Avoiding Armageddon

Title:                      Avoiding Armageddon

Author:                 Bruce O. Riedel

Riedel, Bruce O. (2013). Avoiding Armageddon: America, India, and Pakistan to the Brink and Back. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press

LCCN:    2012046847

DS341.3.U6 R54 2013


  • “Traces the history of the United States, India, and Pakistan as British colonies and their interaction in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, particularly in regard to relations between India and Pakistan, nuclear proliferation, the global jihad movement, and U.S. diplomatic efforts to stabilize conditions on the subcontinent”–Provided by publisher.


  • Mumbai on fire — America, the Raj, and partition — In the shadow of the Cold War: the first forty years — The Carter and Reagan years — From crisis to crisis: Bush and Clinton — Bush, Mush, and Sonia — Obama and South Asia — Promoting game change in South Asia.


Date Posted:      September 2, 2016

Caveat. Perpendat itaque lector cavendum (civilis).[1]

Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake[2]

India and Pakistan have fought four wars with each other and came close to another after the Pakistani attack on Mumbai in November 2011. Both are nuclear powers. In Avoiding Armageddon, Bruce Riedel, a former senior CIA analyst and South Asia advisor to four presidents, discusses the origins and evolution of the complex Indian-Pakistani relationship and the sometimes less than harmonious association of the United States with both nations.

Riedel begins by examining the attack on Mumbai on 26-29 November 2008 by the Pakistani terrorist group, Lashkar-e:Tayyiba (LeT) that was manipulated by al-Qa`ida in hopes of provoking a war that would disrupt “the US campaign to defeat al-Qa`ida.” (13) This was not the only plan bin Ladin had in mind that stirred US interests. Riedel cites documents captured during the raid that killed bin Ladin, which CIA analysis revealed contained “plans to assassinate President Obama.” (p. 14) Thus the Mumbai attack created circumstances that required increased US attention to the Pakistani-Indian relationship.

Drawing on his own extensive experience with both countries, Riedel discusses the obsessive concerns Pakistan—the more provocative of the two—has about India and the political consequences of these concerns. He reviews the successive Pakistani dictatorships from the end of WWII to the present and their often difficult interactions—diplomatic, military, and eventually the drone program—with each US administration, especially during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and the subsequent US post-9/11 operations there. He also describes the ever-increasing tensions created by both countries due to their nuclear weapons programs and the controversy over Kashmir. These, in turn, created problems with other players in South Asia, the Middle East, and even China and Saudi Arabia.

Looking to the future, Riedel sees some hope. US relations with India have improved, in part due to the US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement. (pp. 162ff) Pakistan now has an elected government, and the “Pakistanis themselves are increasingly fed up with political gridlock.” (p. 184) The United States, Riedel suggests, can help by using diplomacy to assist in resolving the central conflict over Kashmir, and he offers some recommendations toward this end.

Avoiding Armageddon is a forceful examination of a serious world problem that has not received adequate attention. Riedel makes a strong case that the potential for nuclear catastrophe justifies forceful action.

[1] On occasion, personal loyalties and opinions can be carved in stone and defended with a vengeance — at times with some venom thrown in. In these situations, the actual importance of the subject matter is dwarfed by the amount of aggression expressed. Retain a sense of proportion in all online and in-person discussions. [From The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Studies.]

[2] Peake, Hayden in The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (22, 2, Spring 2016, pp. 121-122). Hayden Peake is the Curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. He has served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Directorate of Operations. Most of these reviews appeared in recent unclassified editions of CIA’s Studies in Intelligence, Other reviews and articles may be found online at http://www.cia.gov

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