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Pakistani Messes


It would be hard to think of a bigger mess than Pakistan: nuclear; half the population radically Islamic; vast sanctuaries for the architects of 9/11; a virulent anti-Americanism in which aid and military credits are demanded but never appreciated; dictatorship at odds with America’s professed support for Middle-East constitutional government-all the while doing little to hunt down al Qaeda while assuring us that the possible radical alternative, with some reason, is far worse.

The Democrats talk about us “taking our eye off bin Laden” but rarely offer any alternative policy since the proverbial bad/worse choices are all there are. That said, support for consensual government is ultimately our only choice, and in the long run-if a rushed one-vote, one-time plebiscite can be avoided-the only consistent American position, as well as holding out the greatest hope for improvement. American soldiers are dying in Afghanistan and Iraq to secure a constitutional government, so we can hardly oppose it in nearby Pakistan.

At this point about the best hope would be for something to emerge like Turkey-an anti-American constitutional government that does not sponsor terrorists or cede entire territories to Islamists, and would come to understand the wages and consequences of translating grass-roots anti-American public sentiment into real policy. The problem with Musharraf is the age-old problem with all dictators (the Greek and Philippine dictatorships come to mind): they always claim they are the finger in the dike holding back something far worse, while assuring their populations that they are both anti-American and yet successful in cajoling American aid.