Did the Indian Partition of 1947 cause 9/11?
Warning: I'm about to briefly go all math and science on yo' ass.
Have you ever heard the phrase "butterfly effect"?
It's the popular name for the chaos-theory notion of sensitive dependence.
The phrase comes from the work of mathematician and meteorologist Edward Lorenz, whose computer modeling of weather conditions revealed how tiny variations in initial conditions could have profound long-term consequences. Lorenz explained the idea in plain English by suggesting that a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil can set off a chain of events that leads to a tornado in Texas.
History isn't science or math, but the butterfly effect is a fun, thought-provoking concept for understanding and reimagining the past. Events or decisions can ripple through time and affect the future in ways people cannot predict.
In February 1860, Abraham Lincoln gave a brilliant campaign speech at the Cooper Union hall in New York City. In retrospect, it was one of the campaign's decisive moments. If he'd flubbed it, he might have lost the Republican Party's nomination that year. He wouldn't have been president and the United States might not exist in its current form. But nobody left Cooper Union that night thinking, "That tall guy's gonna save the Union. Gosh, wouldn't his long face look swell on a nickel." They probably just thought it was a good speech.
When the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna rejected the application for admission of a young Viennese painter named Adolf Hitler, they weren't thinking to themselves, "Let's make sure this guy ends up bitter enough to start World War II and unleash the Holocaust."
When 23-year-old Etta James recorded the then-19-year-old ballad "At Last" in 1961, I doubt she left the studio that night thinking, "Half the weddings the as-yet-unborn Andisheh Nouraee will attend during his life will play this recording during the couple's first dance." She probably just ate dinner and got high.
In 1947, when the U.K. decided to divide its colony India into two states, one majority Muslim (Pakistan), the other majority Hindu (India), the Brits didn't sit around and think, "Hmm, this decision will be a boon for early-21st-century Islamic militants to want to attack the United States with jet planes, please pass the crumpets."
Instead, they were probably just thinking it was an expedient way to get their empire, weakened by the second World War (unleashed, as you now know, by a bunch of Viennese art snobs!), out of the volatile Indian subcontinent.
The partition emboldened warring religious factions and caused human suffering on a scale we can scarcely imagine. Millions of Indian and Pakistani refugees abandoned their homes amid fighting and, depending on their religion, walked to either the Muslim Pakistan or Hindu India. Depending on who's counting, between 200,000 and 1 million died in the process.
When the migration ended, the fighting didn't stop. The Maharaja Hari Singh decided that his state, Kashmir, should remain in India, even though it is majority Muslim.
Muslim Pakistan has never accepted this. Since the partition, the entire state has been organized around the idea of fighting a war with India over Kashmir.
Democracy and the economy are subservient to the army, which has fought several wars against India since 1967, twice taking the world to the brink of nuclear war in the past decade.
On constant war footing, Pakistan's military and intelligence agencies funneled cash and manpower to Islamic militants in Kashmir, India proper and also neighboring Afghanistan. Pakistan incubated and unleashed the Taliban in Afghanistan to ensure, among other things, that Afghanistan remained an ally of Pakistan.
It's part principle, part practical hedge. Many in Pakistan are pro-Taliban. Others simply want to make sure that whoever rules neighboring Afghanistan is friendly. Because they were clients, the Taliban were friendly to Pakistan.
So how did the Indian Partition of 1947 lead to 9/11? Without the partition, there would not have been a paranoid, militant Pakistan on a constant, religiously fueled war footing with India. No war footing with India, no existential urge to support the Taliban. No Taliban. No al-Qaeda.
I'm not saying there wouldn't be militant Islam, just that events would have transpired very differently.