December 11, 2004

War Nerd on Kashmir

The War Nerd on the highest battlefield in the world -- Gary Brecher reviews the 1999 fighting at 18,000 feet in Kashmir between India and Pakistan. The topic sounds as thin as the air, but, as usual, Brecher finds something important to say about it:

In tactical terms, Kargil meant very little. The battlefield was one of the least-valuable bits of real estate on the planet. If it had fallen, nothing would have changed down on the hot flatlands where the Indians and Pakistanis actually live.

But war these days isn't about tactical victory. It's about morale, and propaganda. In those terms, Kargil was a huge, huge victory for India and a big defeat for Pakistan. It did more for Indian nationalism than cricket, and that's saying a lot. It's damn hard finding anything everybody in India can rally behind. Almost everything there is the exclusive property of one particular tribe, or religion, or caste. Remember, India nearly tore itself apart twelve years ago over whether the Muslims or the Hindus had a right to build a shrine on some extra-special piece of holy turf in Ayodhya.

And that's where losing 400 men in a high-profile, harmless little war like Kargil comes in handy. Those websites I mentioned list the names of every single Indian soldier killed up there. When you consider how many Indians die every day, with nobody giving a damn at all, it's pretty amazing that these 400 dead guys get so much adoring press.

When you look at the list of names, you see why. Some of the names are obviously Sikhs (Sikhs love armies), but there are plenty of Hindu names, Muslim names -- for all I know there are Zoroastrian names in there too. It's a chance to sob together over those dead integrated units -- like those good old corny WW II movies where every platoon has this melting-pot roll call: "OK, lissen up, Bernstein, deNapoli, O'Brien, Kowalski, and Running Bear!" And naturally the most harmless ethnic sidekick in the platoon gets killed and everybody cries, and feels patriotic. I haven't even seen the Bollywood movie they made out of Kargil but I'm willing to bet it has a scene like that in it.

By losing 400 men up there where there are no mosques, Hindu temples, Untouchables or sacred cows, India got a huge nation-building boost at zero cost -- a strategic victory out of a minor skirmish. [More...]

The War Nerd writes war reviews for the same reason I write movie reviews: because thinking hard about anything can teach you a little more about how the world works.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

No comments: