Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Urgently Needed Flip-Flop

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Though no one would dare suggest that President George W. Bush has a little mind, current events in Pakistan force the U.S. to adopt an inconsistent position. We must either desert our ally - General Pervez Musharraf - or discard our consistent (if distant) support of democratic movements (such as those in Burma, Ukraine, Georgia, and Lebanon).

Global Review, and almost every other Western observer, believes that continuing to support Musharraf is the more foolish consistency here.

Fate has handed Pakistan - and all those who want Pakistan to be peaceful and productive - a golden opportunity to turn crisis into triumph. Consider the history:
  • Musharraf's "temporary" regime is weaker and weaker in the face of opposition.
  • He invites former P.M. Benazir Bhutto to return from exile and share power.
  • Bhutto returns, and a bomb kills 145 of her entourage - but misses Bhutto.
  • Musharraf dissolves the Supreme Court and suspends the constitution, using the attack on Ms. Bhutto as rationale for martial law.
  • Bhutto leads protests against Musharraf
But wait - isn't this supposed to be a confrontation between a pro-American kleptocrat and Taliban Islamists? Then how is the leader of the opposition a Harvard-educated woman?!

For the past six years, Musharraf has wielded the Taliban as a Ring of Power. With the consistent enmity of Islamists, he has held the West in his sway. We have been incapable of pushing him away from us, so well has he exploited our common enemies.

Now he has outsmarted himself: he wanted to make Ms. Bhutto a martyr in the cause of anti-Islamism. Instead, she survived and has called Musharraf's bluff. Her survival lends the West an imperfect (she has a history of deep corruption) but serviceable ally, someone who can free us from our dependence on Musharraf and potentially fend off the Taliban. The material question for Western policymakers should not be whether, but how, to support Bhutto's populist protests.

1 comment:

Chops said...

I also posted this to Watchblog.