The Duck of Minerva

Extended rant on Bush, Pakistan, and total hypocrisy


7 November 2007

(Kaplan and Arkin make pretty much the same point, but I’m rather exercised about this whole deal, and hence the following)

I’m not really angry with Musharraf for his crackdown–he’s a barely legitimate dictator who took power in a coup trying to hold on to power and keep his fractured country together. Like so many in his position before him, he sees his country in danger and thinks that only he can hold it together, so he holds onto power and takes what steps he can to eliminate the most pressing threats to his power. In this case, the threat is the Law, in the form of lawyers and the Supreme Court. Crack down on the secular opposition, eliminate any real challenge to power, stay in office, its all good. Any self-respecting authoritarian would do / is doing the same (Chavez, Putin, Mugabe…)

The thing that has me really exercised is the US reaction to it–no, strike that, the Bush Administration’s reaction to it and the sheer hypocrisy it embodies. Its symptomatic of the fundamental failures of US foreign policy over the past I don’t know how many years, and it is “why the terrorists hate us.” No, its not that they “hate our freedoms,” its because we betray those freedoms and those who desire those freedoms in the name of security and interest.

Specifically, its stuff like this. Bush, speaking Monday, at a press conference, when asked about Pakistan:

And finally, I briefed the Prime Minister on Secretary Rice’s recent phone call with President Musharraf. I asked the Secretary to call him to convey this message: that we expect there to be elections as soon as possible, and that the President should remove his military uniform. Previous to his decision we made it clear that these emergency measures were — would undermine democracy. Having said that, I did remind the Prime Minister that President Musharraf has been a strong fighter against extremists and radicals, that he understands the dangers posed by radicals and extremists. After all, they tried to kill him three or four times. And our hope is that he will restore democracy as quickly as possible….

We made it clear to the President that we would hope he wouldn’t have declared the emergency powers he declared. Now that he’s made that decision, I hope now that he hurry back to elections. And at the same time, we want to continue working with him to fight these terrorists and extremists, who not only have tried to kill him, but have used parts of his country from which to launch attacks into Afghanistan, and/or are plotting attacks on America….

In other words, Yeah, its not ideal, but fighting terrorists is more important, so we’ll essentially look the other way. On top of this, the US won’t cancel any military aid to Pakistan, now the 3rd largest recipient of US military aid.

Pop Quiz! Who said:

We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every nation: The moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right. America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and servitude, or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies.

We will encourage reform in other governments by making clear that success in our relations will require the decent treatment of their own people. America’s belief in human dignity will guide our policies, yet rights must be more than the grudging concessions of dictators; they are secured by free dissent and the participation of the governed. In the long run, there is no justice without freedom, and there can be no human rights without human liberty.

Of course, that’s Bush’s Second Inaugural Address. Sure reads like an empty promise now.

Bush has said before that:

the United States and Pakistan understand that in the long run, the only way to defeat the terrorists is through democracy.

Pakistan is the central front in the War on Terrorism. The Northwest territories are home to Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters. It produces a number terrorists that are fighting US troops in Afghanistan. No country faces a greater threat of a revolt or coup by extremists Islamists than Pakistan. So, of course you’d want to work hard to promote democracy there, in a country that once was a democracy, as “the only way to defeat the terrorists is through democracy.” Instead, you get into bed with a guy who overthrew an elected leader. Corrupt, sure, but nevertheless elected through a democratic process. And, you stand idly by as he guts the very institutions that a Democracy needs to survive–the courts and the rule of law–and jails those who would be the vanguard of a secular Pakistani democracy, lawyers committed above all to the rule of law.

Bush just lets Musharraf off the hook. Sure, its not what we say we want, but hey, he’s got terrorists to fight. Yes, everyone is stuck between a rock and a hard place, but come on! You say you’re all about freedom, that democracy and freedom are the only way to defeat the terrorists, and here you go selling out the last thread of commitment to freedom and democracy in Pakistan in the name of self interest and security.

And, just to rub it in, Musharraf is moving faster and quicker and more effectively against his secular, organized political opposition than he was ever able to do against the radical Al Qaeda forces in his Northwest provinces.

So, yes, I heap scorn on the Bush Administration for their response to Pakistan. The condemnations ring hollow–worse, they are duplicitous, deceitful, and devoid of any meaning. Bush is doing irreparable harm US national security with this act. Musharraf is already seen as a tool of US influence by his own people, and now each and every one he jails and harasses, every family member of someone killed or disappeared in a crackdown will blame Bush and the USA just as much as Musharraf. We’ve seen that before, and now we’re going to see it again. It doesn’t matter that we “officially” condemn the action, or that its Musharraf, not Bush doing the imprisoning of dissidents. What matters is what the people of Pakistan see in their government, and what they see now is a military thug holding onto power, backed full force by the US government. Take away the US military support, and Musharraf must play domestic politics and legitimize his rule and make the necessary compromises to govern. Prop him up with aid, offer international cover for his actions and he can eliminate the opposition and stay in power.

And thus the US loses any credibility that it had left for moral leadership in a global war on terror. Gone are any principles, any faith and commitment that a people, when given a free and democratic choice, will choose to live in peace with others and reject terrorism.

This is why they hate us, because we betray the promise that the principles that we enjoy at home can be enjoyed by others. Bush is selling out the people of Pakistan for one last grasp at what they and we and everyone else recognizes as a failed and morally bankrupt policy.