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).

I, and almost every other Western observer, believe 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 (literally and politically) 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.

Posted by Chops at November 7, 2007 10:26 AM
Comment #237765

There is no actual friendship in realpolitik.
An enemy of my enemy doesn’t make him a trustful friend.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at November 7, 2007 10:42 AM
Comment #237768

Musharraf has shown himself to be just the sort of embarassing ally we too often have turned to in difficult times. It is obvious now that he was actually behind the attempt on Bhutto. Just as clearly it is incumbent on us to support her and the Chief justice in their attempt to establish democracy in Pakistan. We have a chance to look good in the eyes of the people there. Let us not sell it out for a simplicity of tyrranical stability.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at November 7, 2007 11:12 AM
Comment #237783

The issues in Pakistan make those in Iran seem like chump change by comparison.

America needs to support whoever isn’t going to allow Pakistan’s nukes to fall into the wrong hands.

Posted by: Rocky at November 7, 2007 1:53 PM
Comment #237785

If Pakistan’s nukes fall into the wrong hands, they would most likely be used against India, maybe in Kashmir. Sometimes it’s not all about us.

But I agree, too, that it would be a good idea for the US to come down solidly on the side of the values we represent- or at any rate, should represent. That means supporting Bhutto, not Musharref.

Regardless of who comes out ahead, the northwestern part of the country continues spinning out of control. Some fundamentalist cleric named Maulana Fazlullah has attracted over 10,000 followers, and the pro-Taliban movement has expanded and taken over several important towns.

There really isn’t much the US can do. These groups already fought off the Pakistani Army, and most Pakistanis are understandably unenthusiastic about fighting their fellow citizens. So it’s an awful mess.

But if we remember what we stand for- democracy, human rights, self-determination- we will be doing not only what is right, but what is most practical in the long term, even if the short term might be highly unpleasant.

Posted by: phx8 at November 7, 2007 2:45 PM
Comment #237786

Any opinions on how the radicals over there might view and react to Bhutto in charge?

Posted by: kctim at November 7, 2007 3:13 PM
Comment #237787

“No one would dare suggest that george bush has a little mind.”
What sort of mind do you think he has? Brilliant? Insightful? Organized?
Wasn’t it w that said in a speech to educators that “a mind is a terrible thing to lose”.
What do you think twenty years of heavy drinking does to someone’s brain?
What’s it say about a person who has the perserverance to “stay the course” until someone takes him aside and tells him that the phrase was no longer useful?
Emerson was speaking directly to us about w.

Posted by: Charles Ross at November 7, 2007 3:14 PM
Comment #237790

Charles Ross said…

“What sort of mind do you think he has? Brilliant? Insightful? Organized?”

Hey, hey, hey! Watch It!

Remember…it was George W. Bush who planned and executed 9/11!

Posted by: Jim T at November 7, 2007 4:24 PM
Comment #237791

Just when you think Bush could not do anything worse than he has done, you find out that he’s been paying out billions in aid to some facist who shortly will lose control over a country that is resolutely anti-American, pro-Taliban, probably hiding Osama, and, oh yeah, has a nuclear arsenal capable of destroying the planet.

Posted by: Max at November 7, 2007 4:56 PM
Comment #237792


You’re just finding this out?

Remember those F-16s we promised Pakistan?

Posted by: Rocky at November 7, 2007 5:07 PM
Comment #237794

IMO the radicals dislike Bhutto even more than Musharref.

Just a guess, but I always thought the US sold Pakistan the F-16s in order to provide them with nuclear safing technology, such as Permissive Action Links.

Posted by: phx8 at November 7, 2007 6:09 PM
Comment #237797

Charles Ross
No it was not GWB that said “…a mind is terrible thing to lose.” That was Dan Quayle,another great thinker imposed on the country by the Republican Party.
As for twenty years of heavy drinking? Hmmm…suppose I could take that personally.

So if the Bush administration held off on pursueing Bin Laden so as not to destabilize Mushariff,now seems a good time to go after BL like we should have years ago.
As to Bhutto’s corruption,I wonder how much is real or trumped up by her enemies.In many other democracies what is SOP would land you in jail in this country and vice versa,I might add.

Posted by: BillS at November 7, 2007 6:34 PM
Comment #237798

I think if the reception they gave her on the very first day she was back in the country is any indication, it’s not too hard to figure out what the radicals think of Bhutto.

My question is this: are or not administration critics serious when they say that the US should engage in diplomacy with difficult nations? In the case of Pakistan, that’s what we’ve tried. If it fails, it fails, but the alternative to the relationship with Musharref after 9-11 was direct confrontation with Pakistan over their relationship with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Sometimes you just have to play the ball where it lays, and it seems to me that our diplomatic efforts with Pakistan are not unlike what Democrats say we should be doing with Iran and North Korea.

Posted by: Liam at November 7, 2007 6:41 PM
Comment #237805
the alternative to the relationship with Musharref after 9-11 was direct confrontation with Pakistan over their relationship with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

And that’s exactly what should have happened. Instead, we got Iraq.

Posted by: American Pundit at November 7, 2007 10:35 PM
Comment #237808

We have to be realistic about what the US can actually control.
Remember the Bush speech shortly after 9/11? Those who don’t help us root out the Talaban are our enemies?
It is true that tyrants do not respond to diplomacy by definition of who they are.
Democracy or a society with free expression of dissent without violence is the only kind of country that keeps their word.
The actions of Musharref in the beginning were helpful. The recent actions make him a liability in a similar way that Sadam H was helpful against Iran and then turned into a major threat. Hopefully Musharref doesn’t turn the direction that he did against the US and the world. We are stuck in a wait and see for now. Can we really change endorsements? If he stays in power we would be betrayers and cause more problems.
I think US administrations in the past thirty years have done their best to bring peace to that region. Hopefully, a free society in Iraq can effect a change. The tyranny and threats both had American popular opinion for the invasion including Congress. People naturally lose heart in any hard endeavor.

Posted by: Kruser at November 7, 2007 11:04 PM
Comment #237817

I just couldn’t make it past the first few lines of this article without commenting. I will read the rest of it…I promise.

I will not only suggest, I will unequivocally REITERATE this point. To state that Bush has a litte mind is a GROSS understatement. HE HAS NO MIND AT ALL. He is not only MINDLESS, he is CHARACTERLESS, he is IGNORANT! Oh, yes, and let’s remind those who seem to have forgotten, he is TERROIST BASTARD!

If the “shift” in policy in Pakistan is a surprise to you “Bushies” and anyone else who continues to support (no matter how passively) that idiot masquarading as president (thank God for only one more year), then you must be as stupid and and mindless as he is.

If you think his shift in policy has anything to do with what is good for the American people and for the “war on terror” then perhaps you should volunteer fill some of those “vacancies” at the embassy in Iraq. This “president” will do ANYTHING to try and secure something that might possibly be construed as a significant and positive contribution of the Bush Administration to making the world a better place.

I would say “don’t be fooled,” but it is SEVEN years too late for that point to be made, AGAIN!

Posted by: Kim-Sue at November 8, 2007 8:17 AM
Comment #237818


“Just a guess, but I always thought the US sold Pakistan the F-16s in order to provide them with nuclear safing technology, such as Permissive Action Links.”

Yeah, but who gets the combination?

Posted by: Rocky at November 8, 2007 8:23 AM
Comment #237819

One trait of deception and a well used means of manipulation for weak minds is to set up a common “enemy” and then point to yourself or your movement as the only “cure”. Looks like Bush is the “enemy” for some movements.

Posted by: Kruser at November 8, 2007 9:15 AM
Comment #237820

Pakistan reminds me of America. Both have secularists trying to rid themselves of a dictatorial leader and you have religious fundamentalists breathing on everyone’s necks.

“one trait of deception and a well used means of manipulation for weak minds is to set up a common “enemy” and then point to yourself or your movement as the only “cure””

Never have I heard a better definition of Bush and the Neocons.

Posted by: jlw at November 8, 2007 9:37 AM
Comment #237821

Oh my stars and garters, an article on the Right I actually agree with! (Except for the comment on Dubya’s intelligence. C’mon, we can all at least admit he isn’t exactly the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree)

You hit the nail on the head, Chops. This is an incredible opportunity for the US to gain a bit of credibility in the region and in the world’s eyes. For decades we have supported corrupt and violent regimes because they were politically convenient. We now have Musharraf’s violence and corruption laid bare, and a perfect opportunity to break the cycle.

I also agree with a comment above that we should also use this time of instability to have Carte Blanche to go after Bin Laden whole hog. I will admit, it sticks in my political craw to give Dubya a chance to actually nail OBL, but taking him down trumps political leanings in my mind.


Posted by: leatherankh at November 8, 2007 9:44 AM
Comment #237824

I guess my sarcasm is too dry. Did nobody understand that the Though no one would dare suggest that President George W. Bush has a little mind line was tongue-in-cheek?

Leaving aside the issue of anyone’s actual intelligence (Bush’s, mine, or that of those who took this line seriously), isn’t it almost tautologically obvious that there are those who dare suggest Bush has a little mind?

I will try to use smaller words in the future to in hopes of not losing my audience.

Posted by: Chops at November 8, 2007 10:03 AM
Comment #237827

Chops, Bhutto is a little more than “imperfect”. She is a convicted money launderer in Switzerland. She caused a change in French law so that payments to officials from other countries became illegal as a result of a contract for some fighter aircraft. AND, Bhutto was the supporter of the Taliban during the 90s’and provided them with both military and financial support. Her motivation could well be just to get the kesy back to her Swiss Bank account that was frozen (worth over $1b).

Pakistan is a tough nut right now. The power sharing deal between Musharraf and Bhutto is probably the way to go, but obviously some negotiations are still taking place (negotiations can be a little rough in that part of the world). It’s probably best if we do what we are doing until this one settles down; make some tough statements then hold our nose.

Posted by: George in SC at November 8, 2007 10:57 AM
Comment #237845

Sorry Chops, I missed the sarcasm. I thought you were perhaps one of those what’s-wrong-with-w,-i’d-vote-for-him-again-he’s-my-president-don’t-confuse-me-with-the-facts conservative- blogger who often throws up their skeet for us I-told-you-you-were-wrong,-are-wrong-and-will-be-wrong-if-you-throw-away-your-vote-for-the-likes-of-what’s-being-offered-as-presidental-material-by-the-republicans in ‘08 liberal
to shoot.
Sorry I confused Geo. H.W. Bush’s vice to his own son but the fact that all three have been offered to the voting public as the “republican’s finest” should tell you something.

Posted by: Charles Ross at November 8, 2007 2:49 PM
Comment #237848

It’s been suggested to me as I attempted to send the above comments that I am an “abusive” poster.
I prefer “edgy” but I do apologize if I cross the line. I do have a level of respect for anyone willing to put their opinions out there and particularly have high regard for those who can speak directly. I, myself, chose the coward’s way and fire my shots from the peanut gallery.

Posted by: charles Ross at November 8, 2007 2:58 PM
Comment #237920

Ok, now I read the whole thing.

Seems to me the political question being ponder here is, “How should the US view Pakistan? Is the country an ally or an enemy?” From the US perspective, that depends on what our objective is. Notice I use the word “objective” not “IDEOLOGY.” Of course in broad strokes, the most acute need for the current administration (who’s death knoll is finally sounding, thank God!) is the get Osama Bin Laden. Anyone that thought or continues to think the Musharaf was EVER our ally in meeting that objective is , well, as dumb as you know who? (Yes, I mean GWB).

It is difficult to comment on the political situation in Pakistan because it is not my country, not my culture, not my struggle. The people of Pakistan have to consider the deep questions concerning the future of their country. What I (or the US for that matter) think of their political “candidates” if of no consequence to the state of Pakistan, not directly anyway. Of course, the US meddling in its affairs in such a state of unrest (one might say, revolution) can make things much worse especially with GWB calling the shots on behalf of the US.

So we’re back to, “What to do about Pakistan?” Right now, nothing! I think the most pressing issue in US politics, is to let the Constitution (assuming we still have one) move out the current “president,” takes serious political steps to ensure that nothing even remotely resembling the likes of a GWB can ever hijack our federal government again, then start cleaning up the mess (what an understatement!) GWB has created nationally and internationally.

Posted by: Kim-Sue at November 9, 2007 10:22 AM
Comment #238465

::in the style of bob dole::
Myurl is more concerned about our sometime Ally Iran. What can we do to prop up the forces of change and democracy? What can Myurl do to ensure that Iran helps in Iraq, instead of trying to work against coalition troops? Myurl acknowledges that in absence of other alternatives, Iran is likely to act in selfish self-interest — though Myurl thinks that an olive branch might prove a good lever for removing Iran from selfish greed.

Realpolitik means no morals.

Posted by: Myurl at November 15, 2007 4:33 PM
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