What is motivating the most recent Sy Hersh sources?

Recently the New Yorker magazine ran a piece by renowned investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, which posed the question of whether or not the US military would guard Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

US officials say there is no evidence that the Taliban will take over the Pakistani government and therefore it is sufficient to boost Pakistan’s existing security. The more significant fear, they say, is an internal takeover of the nuclear arsenal.

A spokesman for the Pakistani military said, in an official denial, “Pakistan neither needs any American unit for enhancing the security for its arsenal nor would accept it.”

Hersh points to an event that went unreported in the Western mainstream media in June when a nuclear weapon component went missing event triggering the activation of a highly classified US emergency response team. The event turned out to be a false alarm. But it showed that the US does have the capability to at least attempt to intervene in Pakistan.

Perhaps even more intriguing than the information that Hersh presents in the piece is the article itself. Hersh is notorious in Washington for having a Rolodex that most investigative journalists covet. He gets high level Department of Defense officials to anonymously share highly sensitive information.

Knowing this, it is important to approach Hersh’s articles with at least some skepticism. It can not be denied that the unnamed sources have agendas for leaking the information they choose to share.

There is a possibility that officials in the Department of Defense and the intelligence community strategically leak this information to Hersh and then use his report to gauge public reaction to their actions. They can continue to deny the report as they have in this case, but the seed is planted in the American consciousness.

Another reason for this latest leak to Hersh may be to put Pakistan on alert that contingency plans are indeed in place to secure their nuclear arsenal if some form of emergency threatened their nuclear weapons components.

The Pakistani concern and reluctance to allow US military access to their nuclear arsenal is born out of the perceived and perhaps real close knit diplomatic relationship that the US maintains with Pakistan’s neighbor and enemy: India.

The variable that complicates the equation is that Pakistan relies heavily on US aid, so instead of stonewalling US officials, it is believed by a majority of US officials that they simply lie to the US and continue to see the aid paid. The last large payment was approved by Congress in September and totaled over $7 billion.

The bottom line to success for the US in the region is convincing the Pakistani army to focus their energy and resources on fighting the Taliban within their own borders rather than always preparing for a possible conflict with India.

There is a doom scenario laid out by one of Hersh’s unnamed US Special Forces advisor says, ““We are playing into Al Qaeda’s deep game here. If we blow it, Al Qaeda could come in and scoop up a nuke or two.”

This could very well be leaked to increase support for further involvement in the region (with a troop increase announcement looming for Afghanistan and continued drone attacks) by speaking as though further instability in Pakistan could lead to terrorists obtaining a nuclear weapon, a scenario that most rational people view as worst case.

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