Pakistan standoff demostrates faulty security assumptions

Pakistan police are locked in a standoff with students holed up inside a mosque in Islamabad.  The students are demanding “Taliban-style” sharia law.  Says Reuters,

“The clashes began when about 150 students attacked a security picket at a Pakistani government office near the mosque, snatched weapons and took four officials hostage, according to police.”

Which suggests one of the fallacies of traditional security thinking: Keep control of the weapons and they can’t rebel. These days, gun control fails as a means to keep an unruly populace in check. Pakistani students steal guns from the police. IEDs (improvised explosive devices) are the weapon of choice in Iraq– and, apparently, England as well. And even the LTTE in Sri Lanka has long said that their number one supplier of weapons is the Sri Lanka military. LTTE has acquired not only rifles and ammunition, but even artillery (which they used effectively against its former owners) by overrunning government positions.If weapons cannot be kept out of the hands of would-be militants, and if fighting the militants only makes them stronger, the answer (assuming a leader wants to prevent war) is to satisfy the needs of the populace. This, of course, is a politically risky move, since in an economy of scarce resources, giving to those who have little requires taking from those who have much (and who probably supported your election). 

 Combine this with the benefits a leader gains when war erupts, and it should be no surprise that differences of opinion (and resource allocation) so often flare into armed conflict: there is in some circumstances very little incentive for prevention.

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