The fact that George Bush has launched the third war of his presidency is getting very little attention. Part of the problem is that people don’t understand what a war is. If you send your troops into another country without their permission, you are at war with that nation. By that common sense definition, the United States is now at war with Pakistan. There have even been skirmishes between American and Pakistani troops.
This war emerged out of the familiar logic of empire: every new territory you acquire must be defended from its neighbors, who are likely to harbor those unfriendly to the imperial project. The fact that neighboring countries are likely to be unfriendly to an imperial project is almost inevitable: seeing your neighbors conquered makes you worry about your own fate. So the more you conquer, the more you need to keep conquering. As the old saying goes, in for a penny, in for a pound. That’s the logic that took Britain from a few trading outposts in India to control of the entire subcontinent.
The NATO countries are losing ground in Afghanistan, in part because insurgent nationalists (sometimes described as the neo-Taliban, a too loose umbrella term) have a nurturing enclave in Pakistan. So by the logic of empire, securing Afghanistan means attacking Pakistan.
Where will this new war take us? Will Pakistan, a nuclear power, become as destabilized as Afghanistan? Will it too become engulfed in civil war as the Pakistani army splits into two, torn between those loyal to the United States (the great paymaster) and those nurturing nationalist aspirations?
Bush’s third war could turn out to be a much bigger blunder than even Iraq or Afghanistan. For that reason, we need a “negotiated peace” in Afghanistan, so that the casus belli is removed. As noted earlier, even the very conservative Jonathan Kay admits that a “negotiated peace” is now necessary.