16 December 2014


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Awhile back I watched a Frontline about the Taliban and Pakistan's tribal area. They showed various Taliban leaders and I thought "these guys might as well be Klingons". I don't mean this in a bad or derogatory way...I was just struck by how incredibly different, to their very core, they are from us. Not worse or better, just incredibly different. This naturally led to an obvious question: why do we think we know whats best for these people? I know why our elites and the corporate powers-that-be want to make the world a sea of "consumers", but why do we buy into this fantasy? How in this modern world do we still buy the same rhetoric? Why do so many of us have to believe in our own "greatness"? Why are we so sure that everyone wants to be just like us? It strikes me as something a great deal less than adult thinking.

Martin K

If you abandon Musharaf, it will be seen as yet another stab in the back by the US government. For f&%s sake, control your democratic tempers and step back five steps. He has put his ass on the line against AQ and survived at least 5 assasination attempts. If the US drops him now, you will loose much more than if you support him passively.


I would like to see evidence that the Bush administration has ever seriously pushed for democracy in Pakistan. Rather, the real problem is that America took sides in internal Pakistani rivalries as part of GWOT. Since important elements inside Pakistan (including parts of the intelligence services) are sympathetic to anti-American grassroots elements inside Afghan, Musharraf was always walking a tight wire when cozying up to Bush.

The whole "democracy agenda" is nothing more than rhetorical crap, a warmed-over remnant of cold war language. Outside of Ukraine and a few other former Soviet states, I defy anyone to demonstrate any substantive action the Bush has taken administration anywhere on the democracy front.


Who in their right mind would pursue policies that destabilize a country with 30 nuclear bombs? They wouldn't.

Despite, the best efforts of corporate media to ignore it, Team B "Bomb back to the Stone Age" is in charge of the USA. If the world avoids a nuclear exchange or the closure of the Straits of Hormuz in the next 15 months, the only reasonable conclusion is that there is a God and he is looking out for us all.

Abu Sinan

I dont know if "we Westerners typically seek to undermine them" would apply to states like Jordan, Egypt and UAE. If anything, the West as a whole, has sought to bolster the rule in these countries.

What better than having client dictators that more or less due the bidding of the US and the West?

We do not seek to undermine these states, we seek to promote them. I fail to see how a billion or so dollars a year to Egypt for the last 20+ years undermines anything in that country but democracy!

As for the reasoning for the creation of the state of Pakistan, I am sure there was some feeling about "the kuffar". But, as anyone who is familiar with Indian history pre and post partition will tell you, that since the end of the reign of the Muslim leaders in India, Muslims have and still do, belong to the lowest and poorest parts of Indian society.

The move to create a Muslim Pakistan was as much a move to lift themselves out of the dirt and poor underclass that they had become as it was anything about not wanting to be around "the kuffar".

As always in the world since 9/11, what is more properly a political and social issue has been given a religious tint.


Maybe now the common practice of shipping using "flag of convenience" ports of registration and crewing said ships with poor people from third world countries (including Pakistan) seems like a bad idea?


I disagree with iktay, the end of history in world-wide Anerican democracy is not thinking of any kind. One of the central problems for opponents to the war in Iraq is to perceive the romantic neoconservative promotion of spreading our brand of democracy in the ME as some sort of idea. It is not. It is a sort of "high-speak" , the blurry emotionalism of a speaker who has had too much to drink or smoke. If those in control of foreign policy allow Pakistan to slip into disorder we will have created what we feared of Iran with our own bungling.


I agree, Martin K.

Col. Lang leaves out of his analysis the example of Turkey. Mustafa Kemal, back in 1915, played much the same role that Musharaf is trying to play now. It wasn't totally successful in Turkey, but it wasn't a total failure either. The military has stepped in several times when Turkey was convulsed with internal violence, and then stepped back. Is this desirable? Well, it depends. We haven't come to terms with the fact that there are anti-democratic forces in Turkey, Pakistan, even in the US who are quite willing to use democratic tools to gain access to power so they can then cancel them and remain in power indefinitely.

This has been the problem in Turkey, and it is the problem in Pakistan. It may be that in countries where there fundamental religion and politics are at work a strong secular military may be required to act as a check.

Mad Dogs

Pakistan's past may portend its immediate future.

There is a repetitive tendency for senior military types to "push aside" those Pakistani leaders who have outlived (politically and otherwise) their usefulness.

I would hazard a guess that Musharraf's time as leader is coming to a close and his "loyal" colleagues will putsch him aside as has been done several times before.

The new military leadership will promise the same old, same old: support for democracy in the "future", but for now, business as usual.

Some of the opposition will be exiled, some will be imprisoned, some will be "free" to participate in a paper congress, but the military will continue their ownership of the real levers of power.

And Benazir Bhutto probably better not unpack those bags.


Let us all remember that "British Exhaustion" was not the only reason why it's Empire broke up so fast after the second world war.

It was driven by American pressure on Britain to do that as well.

An amusing story I listened to on a documentary concerned the day Ghana gained it's Independence from Britain in 1957, as told by Ghanaian's who were there at the time.

A Ghanaian was present at the Airport on the day America's VP, one Richard Nixon, landed to congratulate Ghana.

He related how Richard Nixon went down the line of the crowd at the airport shaking hands till he reached the guy next to the Ghanaian, reaching out Nixon beamed and said "How does it feel to be free at last?".... and the man replied, "I don't know, I'm from Mississippi"


W. Patrick Lang


I continue to be astonished with the idea some of you hold that we control events in Pakistan or any of these places. You need to get out more. You need to give up your fantasies and understand that we have no control whatever over events in that miserable place. whatever is going to happen is going to happen and there is nothing that the US can do about it. This is equivalent to the fantasy that held that Saddam ruled Iraq because we wanted him to. We liked that fantasy because it meant that we intimidated you. It is astonishing that after five years experience of our relative inpotence in Iraq yuo still want to believe in our abilities to control events. Grow up!!

And then there are the naifs who think that we "prop up" dictators because of some wicked, foolish agenda. We give these governments money because we can't think of enything better to do. We give Egypt money? Yes. Yes. We give it to them because it has been part of a "package deal" involving Israel as the only way we could maintain some kind of leverage with Israel. If it were not for that... Tant pis pour eux. (the Egyptians)

Democracy in the Arab and Islamic Worlds? What a joke!! The product of more democracy in the Arab World would be the same everywhere.. One man, one vote, one time, and the resulting governments would all be Islamist sharia states. Why? Simple. That's what your people want.

Kemalist Turkey was and has been nothing like Pakistan. Ataturk and his army destroyed Islam as a political force in Turkey. The Pakistan Army is its servant. Only now is political Islam rising again in Turkey and its security against army intervention is still shaky. pl


I don't agree that there are no parallels between pre-Kemalist Turkey and Pakistan today. Ataturk did destroy Islam as a political force, but it continues. I believe Musharaf would like to do the same, but can't. He doesn't have the power because the Pakistan army has been infiltrated by religious elements. It's the same in Turkey, and even recently the army purges generals they suspect of being anti-secular. I fear Musharaf hasn't got 100% backing of the generals. He may be impotent.


Mr Musharraff has presented the USA and Britain with a dilemma - the perennial dilemma they are faced with in their dealings with so many Afro-Asian nations. Musharraff, Western leaders declare, must take off his uniform, leave the army, stand for office as a civiolian in free elections. The democratic process must be enacted. Lawyers protesting in the streets should not be baton charged, opposition politicians should be released from incarceration, the Supreme Court must be heard and obeyed, constitutional law must prevail. The USA and the UK cannot be seen to be supporting dictators, military rule, suspension of Habeas Corpus etc for it would be a gross betrayal to give support to a wicked dictator who rules the country through the military.

But Musharraff is America's man. He is the strong man. He is the bastion against Islamist extremism, chaos on the streets, and instability in a Muslim nation armed with nuclear weapons. Apres Musharraff, le deluge - l'etat c'est lui. For America and Britain to cut off aid from Musharraff is like a lumberjack sitting astride the end of a bough and deliberately sawing through it. The promotion of democracy and the removal of strong men have delivered in the Muslim world - chaos and Islamist "government" in Iraq, a rabidly anti-American and anti-Zionist regime in Palestine, political uncertainty in Lebanon, and a Kurdish statelet that promotes terrorism against Turkey. Democracy and free votes invariably produce anti-western governments and promote instability. How Bush and Brown must regret the removal of the Shah from Iran, Saddam from Iraq, and perhaps soon Musharraff from Pakistan. How much they must fear the operation of the democratic process and the removal of autocracy in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Dictators are so much more reliable and trustworthy.


The Asia Times has a good article by M K Bhadrakumar on Musharaf 'shaking off US shackles'.


Interesting read.

James Pratt

Pakistan has enough natural resources and educated people to be a rival in prosperity to many other Asian countries. Unfortunately it also rivals Central America and Burma as one of the more class-ridden places on earth. The urban economy is dominated by about 40 billionaires and the rural economy is nearly feudal.
Neither group does much to promote opportunity. No wonder the tribal Pushtuns and Baluchis view the rest of their country with suspicion. Many of the smartest Pakistanis now live abroad. The exploitation of the British Raj has been preserved and the legacy of civil procedure was in trouble after the passing of Jinnah.

Cloned Poster

Who gave Pakistan the nukes?


Go figure White Caucasians.


Why do we care if other countries are democratic or not? I've never understood that, going back to Cold War. For instance, why would we care if Cuba has a communist goverment? Whats so great about democracy anyways, if it cannot deliver our daily bread and some semblance of security? Are the people of "socialist" Sweden any less "free" than us? Conversely, are the Iraqis more "free" now without Saddam now that they can dip their fingers in purple ink?


Just want to add to what the Colonel scolded us about:

1. We told Musharraff that he has to surrender power to elections because it's in America's best interest because elections produce Pro-Western, Pro-Israeli governments, I guess this is his way of answering us. Remember we also told the Afghans, Palestinians, Egyptians, Lebanese, Iranian, and Kurds the same thing. How did they answer us?

2. My criticism of this Administration is well known but why can't we just acknowledge that Dumbya and Co are way above their collective intelligence? Didn't anybody check to see that most of Pakistan's nuclear weapons are in the Baluchistan Plateau, which is populated by Balochis and Pashtos? I'm glad those two groups are not on friendly terms with AQ.

3. Today, a Chinese company became the first company to be worth a trillion dollars, compare that to CitiCorp. Maybe we are truly children compared to them.


Barnett Rubin, live-blogging in Pakistan on Musharraf's speech, has this bleak analysis for the West and its fantasies:

> Reading between the lines - ie, the english and urdu lines, I venture an opinion that this was not done with the approval of the US/State. Perhaps even done in defiance of them. The other observation is that when I called him a megalomaniac earlier, I was being circumspect. The state of Pakistan, at times, seems an extension of his very personality. Note the references. The third observation, my how the times have changed ... there is no mention at all of India. This is a testament to how drastic is the shift in South Asian geopolitics since the invasion of Afghanistan. China's role in the economic growth of Pakistan - from their investment in mobile and transportation infrastructure to their investments in Baluchistan emerge out at the top while American concerns are barely mentioned - and are actually completely absent in the English portion of his remarks.


Jim Brooks

Col. Lang,

I read somewhere over the weekend a quote from a US State Dept. employee that he would be surprised if Musharraff lasted 6 months. I believe that too. He has made many enemies. This emergency order is his defense to save his own life. I don’t think he will succeed.

Here is part of a report from Barnett Rubin's blog @ Informed Comment: Global Affairs. Rubin is currently in Islamabad. Musharraff enemies are on the march and Musharraff is foolishly going after the political elite instead of the group with the guns and the long knives.

November 5, 2007

Let me describe the situation on the ground to which Musharraf has responded by suspending the constitution, arresting several senior judges, and detaining hundreds of non-violent democratic political leaders. According to sources in the Northwest Frontier Province, the Taliban (Afghan and Pakistani) have established an Islamic Emirate centered in Mirali, North Waziristan, the home base of Commander Jalaluddin Haqqani (Afghan Jadran from Khost) and his son Sirajuddin. This Emirate acknowledges Mullah Muhammad Umar as Amir, but it is mainly run by the Haqqanis, with the Pakistani Mehsud leader, Baitulah Mehsud of South Waziristan, as its main public face. The Emirate has established structures in all seven Tribal Agencies, though it is strongest in North and South Waziristan and has not penetrated the Shi'a areas of upper Kurram. Besides Pakistani and Afghan Pashtuns, its forces include the Uzbeks displaced from South Waziristan and others from the former USSR (collectively if not accurately called "Chechens"), whom the local people accuse of the greatest brutalities, such as the beheading of prisoners.

From these bases, the Emirate has launched its offensive in Swat and has infiltrated around Peshawar from several directions. Recently Taliban appeared in Qisakhani Bazaar in the old city of Peshawar and ordered traders to remove "un-Islamic" posters. There was no reaction from the police or administration. There are dozens of Taliban FM stations broadcasting calls to jihad in both the tribal agencies and the "settled" (administered) areas of NWFP. Not one of them has been shut down; instead the martial law regime has blocked transmissions of liberal cable television stations and blocked the Blackberry network used by the political elite.




PL: "You need to give up your fantasies and understand that we have no control whatever over events in that miserable place. whatever is going to happen is going to happen and there is nothing that the US can do about it."

We don't control, but we do influence. We can slow down or speed up destabilization, but of course we can't know the results.

Remember Chile. The left always fantasizes that the fall of Allende was purely American machination, as if the people of Chile were children. On the other hand, the right fantasizes that the rise of Pinochet was somehow purely indigenous --- he did have a helping hand at crucial junctures, in terms of the destabilization games (from assassinations to market plays) of the great powers. But no one predicted that the end result of this game a quarter century later would be a stable and fairly successful socialist government under Allende's proteges, while the Pinochet family runs in hiding from the justice system in Chile and outside, trying to keep their stashes of stolen gold hidden. Which is of course why the wise course of action so often is to simply stay uninvolved. We can't play games of counterfactuals reasonably in such systems, so it's often best to let the rest of the world take its course when we don't see a real national interest at work. See Chavez as another amplification of internal processes by overly-ambitious Jacobins. Or Iran, or Indonesia, or...

PL, the "wicked plan" that most people assume is in motion is simply self-interest. It is wicked when it is short-sighted and uninformed, when it lacks either the virtues of traditional conservatism (a wariness of unintended consequences) or progressivism (a real appreciation of the world as a non-zero sum game). No naivete required, just a recognition of foolishness and greed in power.

We've tried to manipulate Pakistan, use them in short-term goals. We haven't either (to simplistically gloss the options) a) pulled a Marshall plan on them or b) avoided getting entangled in their internal politics, rather than using them as a tool to fry bigger fish. Either one was an option over the last 30 years, but now we are completely hamstrung by the past.

It's not unusual - it's what most powerful countries try to do. But it is a long-term mistake. Unfortunately, the empire builders are usually long-dead when the price has to be paid.

J. Rega

It's nice to see lawyers fighting over something more important than fees and courthouse parking spaces. Wouldn't it be lovely if some of our own took to the streets to protest some of Bushco's constitutional transgression.

If I'm reading the Colonel correctly, he's taking umbrage at these stubborn rear-guard Muslims' resistance to the inexorable slog towards freedom, free markets and free enterprise. Can this situation in Pakistan be just another conflict between Idealists and (historically determined?) Materialism?

Maybe some of those Pashtun greybeards in the tribal territories and the NWFP got a little tired of the odd misguided JDAM and ill-conceived and poorly executed strong-arm tactics of the Bush directed hunt for terrorists. Maybe someone should listen to what they have to say instead of thinking of them as living fossils blocking the way to friction-less capitalism.

I think it's less a question of releasing forces than pissing people off for no good reason and without any sense of what they are about - Pukthanwali anybody?


WRT Democracy in the Arab and Islamic Worlds? What a joke!! The product of more democracy in the Arab World would be the same everywhere.. One man, one vote, one time, and the resulting governments would all be Islamist sharia states. Why? Simple. That's what your people want.

One would have thought that we would have learned our lesson with the election of a Hamas dominated government in Palestine. Hell, we should have learned our lesson in Algeria in 1993, when the Islamists won reasonably fair elections in Algeria and the Army responded by unleashing one of the most brutul civil wars on the planet in the 90s. But it seems like noone in a policy making capacity can remember any far back than last week.



Col. Lang, I really appreciate you and others writing to the leading Senators on the Judiciary Committee about the Attorney-General nominee.

For those who missed it:


1. Yes, some Muslims are among the subcontinent's poorest people. And some are among the richest.

2. For all its "homeland of Muslims" nonsense, the literacy rate of **Muslims** in **India** is higher than that in Pakistan, 60 years after Independence.

3. Bangladesh where Bangla nationalism holds sway (being diluted with Islamic ideology) began behind Pakistan in various social indicators in 1971; and is now pulling ahead.

Next: what should the US do about Pakistan?

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad