Monday, November 5, 2007

Getting it Wrong

Michael Hirsh
"After six years of propping up and making excuses for Pervez Musharraf, . . .

"Washington doesn't have many friends left to call on in Pakistan -- perhaps the No. 1 generator of anti-U.S. terrorism in the world today. That's the dilemma that democracy crusader George W. Bush faces after Musharraf, one of his firmest allies, took the dictator's path and declared martial law on Saturday. . . . "

"Musharraf has completely de-legitimized himself in the eyes of the Pakistani public, and Washington has virtually no friends in a part of the world where Al Qaeda has established a new safe haven. 'I agree with [Musharraf] that we are facing a political crisis, but I believe the problem is dictatorship, I don't believe the solution is dictatorship,' Bhutto told Sky News. 'The extremists need a dictatorship, and dictatorship needs extremists.'

"Americans have always been uneasy about dancing with dictators. But in the age of terror such a policy can be very costly. Musharraf's method of maintaining his thin legitimacy is an example of just how costly. In order to keep himself in power, Musharraf has cut deals with the Mutahhida Majlis Amal (MMA, or United Action Council), a coalition of Islamic parties, and barred the parties of his main secular political rivals, former prime ministers Bhutto and Sharif. This was an attempt to 'create the illusion that radical Islamist groups were gaining power through democratic means, thus minimizing the prospect that the international community—especially the United States while Pakistan offers support in the war against al Qaeda—would press for democratic reform,' scholar Husain Haqqani wrote in his recent book, Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military. But because these Islamist groups have continued to grow in power and influence, they may no longer be controllable.

"The monster that Musharraf cynically nurtured to keep himself in office is now threatening him personally: Al Qaeda elements that have found increasing support in friendly areas of Pakistan controlled by Islamists have tried to assassinate him twice. Some U.S. officials now fear that that this nuclear-armed nation is teetering on the verge of chaos, and the result could be every American's worst nightmare: that nuclear material or knowhow, or God forbid, a bomb, falls into the hands of terrorists."

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