The Discerning Texan
-- Edmund Burke
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Pakistan Crisis: Know When to Hold 'Em
It is impossible to say, at this point, how events will play out, but my instinct is to be sympathetic to Musharraf. It is important to distinguish between permanent and provisional enemies of democracy. The struggle against Islamic extremism is analogous in some ways to the cold war. In a number of countries in Latin America and elsewhere in the third world, authoritarian governments limited their citizens' rights to varying degrees and carried out more or less ruthless campaigns against Communist insurgencies. In all cases, they were bitterly attacked by the Left and by "world opinion" in general.
But Communism, like radical Islam, is a permanent enemy of democracy. The handful of countries that remain Communist--Cuba and North Korea may be the last survivors--are islands of primitive despotism. All around the world, on the other hand, authoritarian anti-Communist governments have yielded to democracies, in many cases highly prosperous ones.
I am inclined to believe that Musharraf does intend to bring modernity, including a viable democracy, to Pakistan. If the current measures enable the government to fight the extremists more effectively--a big "if"--the sacrifices they entail will be worthwhile. We can be sure that if the Taliban and similar groups succeed in seizing power in Pakistan, the consequences will be infinitely worse and far more prolonged.
One more thought: Pakistan has nuclear weapons. If the situation there is as grave as Musharraf says, the United States may be confronted, in a few years, by the prospect of al Qaeda and its allies actually possessing the weapons which they have so long sought. Is there a single person who seriously believes that Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards are the people we want dealing with such a crisis?