Posts

The End of the Bush Doctrine (No, Really This Time)

Fred Kaplan is all gloom and doom about Pakistan, as well he should be. But this judgment struck me as a both premature and passe: One consequence of this crisis is that Bush's "freedom agenda" is finally bankrupt. He will … Read More

By / November 6, 2007

Fred Kaplan is all gloom and doom about Pakistan, as well he should be. But this judgment struck me as a both premature and passe:

One consequence of this crisis is that Bush's "freedom agenda" is finally bankrupt. He will never again be able to invoke it, even as a rhetorical ploy, without evoking winces or laughter.

In his second inaugural address, where Bush first declared that the main aim of his foreign policy would be to spread democracy and topple tyranny all around the world, he warned dictators that good relations with America "would require the decent treatment of their own people."

Musharraf's proclamation is the definitive proof that no dictator takes—or ever will again take—that warning seriously.

Actually, Saudi Arabia's day-to-day behavior highlights the unavoidable "Dictatorships and Double Standards" theme of our ongoing foreign policy, as did our warm, post-9/11 relationship with Islom Karimov, the "Butcher of Uzbekistan," when his iron rule graciously allowed for the hosting U.S. military personnel at the Karshi-Khanabad base. That relationship began to look dodgy after the American-backed 2003 "Rose Revolution" in Georgia, and it passed the point of no return after we supported the 2005 uprising in Kyrgyzstan. We've since been evicted from Karshi-Khanabad.

Like Musharraf, Karimov was considered our partner in the war on terror despite all the clarion calls for freedom and democracy. Never mind that, according to former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray, his regime boils people alive. (Paul Wolfowitz, unsurprisingly, spoke out against Tashkent for its many and varied crimes against humanity.)

Part of the logic of the Bush Doctrine was always that it was not only moral but pragmatic to foster democracy in the third world. We have a lexicon of cliches that address the fusion of these twin purposes: "draining the swamp," "the right side of history," etc.

The case of Musharraf, a military dictator, tout court, is easily the hardest test for that doctrine because in one very elemental sense he is right: if his regime falls, there is a good chance it will fall to the Taliban, making Pakistan the first nuclear state controlled by Islamic fascists.

What to do is the question no one — not least of all Condoleeza Rice — seems to be able to answer. However, Kaplan is wrong to suggest that every other dictator is now cackling with glee at the headlines and photographs coming out of Islamabad. The U.S. may be feckless in this instance, but Saddam, Shevardnadze, Yanukovych are all gone, and Bashar al-Assad is still not on the president's speed dial. Rather, what every dictator is thinking this: "If only I had the bomb, then those bastards would have to take me seriously, too."

It's an old story, even if the stakes have never been quite this high.

 

Tagged with: