Pakistan and Perspective
I think Newberry has it just right. It's not just about horror and the slaughter of children, it's also about getting caught with your pants down. I believe farmers call this "eating your seed corn," and it appears to be what we're doing now:
However, the Levant conflict is merely the greater political problem, writ small. "Full strategic commitment" is a term of art, it means that the resources of a nation, both in the present and in the ongoing future, are already allocated to existing projects and promises. There is no free surplus to act with. The danger of it, and the reason that sensible politicians and government functionaries of all types look on it with horror, is that there is no spare capacity to either meet unexpected problems, nor to exploit unexpected advantages.
Eventually competing interests begin to recognize that full strategic committment of the global power is a reality, and they begin to exploit what Hoffman's classic book from the last moment of full strategic commitment called Gulliver's Troubles. The solution is for a nation to work through more diffuse structures of power, which simultaneously coÃ¶pt and coral other nations into a larger consensus. However, the failure to do this leads to the circumstance where more rogue actors take advantage of the situation, and in ways designed to increase global instability in favor of the power of their own elites.
An example of this is the development of Pakistan's nuclear deterrent. All policies have a cost, and one of the costs of the Bush policy to turn the corner from Afghanistan into Iraq was an acquiescence to Pakistani nuclear ambitions and continued military dictatorship. Pakistan has responded by harboring Osama bin Laden, continuing to shelter militants, regressing from democratic institutions, and most fatefully for US interests, aggressively pursued a program of nuclear escalation and proliferation. Without Pakistan, Iran would not have a nuclear program. The Pakistan-North Korea axis is providing much of the engine of third wave nuclear statehood, with the first wave being the two superpowers, the second wave being major powers â€“ France, Britain, China, India â€“ and the third wave being dedicated powers. Currently Israel, South Africa, Pakistan, North Korea are "in", with Iran some distance away.
The Pakistani reactor program is about to take a very large step towards potential militarization with their new reactor, previously Pakistan lied about the development and purpose of their nuclear program, but this time they do not need to act covertly. The post report has been picked up by the major wire stories, and is going around the media space quickly.
However, what is missing from this report is some context: the Pakistanis are set to make operational another reactor next year, which is of a similar type to one they are already operating. This new reactor is destabilizing, because it is not only larger, but represents a type of reactor which is more obviously, and specifically, intended to produce plutonium. Such a reactor would mean that in the 15 to 20 year time frame, Pakistan would not only have a defensive deterrent status, but would be able to supply other nations, and construct a large enough nuclear arsenal to project force. The reactor is an airstrike magnet, waiting for the moment when India or other local power decides that Pakistan cannot be restrained by international institutions, or there is domestic political credibility to be had in acting tough. Given the Israeli public's response to a wildly indiscriminate bombing response to what is a localized problem there, do not wager too heavily against the possibility of a new Prime Minister in some nation looking for a chance to prove that he or she has the cajones to act without regard for long term consequences.