General Pervez Musharraf just declared martial law in Pakistan. This is an understandable action, even as this writer sits in a two-party democracy 20,000 kilometers away. Government troops exert little control over Western Pakistan, Baluchistan, and recently lost the Swat region to militant Islamic leaders. Radical fundamentalists seem to have free reign over Pakistani-held Kashmir and a significant presence in the southern city of Karachi.
It seems fair to say government forces control less than 50% of the territory of Pakistan.
Regardless of what we think about Musharraf, the alternative is the no-girls-schools, chop-your-hand-off, Taliban-inspired, militant Islamists. If they take control of the entire nation of Pakistan they also assume command and control of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.
How long do we have before radical Islamist members of the Pakistani army decide to appropriate a nuclear warhead for catastrophic purposes? This is not beyond the realm of possibility if the Musharraf government fails completely.
In the meantime, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney bang the war drums for the impending invasion of Iran. After all, Iran may just manufacture their first nuclear bomb in the next 5 to 10 years. This represents a far greater threat in the eyes of the Bush Administration than loose Pakistani bombs, already assembled and ready to explode anywhere. Remember, in today's global economy all you need to deliver any weapon is a 20-foot shipping container and a few people along the way willing to support your cause.
If the Musharraf-led state of emergency government in Pakistan cannot control the failing state, those deliveries could be arriving at a port near you.
Note: I realize former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto represents an alternative to the militant Islamic forces, but her presence appears to be too little, too late.
We need to be equally concerned about the example Musharraf is giving George W. Bush. This idea of imprisoning the Supreme Court justices and instituting martial law would certainly appeal to Cheney & Co. as their term of office expires.