If India asks America to run Kashmir

Some more departures into the unthinkable

If their mandate is to think the unthinkable, then Frederick Kagan and Michael O’Hanlon are making a good job of it over at the Brookings Institution. In November last year, they wrote an op-ed in the New York Times outlining how the United States might have to confiscate Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and fly them to New Mexico. And now, in a policy brief arguing for the US to increase the size of its armed forces, they construct a scenario wherein American troops may have to enter Kashmir.

Responding to War over Kashmir What if war breaks out between Pakistan and India over Kashmir? U.S. interests in Kashmir are not great enough to justify armed intervention on one side in such a war, and no formal alliance commits us to step in. There are other ways in which foreign forces might become involved, however. If India and Pakistan came close to using, or actually used, nuclear weapons, they might consider what was previously unthinkable (to New Delhi in particular)—pleading to the international community for help. For example, they might ask the international community to run Kashmir for a period of years in order to prevent a nuclear war that would kill tens of millions, shatter the tradition of nuclear non-use so essential to global stability, and make Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal vulnerable to extremists.

What might a stabilization mission in Kashmir entail? The region has about half of Iraq’s population and area. That suggests initial stabilization forces of about 100,000, with a U.S. contribution of 30,000 to 50,000. The mission would make sense only if India and Pakistan blessed it, so there would be little point in deploying a force large enough to defeat one of those countries. But, robust monitoring of border regions, as well as counter-insurgent and counter-terrorist strike forces, would be necessary. [Brookings]

Now, Kagan and O’Hanlon are entitled to think of far out challenges, even if they are too far out and contain too many leaps of logic. But it is remarkable that they should think that a force of just 100,000 troops is sufficient for stabilisation, even of the ‘initial’ kind. There are far more than that number today just on India’s side of the Line of Control. And what about troop levels after the initial period? They don’t say. Perhaps that’s because doing so will not fit their conclusion—that the US needs at least another 100,000 active duty soldiers and marines. Indeed, that’s the greatest weakness in their analysis: for the kind of global policing role they envisage for the US, they grossly underestimate the numbers of troops required. For all the advances in military technology, the business of holding territory is a numbers game. To acquire the capability to match its intentions, the US needs to put many times more than number in uniform.

The irony is if Kagan and O’Hanlon were to argue for, say, 300,000 more troops, no one will take them seriously. For that is truly unthinkable in America.

7 thoughts on “If India asks America to run Kashmir”

  1. Nitin:

    The anti-Rumsifieldien view is really taking off in the USA. There has to be a balance between the lean army and a flabby one. What about a well-proportioned force?

  2. All this applies if you GOTUS were to manage Kashmir like the Indian army. GOTUS deployment model involves minimal casualties for US armed forces, even if it kills 1,000,000 locals.

    News of terrorists possibly holed up in a house. Bomb the neighbourhood.

  3. Unless the American Army is super-human (not!) or is better at making friends (sure!) they’ll need what the Indian Army, CRPF and BSF have deployed – north of 400,000. To be fair to the authors though, they assume “India and Pakistan blessed it”. Take the Pak military and paramilitary (aka jihadis) out of the equation and 100,000 is much easier to make a case for.

  4. Manu: GOTUS deployment model involves minimal casualties for US armed forces, even if it kills 1,000,000 locals.
    Yes, US strategy is designed to minimize it’s own casualties. But they’re not stupid either. Witness their – very British-inspired – strategy in that hell-hole called Iraq. They’re combining that ruthlessness with a big dose of political pragmatism to achieve much better results than mowing everyone down as the only solution. They should have learned from the past-masters of colonization – the British – rather than trying to rewrite the time-tested military + political playbook. The New Emperor is scrambling to put his clothes on 🙂

  5. They tend to possess a remarkably, preposterous foresight. If India and Pakistan, in the future, are to be so concerned about preventing a nuclear conflict, they would just stay at comfortable distance from each other over the Kashmir issue rather than approach the U.S to mitigate the threat. The Americans are busy playing police, while lending a lot of time to the Indians and the Chinese to march to their bright destinies. Cmon’ guys just truly be free.

  6. The US military is not meant to be an occupying force – not a long-term one anyway. It is devised to strike a devastating blow to an enemy half the world away, and pull out. This is reflected in its organisation, training, and equipment.

    To play the role of a global policeman that occupies territory, the entire structure will have to be revamped.

  7. What clothes? The emperor is naked still? The British only ‘occupied’ for about 150 years. Look at other examples for comparative purposes.

    Should we call these regimes Depleted Uranium , as they have called Saddam’s Chemical Ali?

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