Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, August 25, 2002

Bush's support for Musharraf isn't pretty

Washington's ambivalent reaction to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's grab for more power is, when you think about it, part of the reason the rest of the world isn't lining up in droves behind President Bush for a triumphal march into Baghdad.

Musharraf's mugging of Pakistan's constitution (he seized power in a 1999 coup) received a good cop, bad cop treatment from Washington. A State Department spokesman fretted that Musharraf "could make it more difficult to build strong democratic institutions," while an understanding President Bush appreciated that "he's still tight with us in the war against terror."

It's easy to forget that as a general, Musharraf was very much part of the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment that supported the rise of the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan. His quick about-face to ally with Bush reflected a keen appreciation for which side of the bread is buttered.

Musharraf's intelligent, avuncular manner makes him of a kind with the presentable dictators that Washington supported, to its shame and eventual regret, throughout the Cold War. Expedience of this kind is obvious to the rest of the world, which can draw its own conclusions — that is, that the administration lacks consistent support for democracy in the Muslim world.

What we do, as opposed to what we say, is also on display in Afghanistan, where a lack of American follow-through is returning the country, except for the immediate vicinity of Kabul, to the violent, warlord-riven place it was before the Taliban took over.

Bush is asking the world to join him in overthrowing Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein, presumably because Southeast Asia would be a much better place in his absence. But if Afghanistan or Pakistan, not to mention Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are any indication of Bush's commitment to establishing a viable post-Saddam democracy in Iraq, no wonder it's such a lonely undertaking.