An update to my post on the latest machinations in Paksitan: Left Flank notes another wrinkle, and posits a very worrisome observation. In revealing that several Chinese citizens had been kidnapped (China has always sided with Pakistan in its disputes with India, for various geopolitical reasons), and the Chinese government’s subsequent disgust that it was allowed to happen, The Economist implies China had a role in the mosque conflict. In evaluating China’s soft power in the broader region, I came to the conclusion that while its influence is growing, in general that is more because of American decline than any sort of direct Chinese advance.
Now I’m not so sure. If China has made the sorts of inroads into Pakistan power politics that it can demand violent action against a radical mosque when years of American haranguing have not, that presents two very worrisome conclusions: not only might Beijing actually be our best bet for securing Pashtunistan (rather than Islamabad), but, it seems, the U.S. cannot bring about action without its cooperation. A decline in Soft Power indeed—has the United States become so neutered in Central Asia that it cannot accomplish any objectives beyond the countries it has invaded and occupied?