First published at SST in November, 2007. Re-published today on the occasion of the Taliban slaughter of children at a Peshawar government school for the children of military families. pl
"Let's not be delusional about the U.S. government's influence. This is a huge, complex country, and most everything is going to happen outside of our play," said Rick Barton, a Pakistan expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "But we can be a leader here."
By putting military rule ahead of the rights of his people, Musharraf has presented Bush with a test of sincerity of his freedom agenda, Barton said.
"Let's just accept that Musharraf's probably going to go down," he said. "Let's just do the right thing, and be seen by the Pakistanis as holding true to our own values and principles. Musharraf has clearly moved from being a force of moderation to being somebody who's more of a self-serving leader."
Another hopeful scenario in the U.S. view is that Pakistan's emergency states ends fast — a setback, but not a devastating one. Democracy is still the path that Pakistanis want, Johndroe said. "This is a slight detour," he said. "But I think they will get back on it. And we will strongly encourage them to do so."
Joseph Cirincione, a nuclear security expert and senior fellow for the liberal Center for American Progress, said there are few good American policy options in Pakistan. He said Pakistan is the world's most dangerous country — an unstable place of strong Islamic fundamentalist influences and a nuclear arsenal.
"If the government falls, if the Army splits, who gets the weapons?" Cirincione said. "Who gets the material for the weapons? Who gets the scientists who know how to build the weapons? Pakistan could go overnight from a major non-NATO ally to our worst nuclear nightmare." BEN FELLER
Pakistan was always a bad idea. It is an artificial state created out of the flanks of the equally artificial British Indian empire, a state summoned into being on the basis of Muslim aversion to a shared existence with the Hindu kuffar. British weariness and exhaustion after the trauma and bleeding of the two world wars set the stage for the creation of a country based on an IDEAL of religious communal exclusivity. The country once had two halves but revolt in East Pakistan (Bangla Desh) severed that relationship long ago and left the remnant of Pakistan to simmer in a broth of communal hatred directed toward India, a country which still has a huge Muslim population, a functioning democracy (no military governments there) and an economy that is one of the world's marvels.
Pakistan is prone to religious fanaticism, tribal unrest and the rule of warriors? What a surprise! This is the traditional pattern of government throughout the Islamic World. There are places where this pattern does not typically exist; Jordan, Morocco. the UAE, Oman and a few more. The crowd will roar but I would include Egypt in this group. Strong, traditional rulers who govern with a modicum of common sense are the pattern in such places. Do we applaud their methods in such states? No! We Westerners typically seek to undermine them because they are not what we think they should be. What is that? Exactly like us, that is what we think they should be. For all our talk about the "blossoming" of freedom in locally acceptable forms, we Americans (and a lot of others) do not believe in that for a minute. We want people to be exactly like us.
In places like Pakistan where the veneer of Tom Friedman's flat world is mighty thin, meddling in the local social order carries a high risk of de-stabilizing society and releasing forces that we have no ability to manage.
Our pressure for "Democracy" in Pakistan has been incompatible with our willingness to engage an already Islamist state like Pakistan as an ally. We have wrecked the status quo in Pakistan. Now we will all pay a price. pl