What are they smoking in the Pentagon?

The things Mullen & Petraeus will believe

Bob Woodward’s book casts the top uniformed leadership of the US armed forces in very poor light. Going by this report in the New York Times today, you’ll have to agree that Mr Woodward was not far off the mark.

Consider these two consecutive sentences:

For now, there are no signs that Cold Start is more than a theory, and analysts say there is no significant shift of new troops or equipment to the border.

But American military officials and diplomats worry that even the existence of the strategy in any form could encourage Pakistan to make rapid improvements in its nuclear arsenal. [NYT]

Admiral Mullen and General Petraeus (and their civilian colleague, Richard Holbrooke) want to warn the Indian government against committing thoughtcrime. They offer the incredible argument that the very notion that India will respond to Pakistani terrorism with a military attack scares the Pakistani army and hence must not even be thought of.

These gentlemen can’t be serious.

Little wonder then that President Obama is unlikely to bring this up during his India trip. That it was previously discussed—with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh saying unambiguously such a doctrine is not government policy—is in itself a sign of the credulity and, yes, incompetence currently reigning at the top levels of the US armed forces.

Sushant & I have previously argued that India should do an Operation Markarap to scotch one excuse the Pakistani army has offered to the United States to obfuscate the real reasons for its foot-dragging. But if some US officials believe that India must be persuaded to stop thinking about its defence strategies, then there are few polite ways to tell them what to do.

Related Links: Polaris explains the Cold Start thing and Walter Ladwig has a good academic paper on the topic.