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November 18, 2007

Musharraf to US: "Put up or Shut up."

By: Bernard Chazelle

Not having Bill Kristol's crystal ball, I won't attempt to predict what will happen to our friendly dictator Musharraf. But this much is clear: the US has once again put itself in a lose-lose situation. Here is why:

1. It took two years for the Bush administration to engineer the Musharraf-Bhutto power-sharing agreement and one week for Musharraf to kill it. Benazir Bhutto is now thoroughly discredited: unable or unwilling to mount massive protests, she is viewed as a tepid triangulator with the heart of a kleptocrat - her husband was not named "Mr 10 percent" for nothing. The Army hates her and even her supporters are having second thoughts.

2. In Pakistan, what the Army wants, the Army gets. As Tony Karon reminds us, the military owns a third of the economy. The only serious threat to Musharraf's power might come from some disgruntled general (like the deputy head of the Armed Forces, Ashfaq Kiyani, who enjoys strong US support). Musharraf's coziness with the US has not endeared him to all corners of the Armed Forces. But the military chain of command is disciplined and the likelihood of an internal coup is slim.

3. Support for US policy is nonexistent among the people and increasingly thin among military leaders. There are two reasons for the latter: one is that the US has denied its old ally, Pakistan, the nuclear deal it has offered (unsuccessfully so far) to its new ally, India. The other is that the US is pushing the Pakistani army to fight a war that it is losing - and losing badly - not just in the tribal belt but in Pakistan proper. While Musharraf was busy rounding up lawyers in Islamabad, he was releasing top Taliban leaders from jail, including Mullah Omar's third in command. Why? Because 250 Pakistani troops had been captured by tribal militants without firing a single shot. No one in Pakistan wants - or knows how - to fight Bush's "war on terror." Fighting is supposed to take place on the other side of the country: For many Pakistani, it is obvious that Bush read the map upside down.

4. Lord Bush of Khyber has nowhere to go. His Bhutto gamble has failed and he has liittle leverage left over Islamabad. Musharraf, on the other hand, can at any time instruct his troops to leave the tribal militants alone and expose the utter disaster that has been Bush's Pakistan policy. Or he can launch a new offensive to please Washington. He gets to call the shots. Musharraf's cockiness after talking to Negroponte, "Washington is 200 per cent behind me," suggests he knows who is the pro in the room and who is the amateur.

Our friendly dictator still has a few tricks up his sleeves. So who knows what happens next? Just two things you can count on not changing any time soon: Pakistan's enduring sorrow and Kristol's bovine smirk.

Posted at November 18, 2007 05:33 PM | TrackBack

I do agree, but you know, "tepid triangulator" in't exactly a phrase that's gonna roll off the tongue at the neighborhood tavern, especially after the third Bud.

But then, since both Bhutto and Kristol attended a certain institution of learning (no longer "higher," alas) in Cambridge, it might catch on at the Kennedy School. The "bovine smirk" already is a requirement there.

Posted by: donescobar at November 18, 2007 07:20 PM

I,ll bet OSAMA BIN LADEN is called chuckles these days because he's laughing at George so much. Yep, when Osama is made president (and chief of the army) in Pakistan, he will have his nukes then. 1-202-225-0100 IMPEACH!

Posted by: Mike Meyer at November 18, 2007 07:33 PM


It does take some practice, but happily it gets easier once you're past the third beer hurdle.

Tri . .annngggg gyu layyy. .ter.

Posted by: Scruggs at November 18, 2007 10:04 PM

Musharraf seems certainly to have read the US correctly, but I strongly suspect that he, Bhutto, and the US have significant blinders vis-a-vis the Pakistani people.

And if and when the Pakistanis toss Musharraf out on his ass, it will take exactly one day for Americans to be scratching their heads when they see pictures of burning American flags on the TVs and saying, "Jeez, they must hate our freedoms too!"

Posted by: Rojo at November 18, 2007 10:20 PM

maybe pervez and benazir can set up a timeshare in dubai -- "separated by politics, united by ridiculous ultra-condo prices"

Posted by: hapa at November 19, 2007 01:18 AM

Don: Thanks for the link. My link to the Independent works but it's very slow and I imagine that it can easily fail. (Don't know what's with the Independent but they've had web trouble lately.)

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at November 19, 2007 02:33 AM

Is it too early to erect monuments to George W. Bush as the man who almost single-handedly destroyed the American Empire? Or should we wait unti he's out of office first?

Posted by: SteveB at November 19, 2007 09:21 AM

Is it possible to look at it as Bush being the Supreme Traitor? That he's working specifically for Oil and specifically against American interests and American traditions like the Constitution? Not accidentally, but intentionally. Maybe he's really working for Germany, like his granddad. Heck, what was the chopping up of Yugoslavia other than a replay of German strategic goals of the 1940s (I know, that one was on a Clinton, but what ultimate difference?).

Look at Bush's palette of work over the last seven years. The Euro is up in value, Europe up in world prestige (compared to the U.S.). I suspect that Oil has no patriotic feelings beyond wanting soldiers and bombs to compel the owners of oil to give it up. As long as America bankrupts itself for the profit of Oil, Oil is on our side of the street. But only that long.

Posted by: Bob In Pacifica at November 19, 2007 09:36 AM

re: Bush as a possible Supreme Traitor

The commissioned officer's oath includes a warning against domestic enemies. ". . . I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic . . ."

So besides considering Bush as a possible traitor, he has definitely proven to be a "domestic enemy" of the US Constitution. Of course he's had help from the congress, like on habeus and FISA.

Posted by: Don Bacon at November 19, 2007 01:39 PM

What if, in the end, the best thing for everyone is that the U.S. ends up a bankrupt and relatively toothless former empire? Wouldn't George W. Bush then be providing a useful service to humanity?

I'm not so opposed to Bush's "treason", if it ends up resulting in the greatest good for the greatest number.

Posted by: SteveB at November 19, 2007 04:11 PM

we're in trouble if all we get out of the next decade is pax post-americana -- the defining mission of the truly free world is still "fix it"

Posted by: hapa at November 19, 2007 07:08 PM

Gotta excise that cancer before WE can begin to heal---IMPEACH.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at November 19, 2007 07:18 PM

Well, an imperialist power becoming a former imperialist power is, in itself, a good thing. In the long run, at least (of course, in the long run we're all dead). But I think there are relatively good and bad ways for that event to occur, and that GWB is Not Helping.

Posted by: Doctorb Science at November 19, 2007 09:17 PM

How did "Great" Britian handle their transition to former empire status? Not as stupidly as us, I'm sure, but maybe there are some useful lessons for us in their experience?

Here's one possible lesson: life in a fomer empire isn't such a bad thing really; people seem pretty satisfied with their lives, and find other things to occupy their time (besides world domination, I mean). Maybe there's a twelve-step program we could sign up for?

Posted by: SteveB at November 19, 2007 11:30 PM

in the wake of sinking britain mighty wars were waged, where we need higher levels of cooperation

not to say i think the end is all that nigh, for american-based elites

Posted by: hapa at November 19, 2007 11:46 PM