What Beast Slouches Towards Pakistan, Where Buddhas Fall
The weekend's developments in Pakistan portend the onset of nightmare. Musharraf has decided that he wants to be a dictator, and will do what it takes to be a dictator. Hopefully now the scales will drop from the West's eyes. Musharraf has a knack of double-dealing and backstabbing - he undercut Nawaz Sharif's peace missions to India in 1998-1999 with an invasion of India's Kargil which Sharif was not aware of; then of course the coup of 1999, the ISI's holding of Omar Sheikh (murderer of Daniel Pearl and the man who sent $100K to Mohammed Atta in August 2001) in custody without turning him to the Americans, the airlift of Taliban/al Qaeda in Oct. 2001 from Kunduz amidst American bombardment, a truce with Taliban last year which only increased their terrorist activity both in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and pocketing of $10 billion with what to show for it - increased madrasas, less freedom, and the likely continued presence of Osama bin Laden in the hinterlands of Pakistan. When will America get it? Musharraf is nothing more than Arafat in suit-and-tie, a con artist skilled at the classic shakedown of "If I go, who follows will be far worse".
As one Wall Street Journal editor put it re. America's blind eye to Kunduz in fall 2001, "we are beginning to learn is that if one enlists dubious allies, one runs the high risk of treading knee-deep in--how shall I put it?--foul-smelling organic waste matter. And as allies go, Gen. Musharraf is as dubious as they get. "
It is no longer acceptable for America to back Musharraf with the paradigm, "He may be an SOB, but he's our SOB." I recognize the value of realpolitik, and that Musharraf's run an expert game as head of a Mafia playing America off against the zoids, achieving secure funding for his mob, er, military, amidst chaos they themselves sow. But that is the same charade done by the Saudi Royals and Mubarak, among others. Enough is enough already.
Bush started out vowing to marry America's ideals to its power, but ironically has distanced the two. Hypocrisy may be the homage vice pays to virtue; but there is a cost to hypocrisy which we may be about to find out. And there is a cost to the inheritance of detritus from earlier eras.
Which brings me to Pakistan. The country is defined by being the anti-India. Born of partition, its identity is necessarily driven towards being opposite of India - for if were democratic and secular, what need would there be for Pakistan? Hence, the creeping Islamicization, the stillborn nature of its democratic institutions, and the military's position at the apex of control. Cobbled together from the Punjab and Sindh which are culturally close to India put together with Pashtun areas and Baluchi areas beyond the Indus River which are less so, the only glues that can hold it together are religion and the military - which explains the current state of affairs, most poignantly noted by this report - . an ancient 130 foot tall Buddha in Pakistan has recently been destroyed by the zoids. Last time this happened in that part of the world we will all recall what followed 6 months later - 9/11.
So what should America do? Afghanistan cannot be solved without destroying the Taliban/al Qaeda elements in Waziristans and the other parts of NWFP. Will that only drive those elements across the Indus into the main cities of Pakistani society? Perhaps that has already happened. If there are elements within the Pakistani military that would willingly submit to civilian control, perhaps what we should work towards is encouraging the marriage of those parts with a civilian government (presumably Bhutto-led) with a divestiture of NWFP and Baluchistan from the Pakistani government - they want independence, let them have it and face the wrath of America without the Pakistani nuclear umbrella. The other option is continued military control which will lead to Saudi/Egyptian style government with all of the diseases attendant to such an arrangement, or civil war which would make Iraq look like a picnic.