The Corner

Right On, Henry

In today’s Washington Post, Henry Kissinger seizes upon the post-election fiasco for American interests in Pakistan as a teachable moment on the dangers of premature democratization. (Link unavailable.) Kissinger’s language is diplomatic in the extreme, so let me translate:

Last month’s election in Pakistan, far from calming the political crisis, has opened a new phase, and the world has a huge stake in the outcome.

Translation: Elections that were supposed to solidify popular and government support for the war on terror have had exactly the opposite result. The effects of Bush’s post-9/11 pressure on Musharraf have been largely nullified and the situation is rapidly slipping out of our control.

The goal (of giving democratic backing to the war on terror) was laudable. But the results of the election–as in Gaza–show that theoretical preconceptions do not necessarily provide practical remedies, especially in the short term.

Translation: You’d think that after the victory of Hamas in Gaza folks would have realized that elections by themselves do not an authentic liberal democracy make. Nope. We’ve been fooled again (by our own naive hopes).

[In much of the Third World] democratic pluralism lacks a social basis–especially in states proclaiming the identity of church and state in the name of a universal religion…..the relation between Pakistan’s three feudal-type organizations, the military and the two major political parties, has more of the character of those among Italian city-states during the Renaissance described by Machiavelli than of the party politics of traditional democracies….The difference between feudal leaders who wear uniforms and those in civilian clothes is in their constituencies, not in their commitment to a pluralistic process as we understand it.

Translation: Democracy in Pakistan? You must be kidding. We’re losing our leverage over the most important terror state over a pipe-dream.

We do not have the choice between national security and democratic evolution. Both are important objectives but may be achievable only on different time scales.

Translation: The notion that we can avoid fighting a war against terror by promoting democracy is mistaken. The reality is just the reverse. First we’ve got to protect our security interests. Only that might establish a foundation for encouraging long-term cultural change. Bogus and premature democratization in a fundamentally illiberal environment results in neither democracy nor security, but only the negation of both. For more, go here.

Stanley Kurtz — Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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