Some countries are mistakes. Most of the mistakes are in Africa, where 19th Century
European colonialists carved up the continent without regard to the settlement
patterns of native tribes, or in the Middle East, where after World War I Britain
and France carved up the corpse of the Ottoman Empire to suit their needs of the
time. An example is Iraq, which cobbled together three groups will little in common
and less fondness for each other to create a kingdom for a Saudi prince who had been
useful during the Great War.
The colonists are long gone, but the consequences of their mistakes endure. Copious
amounts of blood have been shed in civil wars between hostile tribes lumped together
in the same artificial "country." The most egregious example is the genocide in
Rwanda in 1994 in which up to a million people were killed.
The colonial mistakes in Africa and the Middle East were driven by arrogance and
greed. But the most dangerous mistake was caused by an excess of political
Pakistan was created in 1947 when Britain granted independence to the crown jewel of
its colonies, India. British India consisted of what are now the countries of
India, Pakistan and Bangla Desh.
Muslims had ruled India for roughly 800 years before the arrival of the British, and
did so brutally.
"The Mohammedan conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history," wrote
the historian Will Durant. "It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is
that civilization is a precarious thing, whose delicate complex of order and
liberty, culture and peace may at any time be overthrown by barbarians invading from
without or multiplying within."
Muslims feared the Hindu majority would treat them as badly as they'd treated the
Hindus before the British came, so they insisted on a country of their own. The
result was Pakistan, a collection of disparate groups who have nothing in common
except their religion.
A clue to how big a mistake Pakistan is is its name. "Stan" is a suffix, which
means "land of." Thus, Kazakhstan is the land of the Kazakhs, Uzbekistan is land of
the Uzbeks, Turkmenistan is land of the Turkmen, and so on.
So who are the Paks? PAK is an acronym for Punjab, Afghan and Kashmir. The
Punjabis are the largest ethnic group in Pakistan (45 percent). But the Afghans are
in another country, and much of Kashmir is in India.
The divorce between India and Pakistan was acrimonious. Millions of Hindus fled
from their homes in the Punjab and Bengal, while millions of Muslims fled from
India. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed.
Since partition, Pakistan has started, and lost, two wars with India over Kashmir
and in 1970, one over Bengal, then known as East Pakistan, now the independent
country of Bangla Desh.
Pakistan's politicians have put the acquisition of personal wealth ahead of any
other consideration, making theirs the most corrupt democracy in the world.
"No matter their political allegiance, Pakistan's party bosses stole everything in
sight, reducing the country to stinging poverty and stunning violence," wrote
retired Army LtCol. Ralph Peters, who has traveled frequently in Pakistan.
The Muslims who insisted upon partition were wrong. India has been a parliamentary
democracy since independence, and has treated its 160 million strong Muslim minority
pretty well. India has become one of the world's great powers, while Pakistan has
been sinking into a sea of corruption.
"If India had stayed in one piece with Hindus and Moslems democratically competing
in political parties, it would be a superpower today, larger and stronger than
China," said Jack Wheeler, a frequent visitor to both India and Pakistan, who
publishes a popular newsletter on world affairs.
"But in place of an Asian superpower, we have two militaries at each other's
throats, both armed with nuclear weapons, and presenting the world's best chance for