Will India and Pakistan ever finish the cat-fight and get on with a real war? “We live in hope,” like my grandma used to say — but don’t hold your breath. Listening to the Indian and Paki generals shaking their little fists at each other, with their little mustaches going up and down, hearing the Indians talk about how their patience is “almost” exhausted — it just gets me down.
This fag-slapping shit gives war a bad name.
I used to live next to a housefull of Pakistanis in Santa Ana. They were all brothers or cousins or something and ran this pirate cab company, and they fought non-stop — but I never saw a single punch thrown. It was this weird Pakistani style of fighting: they’d yell for hours before they escalated to slapping — weird downward slaps, like elephants hitting each other with their trunks. After a couple minutes of that, they’d each retreat about five yards and look around for automotive parts to throw. They’d keep throwing till they were tired, or till they accidentally hit one of the half-fixed taxis parked in the yard. That was the only thing that sobered them up: hurting a car. When they drew blood on each other they’d cheer, but if they broke a windshield they’d instantly stop fighting and run up to the car moaning and sobbing.
The way those cabdrivers fought is the way India and Pakistan fight — maybe it’s something in the water there. It’s always low-intensity, low-risk skirmishing, like these “mortar duels” the networks keep reporting from Kashmir. Mortar duels are the perfect combat for cowards, because the mortar is a very high-trajectory weapon, so you can fire it over hills and never even see the enemy face-to-face.
I’m not knocking mortars; they can be powerful weapons in the hands of a real army. The East Asians are particularly good with them. A mortar barrage from Chinese or Vietnamese troops is a serious deal. But that’s because East Asian troops take the risk of lugging their tubes right up to the front line, where they can do quick rangefinding and walk their fire right up to the enemy positions.
The mortar barrages you hear about on the India-Pakistan line are nothing like that. These are from mortars dug in way behind the front line. The aim isn’t really to hit any enemy troops but to make a lot of noise, a lot of chimpanzee-style hooting. At most, they aim at a fixed target already plotted. Like a village. Border villages make great targets, because they’re not going anywhere and can’t fight back. So both armies blow up huts on the other side of the border and kill a lot of livestock.
Somebody should do a history of livestock-killing as an element of military history. In the fifteenth century, the Germans called soldiers “the horse-butchers’ league” because it was basic tactics to kill knights’ horses — by taking them out of the saddle, you cut their speed and mass by two-thirds. In “primitive warfare” like you see in Africa, killing the enemy’s cattle is the worst blow you can inflict, worse than killing the wives. And in Kashmir right now, the main target for the brave mortarmen of both armies is livestock. You mortar a village and you’ll only kill a few villagers; the rest will duck inside, get down on the floor after the first shells hit. But cattle can’t duck, so they inevitably get shrapnelled into hamburger.
And the really sad thing is the villagers — on the Indian side of the border, anyway — can’t even eat the sacred-cow meat. That’s one good argument for Islam, I guess: at least you can eat the cattle-casualties. Or maybe not, because the Muslims have that whole “halal” deal where you can only eat animals killed in the proper Mohammedan manner. I doubt if an 82-mm mortar is an Imam-approved slaughtering device.
Religion — ain’t it wonderful?
Anyway, the point is: the longer these two chickenshit armies mortar each other, the less likely it is they’ll ever get down to business with a real war. The mortar duels are military masturbation, a way of letting off steam. When you mortar each other for months and months, you’re signaling the fact that you scared of a real fight.
The Indian Army has the weapons and the numbers to win. They’ve got plenty of hardware and 1.1 million men, roughly the number of riders on the average Indian train. But it’s hard to believe the Indian Army has the right spirit when you see them drilling in those wacky uniforms, doing the Monty Python moves they got from the British. Goosestepping, swaggersticks, little mustaches — it’s pathetic. You keep looking around for John Cleese as officer-in-charge.
True, the Indians have beaten the Pakistanis three times out of three (in 1947, 1965 and 1971). But look at what happened the one time they tried fighting a real army: the India-China war of 1962. India decided that its new status as world power required it to grab a few square miles of Himalayan wasteland from China. They worked themselves up into a war frenzy and attacked the Chinese. The Chinese, who don’t do woofing, made no boasts, tried smoothing things over, and when that failed, quietly flattened the Indian army. It was a rout: mustaches and swaggersticks sprinting downhill so fast the snow hadn’t yet melted on their helmets when they hit 120-degree Delhi. After that, the Indians decided they’d stick to picking on someone less than half their own size: the Pakistanis.
The Pakistani Army only has 550,000 men — just about the number of spectators crushed to death in the average cricket match in Karachi. They talk big — what do you expect, when the name Pakistan means “land of the pure”? But they’ve lost 3 out of 3 to the Hindus. The Pakistani Army is one of those third-world armies that specialize in protection money, not war. The Army runs the country, and the intelligence service, the ISI, runs the Army. And the ISI doesn’t want a real fight. They’d rather shake down the local drug dealers and let the Kashmiri “jihadi” groups they control raid India. It’s safer and cheaper. Besides, they know they’d lose a real war. As long as the Pakistanis act through the “jihadi,” they can keep denying any involvement at all. In other words: it’s the usual cowardly standoff.
But we’re supposed to believe it might get serious this time, because the ruling party in India are “Hindu militants.” Uh…yeah. “Hindu militants”! I can’t help it, that phrase just cracks me up every time I hear it. What does a Hindu militant do, anyway? Scream, “You bastard, you ate my great-grandfather!” at the drive-thru window of the New Delhi Burger King? The only thing these “Hindu militants” ever did was burn down shops selling Valentine’s Day cards. Don’t ask me why. Apparently they’re anti-love. I have to agree with them on that. Death to Love! Make War on Love! I’m all for that. But I just don’t see how putting a match to some Hallmark cards qualifies you to be the kind of “militant” who actually fights and wins wars. All I know is, militants whose big atrocity is burning Hallmark cards don’t sound too scary. Just reasonable.
The other reason we’re supposed to be scared is: the Nukes. Oh no, nukes! Like everybody’s supposed to faint the moment nukes get mentioned. People act like the moment somebody’s got one nuke, they’ve “got nukes.” It doesn’t work that way. They’re not guppies — they don’t breed on their own. You have to build a stockpile one at a time. And you have to use them. Until then, they’re museum pieces. The Pakistanis only have about 20. Suppose they use ’em all, and every one kills 500,000 Indians. Let’s do the math. The Indians lose… 10 million people-hey, that’s one percent of their population. One percent! Whoop-tee-doo! Stalin fed a quarter of the Soviet population to the Nazi meat grinder, and look what he got: half the world was his! Surely Kashmir and Januu are worth a measly one percent?!
India has about 200 nukes, so they could wipe out Pakistan. Over. “Land of the Pure” becomes “Land Where There is No Land, Just Smoked Glass.” But they won’t, because they’re too chickenshit. And Pakistan won’t nuke them, because it wouldn’t do anything except maybe finally piss the Indians off enough to act.
So nothing’s going to happen. It’s just another big media fake, like skinheads and Y2K. It’s teasers like these that make life in Fresno a daily hell.
If the Indians were going to do something, they would’ve done it when the Pakistani/Kashmiri terrorists attacked the Indian parliament a few months ago. Bodies everywhere, RPGs blasting the government HQ — and all the Indians did was screech that their patience was “almost” running out. Or a few weeks ago when they attacked the Indian army barracks…and slaughtered a few dozen women and children as they pulled up in a bus. Again, the Indian patience was “almost” at an end. And that’s all they’ll ever say: they’re “almost” ready to fight.
As a former elementary-school bully (turned high school punching bag), I’ll tell you a little secret: there is no “almost” in a fight. When you’re fighting somebody who “almost” hits people, you can relax. He won’t do shit.
I wish I had better news. I wish I could tell you there was a chance of a war worth watching down in that hellhole subcontinent. But there isn’t. They’ll probably wipe each other out someday, but till then it’s just going to be dead cows and villagers, and dumb generals in secondhand British uniforms talking big for the camera with their little moustaches going up and down, up and down.
This article was first published on May 29, 2002.
Gary Brecher is the author of the War Nerd. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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