Is Pervez Musharraf a Bush Poodle?
Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf salutes as he listens to the national anthem during a pomp-filled farewell to Pakistan's army in Rawalpindi, Nov. 27, 2007, one day before he bowed to global pressure and relinquished leadership of the military. Benazir Bhutto was seen as a major rival to Musharraf in upcoming national elections.
Aamir Qureshi - AFP/Getty Images
From the Washington Post, via Freedom Eden:
senior Obama adviser David Axelrod would later tie the killing to the Iraq war -- and Clinton's vote to approve it, which he argued diverted U.S resources from fighting terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan, both al-Qaeda hotbeds.So what is he recommending? That the $11 billion in financial aid to Pakistan since 9/11 hasn't been enough? Or that such funding should be cut off completely (Ron Paul- so far to the right, we might as well classify him a Democrat on foreign policy)? Perhaps, this suggestion by presidential hopeful, Barack Obama:
As president, I would make the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditionalAshley J. Tellis, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, sees the folly in that bit of Bush-Cheney-liteism:
Making U.S. aid conditional on Pakistan’s performance in the war on terror would only inflame Pakistani public opinion and embarrass moderate Pakistanis who cooperated with the United States, says Tellis, while recent suggestions by U.S. presidential hopefuls for unilateral military action could re-cast Pakistan an adversary.And Michael Medved on why it's not American interventionism and funding that drives the extremist violence coming out of Pakistan:
The bloody chaos in Pakistan, however, goes back several generations – reflecting blood feuds, ethnic rivalries, and Islamic extremism that have polarized the country since its founding sixty years ago. With revenge riots already unleashed against hapless targets around the nation, it’s hard to see how a cutoff of American aid, or a new U.S. determination to “go home” and leave other nations to their own devices, would bring peace to Pakistan, or reconciliation between that country and its nuclear armed neighbor and rival, India. Rational analysis suggests that abrupt American disengagement would make the situation more dangerous, not less explosive. The current crisis serves as a reminder that America can’t control events in every corner of the globe, and we therefore can’t be blamed for those brutal happenings that we don’t control and can’t avoid.Should we alienate the moderates by making cowboy demands of a sovereign nation rather than finessing diplomatic pressures and requests? Do we back Musharraf into a corner, forcing him to make a hardlined decision: You're either with us, or with the terrorists. The blame-America-firsters already consider him to be "America's puppet dictator". Bush could probably use a new poodle, right? How does further eroding public opinion of Musharraf by his people, weakening him politically, help America's efforts in prosecuting the war on Islamic terror?
When Washington's demands and influence goes from a push to a shove, what if, not to be bullied and shamed into looking like a weak leader before his people, he arrives at the conclusion that, "...with allies like these...." After all, the Shah of Iran was deeply loyal to America, and look where that got him (thank you Carter!)? Political leaders in the Muslim world allying with the West can find it to be a costly career move.
When Musharraf acquiesced to the wishes of the Bush Administration in stepping down as Pakistan's army chief a month ago, he took a gamble. With the assassination of Bhutto, his non-dictatorial gamble may prove to be a politically fatal blunder for him, as noted by Andrew Walden at American Thinker:
With Musharraf out as Army Chief, his ability to manipulate promotions and bonuses in order to defend himself against further al-Qaeda assassination attempts is weakened. And without the cooperation of Bhutto his chance to widen the patronage-based political support of the regime is threatened.Going back to the Democratic politicizing of Bhutto's murder:
"I've been saying for some time that we've got a very big problem" in Pakistan, Obama said. "We were distracted from focusing on them."Uh...yeah. Let's just carry out Obama's cowboy diplomacy. Unilateralism would be so much better received under a Democratic president.
And they say it's the Bush Presidency, specifically, that's fueling "unprecedented" anti-Americanism around the world?
Presidential Democratic candidate Chris Dodd also had some recent politicized statements on Bhutto's murder. As Brian Maloney puts it,
These guys obviously have a playbook: sound statesmanlike in the press releases, while bashing Bush and throwing partisan slime when it seems safe to do so. Could they be any phonier?In today's information age, if you are going to run for office, you had better "sound statesmanlike" 24/7.
Chris Dodd said this, btw, at a Democratic debate coming on the heels of Obama's unilateral interventionist plan for Pakistan:
It echoes the words of Robert Kaplan on Musharraf's precarious rock-and-a-hard-place rule:
"While General Musharraf is no Thomas Jefferson, he may be the only thing that stands between us and having an Islamic fundamentalist state in that country," Dodd said.
"So while I would like to see him change, the reality is, if we lose him, then what we face is an alternative that could be a lot worse for our country."
he feels himself atop a volcano of fundamentalism. He is among the last of the Westernized, British-style officers in the national army; after him come the men with the beards.
Robert D. Kaplan
Musharraf may not be the perfect poodle we wish him to be, but for all our criticism without appreciating his precarious position and juggling act in a country where Washington's will does not have popular support, he has helped us achieve some success in prosecuting the war on terror. And it is not as though Pakistanis are not fighting and dying at the hands of the Islamist extremists. Musharraf siding with the U.S. has made him the target of about 9 assassination attempts (read Counterterrorism Blog's Has al-Qaeda adopted a new terror tactic?, in regards to the Bhutto assassination).
As Andrew Walden writes:
Musharraf wisely chose to side with the US, but many elements of the ISI and the broader Pakistani military have not come along. As a result Musharraf has faced several al-Qaeda assassination attempts and the Pakistani military is unwilling to root out al-Qaeda and the Taliban from areas along the Afghani border. Al-Qaeda boss Ayman al-Zawahiri has called on Pakistanis to overthrow Musharraf. Islamist groups Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Jaish-e-Muhammad have been identified as connected to the assassination attempts. Both are tied closely to the ISI, the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
Could Musharraf do more to help us eradicate the Taliban and al-Qaeda elements from his country? Perhaps so. Certainly, we wish he did more; but in criticizing, one really should take into account his political weakness and ability to influence his own people into convincing Pakistanis that it is in the best interest of the country to defeat terrorism. Lisa Curtis, senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation specializing in Southeast Asia, says only 5% of the population in Pakistan probably fall into the extremist category of Islam; yet, according to Andrew McCarthy, a CNN poll seems to indicate that 46% of Pakistanis approve of Osama bin Laden.
The assassination of Benazir Bhutto deals a blow to the hope for taking on the militants in the Pakistani sanctuary. It is also another sharp blow to the idea that political means can primarily or alone defeat Islamist terrorism.