Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Musharraf: He Isn't Perfect, But He's All We've Got

Firstly, I'd like to wish everyone a very Happy New Year. Unfortunately, I only had time for perfunctory one-off greeting messages over the Christmas holidays this year but things are calming down now. Launching right into it, I'd like to discuss the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

A lot has been made of the evident stupidity of Bhutto's return to Pakistan. She had a lot of enemies and no number of government-appointed body guards is enough to guarantee your health with suicide bombers and assassins around every corner. Benazir Bhutto, for all her faults, was indeed one of the few major obstacles between the Islamic extremists and the 60 to 90 nuclear warheads in Pakistan and so, of course, she will be missed. With her death, the pressure, both international and domestic, to maintain the ostensible democratic framework of the country has refocused and all eyes have turned to General Musharraf. Leading the charge, Hillary Clinton stumbled all over herself to beat her co-nominees to the punch and respond to the assassination with zeal and - well, just zeal actually. Unfortunately for Hillary, she didn't even bother to read the "Pakistan" page on Wikipedia before she started making grand statements about how the country should be run. Her response to the event was to pile pressure on Musharraf to reinvest in the democratic process and hold elections as soon as possible. Unfortunately, she didn't seem to have any idea who Musharraf was, what position he held within the Pakistani government, or what was at stake in the January election in Pakistan.

Hillary expounds on her views in the following interview:

What an embarrassing display of ignorance. If you want to be the president of a country - or just an adult, really - try gathering your facts before making public statements.

Here's why she's an idiot:

(1) Firstly, the elections that were scheduled for January 8th were for the post of Prime Minister and Pervez Musharraf is the President. He was elected last year and has several years left on his mandate. He was not "on the ballot" for the January election at any point.

(2) Also, Bhutto's party, the Pakistani People's Party, does not have to choose a new leader; leadership is hereditary. The reigns have been passed to Benazir's 19 year-old son.

(3) Finally, Nawaz Sharif couldn't compete in the next election if he wanted to; he's an unpardoned convicted felon and, as such, is barred from running for public office in Pakistan.

Clinton's line here is a quintessential example of the shortsighted policy-making that the '08 Democrats have become so famous for. With Bhutto's passing, Musharraf has become the final line of defense against the jihadists in Pakistan. We need to reconsider this kind of knee-jerk reactionary policy-making if we wish to avoid pulling the rug right out from under Musharraf and plunging his country into a devastating civil war - one that would almost inevitably result in a radical Islamist government replacing him when the dust settled. Is anyone hearing echoes of 1979 Iran here? Is Hillary Clinton our next Jimmy Carter?

Even more shortsighted was Democratic Governor Bill Richardson: “President Bush should press Musharraf to step aside, and a broad-based coalition government, consisting of all the democratic parties, should be formed immediately ... It is in the interests of the U.S. that there be a democratic Pakistan that relentlessly hunts down terrorists.”

Simply put, at this particular moment in time, a truly democratic Pakistan would not hunt down terrorists; it would be run by them. For a person seeking the Democratic nomination to be so grossly ignorant of the demographic realities of Pakistan would be amusing if it weren't so terrifying. Consider the shape Richardson's coalition of "democratic" parties would take, taking consideration of the current political landscape; radical Islamists, socialists, and corrupt militarists, to name just a few. And this government would "relentlessly hunts down terrorists"? Such a "broad-based coalition government" wouldn't be capable of pouring horse piss from a boot if the instructions were printed on the heel. If nothing else, this tragic event has done us all the favour of highlighting major weaknesses of character in US Democrats on foreign policy, particularly those involved in the current nomination process.

Presently, Musharraf's hold over his own army, and consequently the country, is tenuous at best. Jihad sympathizers have infiltrated the country's framework like termites and even the army, perhaps the only quasi-respectable institution left in Pakistan (with the possible exception of the ISI), is becoming increasingly solicitous of the interests of Islamic extremism. Despite Pakistan's slow transformation into Greater Waziristan, General Musharraf has somehow found the time to support the United States in the War on Terror and fiercely denounce the Taliban. All of this while much of his country chants "Death To The Great Satan" in the streets. Awfully sweet of him, no?

Bill Richardson wants to talk about U.S. interests in Pakistan? First and foremost, the U.S. has an interest in keeping nuclear technology out of the hands of terrorists, for the safety of the American people and for the safety of every other free state in the world. Secondly, it is in our interests to preserve the fragile equilibrium which has kept the country from imploding since 1999. As it stands, the realization of these interests depend entirely on Musharraf's survival as leader into the near future.

We must endeavour to remember that democracy is not a virtue in itself. Democracy serves a moral purpose only when it is united with a liberal adherence to fundamental human liberties and a commitment and capability on the part of the government to protect these basic rights. Forcing a democratic election on a Pakistan that is not ready for it is inimical to the long-term goal of democracy. The West's interests in Pakistan oblige Musharraf's retention of power. For now. The sooner politicians in North America recognize this, the sooner we can begin the difficult process of bringing stability to the cesspool of terrorist activity and Wahhabist expansion that is Pakistan. If we fail in this regard, Pakistan will collapse in upon itself and we will find ourselves with another Iran. But this time they'll have nukes.

UPDATE: Excuse me, Mr. Richardson. You would negotiate with ... the Soviet Union? Didn't they collapse or something? I thought I heard that somewhere...

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