Question: What big trends have you missed during your 18-year
tenure at Foreign Affairs?
Jim Hoge: I had a number of people in Washington and the State
Department and elsewhere telling me very early on, all the way back 18
years ago, "Put the focus on Pakistan. Pakistan is going to be the most
dangerous state for all of us." And that was the head of policy
planning at the time, a man named Sam Lewis who said that to me and I
said, “Well is that the number one item for policy planning, long term
planning for the century?” He said, “You bet it is.” Well it still is
and it’s more urgent now than it was then. We did pay attention to
them. We’ve done a number of pieces on not just Pakistan, but the
dynamics of that region and how easily they come unraveled, but this was
long before 9/11 and long before Afghanistan was viewed as anything but
a backwater after the Soviet invasion was over, so I still remember
that neither the State Department nor Foreign Affairs really grasped at
that time just what a problem Pakistan could end up to be.
Now why do I call it a big problem now? Pakistan is a major state.
It’s not like Afghanistan, a backwater state. It has a big population, a
lot of big military, nuclear weapons and one of the great nation to
nation conflicts that still goes on. If there is going to be another
big nation to nation war it’s more likely to be between India and
Pakistan than almost anybody else. We have been completely
unsuccessful, not that we haven’t tried, when I say we I mean the United
States, in getting Pakistan and India to finally resolve the problems
over Kashmir and get back into more normal state to state relationship
putting the emphasis on their economic developments. In that period of
time, those 18 years or so since that first warning Pakistan has gone
through a great discombobulation, civil governments that didn’t work,
military coups that didn’t work, the rise in fundamentalism there.
Meanwhile, across the border India has gone from being a relatively huge,
poverty-ridden country with very few prospects for economic development
into this raging new first rate power, which is where they’re headed,
with a very dynamic economy and so you have this contest between a
fading Pakistan if you will and a rising India and that of course is the
grounds for even more tensions and possible miscalculations.
Question: How would such a war affect the U.S.?
Jim Hoge: Well one has to assume that if there really was another
all out Indian/Pakistani war that nuclear weapons would be used and
what the specific ramifications would be it’s hard to say, but a nuclear
war, there has only been one use of nuclear weapons ever, is an
incalculable risk with unintended consequences. We are both an ally of
Pakistan and we are an ally of India. What would we do if the two of
them ended up in a war? What would we do if one started using nuclear
weapons? I don’t know, but it is a cataclysm to be avoided at all
Recorded May 28, 2010
Interviewed by Jessica Liebman