Commentary Magazine


Topic: Nawaz Sharif

Undue Optimism on Pakistan

The Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid has become the foremost explainer of Afghanistan and Pakistan to the West. But his latest New York Times op-ed about the prospects of Pakistan’s new prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, negotiating a peace deal between Kabul and the Afghan Taliban appears to reflect little more than wishful thinking.

Rashid concedes: “Pakistan’s Army has managed the country’s policy on Afghanistan since 1978.” He also notes, at the very beginning of the article, how elements of Inter-Services Intelligence, the Pakistani army’s powerful intelligence branch, sabotaged a 1992 effort by Sharif to negotiate a truce among the various Afghan Taliban factions. Yet somehow he expects that this time will be different–that Sharif will decide to push for peace in Afghanistan, which will involve ending ISI’s long-standing record of support for Taliban militancy, and the army will let him get away with it.

Read More

The Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid has become the foremost explainer of Afghanistan and Pakistan to the West. But his latest New York Times op-ed about the prospects of Pakistan’s new prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, negotiating a peace deal between Kabul and the Afghan Taliban appears to reflect little more than wishful thinking.

Rashid concedes: “Pakistan’s Army has managed the country’s policy on Afghanistan since 1978.” He also notes, at the very beginning of the article, how elements of Inter-Services Intelligence, the Pakistani army’s powerful intelligence branch, sabotaged a 1992 effort by Sharif to negotiate a truce among the various Afghan Taliban factions. Yet somehow he expects that this time will be different–that Sharif will decide to push for peace in Afghanistan, which will involve ending ISI’s long-standing record of support for Taliban militancy, and the army will let him get away with it.

Why should the army do this? Because Rashid says it should? That’s not a very compelling reason when you have decades of strategic thinking in Islamabad which suggests that the Taliban are a reliable proxy for Pakistani interests. Rashid suggests that the army brass is getting uncomfortable with its habit of supporting Islamic militants because they see how Pakistani militants threaten their own hold on the state. Maybe so, but it’s a stretch to say that ISI is ready to give up on the Haqqanis, Taliban, and other Afghan militant groups–or to give up its control of national security policy to a prime minister who in the past had actually been deposed and exiled by the army.

In fact, the coming withdrawal of most Western troops from Afghanistan–an event which Rashid does not mention–will undoubtedly suggest to the generals in Islamabad that they need to continue their current support for the insurgency in Afghanistan because the Taliban will have a good chance to seize power once the Americans are gone. If they abandon the Taliban, the paranoid Pakistani generals undoubtedly figure, Indian influence will trump theirs in a future Afghanistan. This may be a misguided worldview, but it is one that ISI and the broader Pakistani army has clung to for years. A fundamental shift in Pakistan’s policy would be nice, but there are few signs of it so far.

Read Less

In Pakistan, Expect More of the Same

The fact that 60 percent of Pakistanis voted in parliamentary elections, thereby defying Pakistani Taliban intimidation, is a good sign. So is the likelihood that Pakistan will see the first succession since the country’s founding in 1947 from one elected government to another after the first government had completed its full term in office.

But we should not expect much change in foreign policy from presumptive prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who got his start in politics as a protégé of the Islamist military dictator General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq in the 1980s. In the 1990s, during an earlier stint as prime minister, he was a supporter of the Afghan Taliban and has remained cozy with Islamic militant groups ever since; during this campaign he refused to come out strongly against the Pakistani Taliban, which helps to explain why that group did not attack rallies held by his Pakistan Muslim League party. Although Sharif is said to favor better ties with India, his most famous act as prime minister occurred in 1998 when he approved Pakistan’s first nuclear test, thereby ratcheting up tensions with India.

Read More

The fact that 60 percent of Pakistanis voted in parliamentary elections, thereby defying Pakistani Taliban intimidation, is a good sign. So is the likelihood that Pakistan will see the first succession since the country’s founding in 1947 from one elected government to another after the first government had completed its full term in office.

But we should not expect much change in foreign policy from presumptive prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who got his start in politics as a protégé of the Islamist military dictator General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq in the 1980s. In the 1990s, during an earlier stint as prime minister, he was a supporter of the Afghan Taliban and has remained cozy with Islamic militant groups ever since; during this campaign he refused to come out strongly against the Pakistani Taliban, which helps to explain why that group did not attack rallies held by his Pakistan Muslim League party. Although Sharif is said to favor better ties with India, his most famous act as prime minister occurred in 1998 when he approved Pakistan’s first nuclear test, thereby ratcheting up tensions with India.

Sharif promises better relations with the United States too, but it is doubtful that he could deliver even if he meant it–and it’s doubtful that he does. As the Indian Express notes: “Sharif has criticized unpopular U.S. drone attacks targeting al-Qaida and Taliban militants in Pakistan, and has called the Afghan conflict ‘America’s war.’ The Punjab government, controlled by Sharif’s party, turned down over $100 million in American aid in 2011 to protest the bin Laden raid.”

Even if Sharif were pro-American and secularist (he is neither), he would still not call the shots in Pakistan. Real power, at least when it comes to foreign policy and national security policy, is still held by the army, while in the domestic sphere the judiciary has proved increasingly important of late. President Asif Ali Zardari has been a figurehead. So too with his previous prime ministers. Real power has been increased by the army chief of staff, General Ashfaq Kayani, and the Supreme Court’s chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who succeeded in removing Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani from office last year. Both Kayani and Chaudhry are due to retire this year and their replacements will be more consequential than the change of elected leadership.

In foreign policy, however, there is unlikely to be much change since pretty much the entire army leadership–not just General Kayani–supports Pakistan’s existing policies, which include aiding and abetting groups such as the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network, which are killing Americans and their Afghan allies. It is high time we woke up to what Pakistan is up to. Instead of pretending it is a sometimes-wayward ally, we must recognize that Pakistan’s strategic interests–especially in Afghanistan–are squarely at odds with ours, and we must work to counter Pakistani influence as we would do with any other hostile power.

In Pakistan itself, we should work to bolster civil society and the power of civilians in government, but we should not delude ourselves that such efforts will have much impact in the short run–and possibly not even in the long run. Pakistan’s state is deeply dysfunctional and is unlikely to fundamentally change for the better under Nawaz Sharif.

Read Less

Vox Pakistan

Two new surveys of public opinion in Pakistan deliver generally good news about the future of that country—and bad news for the future of administration policy, which has been tied so closely to President Pervez Musharraf. That policy seems increasingly untenable, with a new poll sponsored by the International Republican Institute finding that 75 percent favor his resignation and only 16 percent are opposed.

His approval ratings were positive not long ago; now they are about as low as you can go, and falling fast. That message is reinforced in another survey from Terror Free Tomorrow which found that 70 percent of Pakistanis want Musharraf to resign immediately.

But while turning against Washington’s favorite, Pakistanis are also increasing disenchanted with Islamist extremists. Terror Free Tomorrow reports that Al Qaeda and associated groups have lost half of their support in the past six months:

In August, 46 percent of Pakistanis had a favorable opinion of Bin Laden—that’s down to 24 percent now, while Al Qaeda has dropped from 33 to 18 percent, the Taliban from 38 percent to 19 percent, and other related radical Islamist groups from nearly half of the Pakistani public with a favorable view to less than a quarter today. Significantly, if Al Qaeda were on the ballot as a political party in the February 18th election, only 1 percent of Pakistanis would vote for them. (The Taliban would draw just 3 percent of the vote.)

The survey reveals that support for the extremists has even dropped in the North-West Frontier Province where they had been previously been making gains: “Favorable opinions of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the North-West Frontier Province have dropped to single digits. And while in TFT’s last survey, 70 percent in the NWFP expressed a favorable opinion of Bin Laden—that’s now plunged to only 4 percent.

Far from flocking to the extremists, the surveys reveal, the overwhelming majority of Pakistanis support one of two relatively moderate opposition parties—the Pakistan People’s Party that was led by the late Benazir Bhutto and the faction of the Pakistan Muslim League led by Nawaz Sharif, with the former enjoying more than twice the support of the latter.

The bad news is that most Pakistanis still oppose taking an active role in the War on Terror. According to the IRI poll: “only 33 percent of Pakistanis supported the Army fighting extremists in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) and tribal areas and just nine percent felt that Pakistan should cooperate with the United States in its war on terror.” (The results appeared to be inadvertently flipped in a chart published in the Washington Post.)

It is results like that which have led the Bush administration to not push very hard for democracy in Pakistan. Yet our supposedly close ally, Musharraf, has failed to stop the terrorists from making major gains; indeed there is considerable evidence that members of his own intelligence service conspire with the Taliban and other extremists. Notwithstanding the opposition to close cooperation with the United States, the overall picture painted in this surveys should make us more sanguine about the return to democracy. The more that extremists have carried out attacks within Pakistan itself, the more they have lost support. A government with more popular legitimacy than Musharraf now enjoys could potentially also have more success in harnessing popular sentiment to take action against the fanatics.

That’s far from a certainty. What is certain is that it will not be possible to stick with Musharrar too much longer given his continuing loss of support, which may accelerate if he is seen to tamper with the results of an election that will be held next Monday.

Two new surveys of public opinion in Pakistan deliver generally good news about the future of that country—and bad news for the future of administration policy, which has been tied so closely to President Pervez Musharraf. That policy seems increasingly untenable, with a new poll sponsored by the International Republican Institute finding that 75 percent favor his resignation and only 16 percent are opposed.

His approval ratings were positive not long ago; now they are about as low as you can go, and falling fast. That message is reinforced in another survey from Terror Free Tomorrow which found that 70 percent of Pakistanis want Musharraf to resign immediately.

But while turning against Washington’s favorite, Pakistanis are also increasing disenchanted with Islamist extremists. Terror Free Tomorrow reports that Al Qaeda and associated groups have lost half of their support in the past six months:

In August, 46 percent of Pakistanis had a favorable opinion of Bin Laden—that’s down to 24 percent now, while Al Qaeda has dropped from 33 to 18 percent, the Taliban from 38 percent to 19 percent, and other related radical Islamist groups from nearly half of the Pakistani public with a favorable view to less than a quarter today. Significantly, if Al Qaeda were on the ballot as a political party in the February 18th election, only 1 percent of Pakistanis would vote for them. (The Taliban would draw just 3 percent of the vote.)

The survey reveals that support for the extremists has even dropped in the North-West Frontier Province where they had been previously been making gains: “Favorable opinions of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the North-West Frontier Province have dropped to single digits. And while in TFT’s last survey, 70 percent in the NWFP expressed a favorable opinion of Bin Laden—that’s now plunged to only 4 percent.

Far from flocking to the extremists, the surveys reveal, the overwhelming majority of Pakistanis support one of two relatively moderate opposition parties—the Pakistan People’s Party that was led by the late Benazir Bhutto and the faction of the Pakistan Muslim League led by Nawaz Sharif, with the former enjoying more than twice the support of the latter.

The bad news is that most Pakistanis still oppose taking an active role in the War on Terror. According to the IRI poll: “only 33 percent of Pakistanis supported the Army fighting extremists in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) and tribal areas and just nine percent felt that Pakistan should cooperate with the United States in its war on terror.” (The results appeared to be inadvertently flipped in a chart published in the Washington Post.)

It is results like that which have led the Bush administration to not push very hard for democracy in Pakistan. Yet our supposedly close ally, Musharraf, has failed to stop the terrorists from making major gains; indeed there is considerable evidence that members of his own intelligence service conspire with the Taliban and other extremists. Notwithstanding the opposition to close cooperation with the United States, the overall picture painted in this surveys should make us more sanguine about the return to democracy. The more that extremists have carried out attacks within Pakistan itself, the more they have lost support. A government with more popular legitimacy than Musharraf now enjoys could potentially also have more success in harnessing popular sentiment to take action against the fanatics.

That’s far from a certainty. What is certain is that it will not be possible to stick with Musharrar too much longer given his continuing loss of support, which may accelerate if he is seen to tamper with the results of an election that will be held next Monday.

Read Less

Doubling Down in Pakistan

Washington is in disarray after Thursday’s assassination of Benazir Bhutto. The United States did not have a Pakistan policy. We only had a Musharraf one. Since Musharraf deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and ended democracy in the 1999 coup, Washington has backed the man who returned the country to dictatorial rule. When the strongman in Islamabad appeared weak, the United States tried to arrange a power-sharing agreement between Musharraf and Bhutto, also a failed leader in her two stints as prime minister. The idea—“like putting two pythons in the same cage” according to a Bush administration official—was an act of desperation or perhaps just folly.

American policymakers always get themselves into trouble when they compromise the principles of the people they lead. Washington’s response to troubling events in Pakistan—as in other places—has been to try to broker even more cynical arrangements, doubling down and making the situation even worse. We are always in a dilemma, and so we continue to put off lasting solutions. This rationale underpins the Bush administration’s policy of supporting Musharraf. Yet as RAND’s Christine Fair noted on Thursday, “Six years into this mess, we’re still saying now is not the right time. There’s always an excuse to defer those things that need to be done.”

What needs to be done at this moment is to withdraw our backing for Musharraf. Of course he continues to do things that are inimical to the interests of the United States and the rest of the international community—he knows we will continue to stand behind him, no matter what. Why should he ever truly cooperate?

As Max Boot has regularly pointed out in this forum, the majority of the Pakistani people are in favor of democracy. It never occurred to the set in Washington that we should just let them run their own country. The longer we stand against their legitimate aspirations, the less likely the responsible center will hold. And one more thing: a political result engineered by the United States—even if one were possible—would lack legitimacy.

Yes, Pakistan has nukes and plenty of terrorists, yet these facts are not arguments for supporting whichever autocrat is in control in Islamabad. If anything, the facts should persuade us to permit an enduring solution as quickly as possible. Pakistan will continue to get worse until Washington allows the country to heal itself. This may be a particularly bad time to stop helping Musharraf, but the moments ahead will even be worse.

Washington is in disarray after Thursday’s assassination of Benazir Bhutto. The United States did not have a Pakistan policy. We only had a Musharraf one. Since Musharraf deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and ended democracy in the 1999 coup, Washington has backed the man who returned the country to dictatorial rule. When the strongman in Islamabad appeared weak, the United States tried to arrange a power-sharing agreement between Musharraf and Bhutto, also a failed leader in her two stints as prime minister. The idea—“like putting two pythons in the same cage” according to a Bush administration official—was an act of desperation or perhaps just folly.

American policymakers always get themselves into trouble when they compromise the principles of the people they lead. Washington’s response to troubling events in Pakistan—as in other places—has been to try to broker even more cynical arrangements, doubling down and making the situation even worse. We are always in a dilemma, and so we continue to put off lasting solutions. This rationale underpins the Bush administration’s policy of supporting Musharraf. Yet as RAND’s Christine Fair noted on Thursday, “Six years into this mess, we’re still saying now is not the right time. There’s always an excuse to defer those things that need to be done.”

What needs to be done at this moment is to withdraw our backing for Musharraf. Of course he continues to do things that are inimical to the interests of the United States and the rest of the international community—he knows we will continue to stand behind him, no matter what. Why should he ever truly cooperate?

As Max Boot has regularly pointed out in this forum, the majority of the Pakistani people are in favor of democracy. It never occurred to the set in Washington that we should just let them run their own country. The longer we stand against their legitimate aspirations, the less likely the responsible center will hold. And one more thing: a political result engineered by the United States—even if one were possible—would lack legitimacy.

Yes, Pakistan has nukes and plenty of terrorists, yet these facts are not arguments for supporting whichever autocrat is in control in Islamabad. If anything, the facts should persuade us to permit an enduring solution as quickly as possible. Pakistan will continue to get worse until Washington allows the country to heal itself. This may be a particularly bad time to stop helping Musharraf, but the moments ahead will even be worse.

Read Less

Democracy in Pakistan

For years Pervez Musharraf’s supporters, especially in Washington, have been arguing that it is necessary to support Pakistan’s strongman so as to avoid a takeover by Islamic fundamentalists. These realpolitikers scoffed at the need to hold free elections, which, they feared, would bring in followers of Osama bin Laden.

Now, at long last, semi-free parliamentary elections are in the offing, and the religious parties are expected to have a poor showing. The Washington Post reports: “Just 4 percent of Pakistanis said in a recent survey that they intended to support the religious parties in the Jan. 8 elections.”

The religious extremists have been hurt by their poor record in governing North-West Frontier Province, which they took over in 2002. “While they ran in 2002 on a vow of clean government and improved citizen services,” reporter Griff Witte writes, “leaders of religious parties have fallen prey to the same allegations of corruption and lackluster governance that shadow the nation’s secular parties.” Now the Islamist politicos are finding that, just as in French and German elections, anti-American rhetoric cannot make up for a poor record in handling domestic concerns.

In retrospect it looks as if 2002, when the religious parties captured 12 percent of the vote, might be their highwater mark—and that was only possible because Musharraf hobbled the ability of mainstream opposition parties to compete. The parties are still not entirely free to do so, even though the state of emergency has been lifted and Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif have returned home. Musharraf continues to cling to the presidency after belatedly giving up his post as army chief. But Pakistan seems slowly to be heading toward a reestablishment of democracy. The new polls indicate that this is a development the West should welcome, not fear.

For years Pervez Musharraf’s supporters, especially in Washington, have been arguing that it is necessary to support Pakistan’s strongman so as to avoid a takeover by Islamic fundamentalists. These realpolitikers scoffed at the need to hold free elections, which, they feared, would bring in followers of Osama bin Laden.

Now, at long last, semi-free parliamentary elections are in the offing, and the religious parties are expected to have a poor showing. The Washington Post reports: “Just 4 percent of Pakistanis said in a recent survey that they intended to support the religious parties in the Jan. 8 elections.”

The religious extremists have been hurt by their poor record in governing North-West Frontier Province, which they took over in 2002. “While they ran in 2002 on a vow of clean government and improved citizen services,” reporter Griff Witte writes, “leaders of religious parties have fallen prey to the same allegations of corruption and lackluster governance that shadow the nation’s secular parties.” Now the Islamist politicos are finding that, just as in French and German elections, anti-American rhetoric cannot make up for a poor record in handling domestic concerns.

In retrospect it looks as if 2002, when the religious parties captured 12 percent of the vote, might be their highwater mark—and that was only possible because Musharraf hobbled the ability of mainstream opposition parties to compete. The parties are still not entirely free to do so, even though the state of emergency has been lifted and Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif have returned home. Musharraf continues to cling to the presidency after belatedly giving up his post as army chief. But Pakistan seems slowly to be heading toward a reestablishment of democracy. The new polls indicate that this is a development the West should welcome, not fear.

Read Less

Sharif’s Return

The differences are greater than the similarities, but somehow the Saudi decision to send exiled politician Nawaz Sharif back to Pakistan on an airplane belonging to King Abdullah reminds me of the Germans’ decision to transport V.I. Lenin from his exile in Switzerland back to Russia in a sealed railway car in 1917. Winston Churchill famously wrote of the Germans: “It was with a sense of awe that they turned upon Russia the most grisly of all weapons. They transported Lenin in a sealed truck like a plague bacillus into Russia.”

The German hope that Lenin would launch a revolution that would undermine the czarist regime fighting Germany was fully realized. But, while the short-term consequences were extremely favorable to Germany (the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, concluded by the new Bolshevik regime, took Russia out of the war and granted Germany huge territorial concessions), in the long term, the German move backfired. The Communist regime proved to be a more formidable and ruthless adversary to Germany than its czarist predecessor had been. By 1945 Russian soldiers were wandering through the ruins of Berlin, thanks to an offensive overseen by Lenin’s successor.

Will the Saudi move to send Sharif to Pakistan backfire as badly? Probably not. But it could still have negative repercussions.

The Saudis are more comfortable with Nawaz Sharif, an Islamic conservative who tried to impose sharia law during his tenure as prime minister in the 1990’s, than with Benazir Bhutto, a liberal, pro-Western woman. From the Saudi perspective, a woman shouldn’t be driving a car, much less running a country, especially not an Islamic country. No doubt the Saudis were alarmed by the sight of Bhutto returning to Pakistan with American help, and they wanted to get “their” candidate back into the political arena. Significantly, Sharif had spent the past eight years living on Saudi soil, while Bhutto spent her wilderness years in the freer air of Dubai and London.

Read More

The differences are greater than the similarities, but somehow the Saudi decision to send exiled politician Nawaz Sharif back to Pakistan on an airplane belonging to King Abdullah reminds me of the Germans’ decision to transport V.I. Lenin from his exile in Switzerland back to Russia in a sealed railway car in 1917. Winston Churchill famously wrote of the Germans: “It was with a sense of awe that they turned upon Russia the most grisly of all weapons. They transported Lenin in a sealed truck like a plague bacillus into Russia.”

The German hope that Lenin would launch a revolution that would undermine the czarist regime fighting Germany was fully realized. But, while the short-term consequences were extremely favorable to Germany (the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, concluded by the new Bolshevik regime, took Russia out of the war and granted Germany huge territorial concessions), in the long term, the German move backfired. The Communist regime proved to be a more formidable and ruthless adversary to Germany than its czarist predecessor had been. By 1945 Russian soldiers were wandering through the ruins of Berlin, thanks to an offensive overseen by Lenin’s successor.

Will the Saudi move to send Sharif to Pakistan backfire as badly? Probably not. But it could still have negative repercussions.

The Saudis are more comfortable with Nawaz Sharif, an Islamic conservative who tried to impose sharia law during his tenure as prime minister in the 1990’s, than with Benazir Bhutto, a liberal, pro-Western woman. From the Saudi perspective, a woman shouldn’t be driving a car, much less running a country, especially not an Islamic country. No doubt the Saudis were alarmed by the sight of Bhutto returning to Pakistan with American help, and they wanted to get “their” candidate back into the political arena. Significantly, Sharif had spent the past eight years living on Saudi soil, while Bhutto spent her wilderness years in the freer air of Dubai and London.

The Saudis are understandably determined to preserve their long-standing links with Pakistan. The ties are long and deep: the Saudis and Pakistanis worked closely together in the 1980’s, for example, to support the mujahideen fighting the Red Army in Afghanistan. The Pakistanis provided bases, training, and handlers; the Saudis (along with the Americans) provided the cash.

There are even unproven suspicions (denied vehemently by both sides) that the links may include Saudi financial contributions for the development of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, in return perhaps for an understanding that Pakistani nuclear technology will be made available to the Saudis should they ever need it. That possibility is no longer so far-fetched: If Iran develops its own nuclear bomb, Saudi Arabia may well feel compelled to match the “Persians.”

That could set off a destabilizing Middle Eastern arms race and raise the odds that a nuclear weapon could fall into the hands of jihadist terrorists. But from the Saudi perspective, going nuclear could be a necessary step toward preserving their security and prestige. If so, it would be helpful to the Saudis to have in Pakistan a leader who would offer Riyadh all the cooperation it needs. And Sharif fits the bill better than Bhutto.

But the Saudis had better be careful what they wish for. If Sharif is less dogged than, say, Bhutto would be in cracking down on jihadists, the results could come back to haunt the Saudis. Pakistan, after all, has become a haven of al Qaeda extremists who hate the Saudi regime at least as much as they hate America and Israel. It is in the Saudis’ interests to have the Pakistan government defeat the jihadists—something that Pervez Musharraf has not been willing or able to do and that Sharif may or may not be willing to do either, but that Bhutto has promised to do. Of course the ability of any of these leaders to stop the growth of Islamic radicalism may be limited because of the unwillingness or inability of many in the Pakistani security forces to fight especially hard against their Muslim “brothers.” But it would certainly be helpful to have a leader who appears more emotionally committed to the fight than Musharraf has been or than Sharif may be.

There is nothing wrong with allowing Sharif to compete in free elections; they would not have any credibility if he were barred. But one wonders how much covert support the Saudis may be providing him beyond simply his plush ticket back.

The Saudis had better be careful not to compromise their long-term interests in return for short-term gain—a mistake they last made in the 1990’s when, working hand-in-glove with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, they funded the most radical mujahideen groups fighting in Afghanistan. Many of those Afghan veterans then journeyed back to Saudi Arabia and formed the nucleus of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terrorist group that Saudi security forces have been battling for the last several years.

Saudi Arabia has already imported one plague bacillus; it should be wary of a re-infection.

Read Less

Leadership on Taiwan

The time has come for Washington to show some leadership regarding Taiwan’s U.N. membership as the issue gains traction in China and on the island. The Bush administration should propose a way to go forward. Here are some suggestions.

First, we should state clearly that, like the Olympic games, which China is hosting next year, the U.N. is intended to be entirely inclusive. Just as Taiwan will be sending teams to the Olympics, we in Washington think she should also be able to send a delegation to the United Nations. Second, we should indicate that the United States fundamentally supports democracy and human rights for all peoples, including the people of Taiwan. We never intended that nearly thirty years should pass (since our break with Taipei in 1979) during which those people, having made themselves democratic, should be excluded from the international community. Third, we should call on China to join the rest of the world in finding a way forward, so that Taiwan can send a delegation to New York as she will send teams to Beijing. Finally, we should stress that violence and coercion are ruled out. They are simply not options and will be resisted by the United States.

Read More

The time has come for Washington to show some leadership regarding Taiwan’s U.N. membership as the issue gains traction in China and on the island. The Bush administration should propose a way to go forward. Here are some suggestions.

First, we should state clearly that, like the Olympic games, which China is hosting next year, the U.N. is intended to be entirely inclusive. Just as Taiwan will be sending teams to the Olympics, we in Washington think she should also be able to send a delegation to the United Nations. Second, we should indicate that the United States fundamentally supports democracy and human rights for all peoples, including the people of Taiwan. We never intended that nearly thirty years should pass (since our break with Taipei in 1979) during which those people, having made themselves democratic, should be excluded from the international community. Third, we should call on China to join the rest of the world in finding a way forward, so that Taiwan can send a delegation to New York as she will send teams to Beijing. Finally, we should stress that violence and coercion are ruled out. They are simply not options and will be resisted by the United States.

By adopting such a forward-looking position, Washington would escape the trap into which she is now falling, which is serving as China’s enforcer. Since August 27th we have been manifesting a clear double standard with respect to Taiwan, the only explanation for which is fear of China. On that day Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte warned Taiwan about carrying out a referendum—a democratic exercise. Other officials have since joined in (as my previous posts have chronicled). But when Pakistan’s Prime Minister Musharraf expelled former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Saudi Arabia, an undemocratic action if ever there was one, the same Deputy Secretary had no comment and praised Pakistan as our friend.

Meanwhile, in Taiwan, various demonstrations brought hundreds of thousands out in favor of votes on the U.N.—and 12,000 pro-China demonstrators out against such a vote. Steam is building up. If Washington does not start leading instead of reacting, case by case, to Chinese demands, trouble lies ahead. China will give us nothing in return for disciplining Taiwan. She will treat it as no more than our duty while taking it as a basis for more extensive future demands. At some point those demands will be more than we can accept. Our passivity will have brought us to a possibly dangerous impasse. Far better to seize the initiative now. Let Washington take the lead in challenging China and the world to find a way that will permit Taiwan once again to be represented in the United Nations.

Read Less

Why Musharraf?

The alleged terrorist plot uncovered in Germany has an interesting connection to another country: two of the suspects, both German converts to Islam, were said to have gone to Pakistan for training. This merely confirms what we already know—that, as the National Intelligence Estimate released in July put it, al Qaeda has found “a safe haven in the Pakistan Federally Administered Tribal Areas.”

And that raises an interesting question: Why is the Bush administration so attached to Pervez Musharraf, the dictator of Pakistan who is supposed to be fighting terrorism, but is in fact allowing his country to become one of the top terrorist havens in the world?

Read More

The alleged terrorist plot uncovered in Germany has an interesting connection to another country: two of the suspects, both German converts to Islam, were said to have gone to Pakistan for training. This merely confirms what we already know—that, as the National Intelligence Estimate released in July put it, al Qaeda has found “a safe haven in the Pakistan Federally Administered Tribal Areas.”

And that raises an interesting question: Why is the Bush administration so attached to Pervez Musharraf, the dictator of Pakistan who is supposed to be fighting terrorism, but is in fact allowing his country to become one of the top terrorist havens in the world?

Rajan Menon, a smart political scientist, has an interesting article on this topic in the Los Angeles Times. He writes:

The Bush administration’s problem in Pakistan is that it has had a Musharraf policy but not one that engages the interests and aspirations of Pakistan’s citizenry. Pakistanis may have welcomed Musharraf in 1999 when, as army chief, he overthrew the inept and corrupt government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, but that enthusiasm has evaporated.

Menon goes on to suggest that it is a mistake for the Bush administration to try to keep Musharraf in power by helping to broker a power-sharing deal with opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. No government will be seen as legitimate, Menon argues, if it is viewed as having been installed at American instigation. “The administration’s best course of action in Pakistan is inaction,” Menon counsels. “Let Pakistanis find a solution to their crisis. Any made-in-America remedy will not only fail to make matters better, it will make them worse.”

There’s a lot to be said for that argument, though the U.S. can’t be totally hands-off about a country that has turned into a major terrorist refuge. But certainly we should take Menon’s advice to stop propping up Musharraf and to start supporting free and fair elections. Though most Pakistanis are suspicious of the United States, they are also hostile to Islamic extremists. As Menon rightly notes, “The vast majority do not support the agenda of al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their local acolytes, and have never voted for the Islamist political parties in overwhelming numbers.”

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.