Airplane! - Michael Crowley, The New Republic opinion.
Pakistan's Top Gun mentality is partly about its archrival to the east. Equipped to carry nuclear bombs, Pakistan's F-16s would be a main vehicle for annihilating Indian cities in an all-out war. But the F-16 is also a symbol of Islamabad's impressive clout in Washington. Every one of the country's F-16s, acquired over the past 30 years, was manufactured and sold by the United States--proffered by presidents keen to maintain good graces with the nascent Islamic nation, despite widespread objections that America was foolishly coddling a dangerous and undemocratic nuclear power. Unfortunately, this object of national pride can do almost nothing to save Pakistan from the greatest threat to that country today, which is not India but a growing domestic insurgency. A single-engine fighter capable of breaking the sound barrier, the F-16 is perhaps the world's most versatile combat jet-- effective at both air-to-air combat and medium-range bombing missions. Israel used it to bomb Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981, and NATO F-16s bombed Serbian positions in the Balkans in the 1990s. But it is virtually useless for battling the small bands of Taliban fighters who have recently advanced to within 70 miles of Islamabad.