Thursday, November 08, 2007

Troubles in Pakistan

Fire of Liberty

While this piece predates the recent events in Pakistan by some three weeks, I think that this NY Post column by Ralph Peters pretty much sums up the situation. I find these paragraphs particularly interesting and pertinent to the current state of affairs:

Most coup-makers then botch the job of governing, just as the civilians they overthrew failed before them. From Argentina to Burma, junta leaders, accustomed to being obeyed, have tried to punish the population into succeeding (an approach the Left readily approved when Stalin and Mao took it).

The generals and colonels learn that patriotism, no matter how heartfelt, is no substitute for sound economic principles, the rule of law and a merit-based society. The absence of healthy governmental institutions is as fateful for the coup-makers as for the demagogues they overthrow.

Nonetheless, we blind ourselves to the forces in play when we caricature all coup-makers. For all his faults, Musharraf views himself as a Pakistani patriot - not as a political party boss in the fashion of Bhutto, nor as a Punjabi or Pashtun, Baluch or Sindhi first. Indeed, only the military holds the fractured state of Pakistan together.

Now Benazir Bhutto - one of the figures who did so much to destroy the fabric of society and the economy - is back in Pakistan. It appears that she and Musharraf have worked out a power-sharing arrangement. We may hope for the best, but we also need to be prepared for the worst: a new era of hyper-corruption, as Bhutto's grab-all gang replaces the relative moral rigor of the military in the public sphere.

And let's not forget those nukes.

The answer to the desperate needs of the people of countries such as Pakistan doesn't lie with demagogues. And it would be better if it didn't lie with military regimes, either. But the old rotation between the charlatans and the generals is likely to continue throughout our lifetimes.

Given the inability of non-Western societies to build effective government institutions, it may be time to rethink our faith in the state itself as the answer to their needs.

I for one hope that the White House will convince General Musharraf to restore the democratic process and the rule of law in Pakistan but they should be mindful of Peters' sage advice on being lulled by democratic charmers like Bhutto. This might be against the philosophy of Fire of Liberty but I'm very wary of Benazir Bhutto and believe she's preaching democracy for the sake of being in the West's good graces. I hope I'm wrong.

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