The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Between a Rock and a Hard Place


November 4, 2007

In Pakistan today, General / President Pervez Musharraf declared martial law, sacking the Chief Justice of the supreme court, suspending the constitution, and doing all the other things generally associated with martial law.

Now, both Bush and Musharraf are stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place, up the proverbial creek without the requisite paddle.

For Musharraf, you have the same situation he’s faced in Pakistan for nearly his entire rule: “extremist” Islamists very sympathetic to the Taliban and Al Qaeda on the one side and a secular elite that wants a return to actual (or at least more) democracy.

For the Bush Administration, you have a very serious conundrum. The NYT hits the obvious nail clearly on the head:

For more than five months the United States has been trying to orchestrate a political transition in Pakistan that would manage to somehow keep Gen. Pervez Musharraf in power without making a mockery of President Bush’s promotion of democracy in the Muslim world.

On Saturday, those carefully laid plans fell apart spectacularly. Now the White House is stuck in wait-and-see mode, with limited options and a lack of clarity about the way forward.

General Musharraf’s move to seize emergency powers and abandon the Constitution left Bush administration officials close to their nightmare: an American-backed military dictator who is risking civil instability in a country with nuclear weapons and an increasingly alienated public.

That’s pretty much the deal–it doesn’t get any clearer than that.

1. Sham. Mockery. Shamockery.

2. The fundamental issue:

There has long been a deep fear within the administration, particularly among intelligence officials, that an imperfect General Musharraf is better for American interests than an unknown in a volatile country that is central to the administration’s fight against terrorism.

We’ll now put that to the test, now won’t we?

3. Did I mention the nuclear weapons?

Now, I admit, its easy to heap blame and scorn on the Bush Administration. It has been pretty clear for quite some time that Pakistan is among the most dangerous countries on the planet and a true Frenemy in every sense of the word. They have a population where many people are sympathetic to “the terrorists” and the US is highly unpopular. Its a rather open secret that Al Qaeda has a strong presence in Northwest Pakistan, in the provinces along the Afghan border. But, it has also long been assumed by many that Musharraf was all that stood between an allied and permissive Pakistan and a radical, nuclear armed Pakistan.

Indeed, one could argue that any administration would have done the same thing.

But, it was the Bush Administration that placed Democratization at the center of its Middle East / Anti-Terrorist agenda, only to watch it spectacularly fail. It was the Bush Administration that decided to deepen strategic ties to Pakistan, showering the military with aid, enabling the present state of affairs.

Now they, and we, and the people of Pakistan (right… lets not forget them in all this…) are all in a spot of trouble right now, all stuck between a rock and a hard place.

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Dr. Peter Howard focuses on US foreign policy and international security. He studies how the implementation of foreign policy programs produces rule-based regional security regimes, conducting research in Estonia on NATO Expansion and US Military Exchange programs and South Korea on nuclear negotiations with North Korea.