Hey, let's buy Pakistan's nukes

A useful piece by Bret Stephens, not because of its central argument but because of the vivid details it supplies that undermine its central argument, especially as potentially applied to Iran:

Every visitor to Pakistan has seen them: 20-foot tall roadside replicas of a remote mountain where, a decade ago, Pakistan conducted its first overt nuclear tests. This is what the country’s leaders — military, secular, Islamist — consider their greatest achievement…

A.Q. Khan, father of Pakistan’s nuclear program (and midwife to a few others), likes to point out what a feat it was that a country “where we can’t even make a bicycle chain” could succeed at such an immense technological task. He exaggerates somewhat: Pakistan got its bomb largely through a combination of industrial theft, systematic violation of Western export controls, and a blueprint of a weapon courtesy of Beijing…

But if Pakistanis thought a bomb would be a net national asset, they miscalculated. Yes, Islamabad gained parity with its adversaries in New Delhi, gained prestige in the Muslim world, and gained a day of national pride, celebrated every May 28.

The theory is that Pakistan, straining under a huge financial crunch, would be willing to sell us disarmament and democracy in exchange for, say, $100 billion and a promise to bring them under the U.S. nuclear umbrella. Laying aside the unlikelihood of Americans supporting a nuke attack on New Delhi to defend Islamabad, does anyone seriously think Pakistan would make a deal given what Stephens says about the centrality of nukes to the country’s national pride (“their greatest achievement”)? The Islamic Bomb, auctioned off to the west in a fire sale to prop up the economy at a moment when tensions with India are sky high? I can’t imagine how secular rule in Pakistan would survive that. But it’s worth thinking about anyway since this is, after all, kinda sorta what Obama’s
Iran policy boils down to — hoping against hope that the bottom falls out of oil prices, leaving the mullahs so hard up for cash that they’re willing to buckle on their nuclear program even though they’ve followed the same nationalistic cultural blueprint Islamabad has, declaring holidays to celebrate technological advances and fetishizing their capabilities as a source of parity with the west. It’s all about pride and humiliation, and the more pride they invest in the bomb, the more unthinkable and destabilizing the humiliation would be if they were forced to cave. Which is why they can’t, and won’t.