with delivery systems, and
Forces aligned with those of Osama bin Laden are among the most likely to succeed if there is a change of control.
How much disruption could bin Laden cause across the world, across civilization itself with 60 nuclear weapons and an aggressive will to trigger havoc?

We may find the answer before too many months have passed.

Imagine one a week over the course of a year. A harbor here, airport there, capitol city on one day, your city on another. Think of 100 million dead, 200 million refugees. Radioactive air and water. Western civilization unable to respond effectively, uncertain.


Unknown said...

The nuclear angle isn't the only side of it, and the Bhutto/Ferdinand angle isn't the only WWI parallel.

Look at 1913 and look at now. 1913: European nations with huge nationalistic militaristic imperial pride, in intricate webs of alliances. Now: Putin is cultivating Russian national pride and planting flags in the Canadian north claiming it as his own. North Korea is thumbing its nose at the world out of its pride. Iran and the US in a giant nuclear scale pissing contest. China with the biggest army the world has ever seen, backed by their own personal industrial revolution and trillions of Euros in cash, enough to fund at least a couple years of unlimited warfare. Now look at Iran and where China, Russia, and the US stand around that hot issue. WWIII is going to be China, Russia and friends against USA et. al., starting in Iran. Whatever happens in Pakistan because of Bhutto could easily be the spark, and the West doesn't stand a chance against Russia's military know-how (only 10 years behind the US) and China's scale of industry and manpower.

Bob Leibowitz said...

Not -- Good points. -- Bob