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The War Nerd May 29, 2002
Fag vs. Fag: the India-Pakistan Phoney War
By Gary Brecher Browse author Email

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. Pakistan Missile Tests

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.

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Gary Brecher
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