Posted by: sean | November 8, 2007

Confusing Musharraf and the people

Ezra seems to be confusing Musharraf with the people of Pakistan:

If we flip from Musharraf and begin supporting other candidates, Musharraf will flip on us. If we stick with Musharraf and he’s ousted in a revolution, we will be identified as allies of the dictator. This isn’t a situation where we must pick the best of two bad options. Rather, it’s a situation where we should show some humility, let the Pakistanis make their own decisions, and pledge to deal openly with whomever emerges. This isn’t a situation where we must pick the best of two bad options. Rather, it’s a situation where we should show some humility, let the Pakistanis make their own decisions, and pledge to deal openly with whomever emerges.

This suggests first, that the US isn’t already actively supporting a dog in the Pakistani fight and second, that “the Pakistanis” as a people will be in a position to make any sort of a decision. First, Musharraf is already propped up by financial and military aid from the US, and second, when he indefinitely postponed elections, he squashed any possibility the Pakistanis had of making their own decisions.

Perhaps the US shouldn’t explicitly support the opposition, but it should support the process of democracy, even if that just means making elections a condition for continued US military and financial aid.

Ezra quotes Ignatious in order to draw a parallel between US support for the opposition in Iran (a policy that has seemed to have backfired on the US, not least because there is a credible threat that the US might attack Iran) and US support for the Pakistani opposition.

Vali Nasr, on the other hand, makes a more astute comparison of the two countries:

Musharraf’s interests are no longer those of his military, and the two are now on a collision course. Generals can still end this crisis by going back to the deal Washington brokered with Ms. Bhutto, but only if it does not include Musharraf. Removing Musharraf will send demonstrators home and the Army to its barracks.

The longer Musharraf stays in power the more Pakistan will look like Iran in 1979: an isolated and unpopular ruler hanging on to power only to inflame passions and bring together his Islamic and pro-democracy opposition into a dangerous alliance.

A disastrous outcome in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed state with weak institutions and rife with extremist ideologies, violence, and deep ethnic and social divisions, will be far worse than what followed the Iranian revolution.

The West cannot afford to let this political crisis spiral out of control. Western leaders must keep the pressure on Musharraf, reach out to the Pakistani Army, and seriously plan for a post-Musharraf Pakistan.

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Responses

  1. To make the claim that we must support the “process of democracy” requires more elaboration.

    I’m pretty sure the CIA has some secret record of voting polls over there. They should probably direct their next course of action from raw empirical evidence and historical case studies.

    Maybe Musharaff really does care more about maintaining secularism than personal power! Maybe not! Perhaps Pakistanis consider Divine Text as more legitimate than the Rule of Law within the physical bounds of the nation-state. Who knows?

    It’s all up in the air and subject to debate. It’s Iran (late 70’s) vs Algeria (mid 90’s) vs Indonesia (late 80’s). All cases were about the “process of democracy” with the starting point/moments of “authoritarianism”, but all ending in radically different outcomes, some more democratically contentious than others. The process is still ongoing in all places, USA notwithstanding…

    What can I say? We’ll see..

    -km


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