"Inaction at this moment is suicide for Pakistan, and I cannot allow the country to commit suicide."
Thus did President Gen. Pervez Musharraf declare a state of emergency and invoke martial law.
The Supreme Court has been dismissed, the chief justice put under house arrest. A thousand lawyers and political opponents have been incarcerated. Human rights organizations have been shut down. Independent news media have been silenced.
Musharraf has effected a second coup, the first being his takeover in 1999. Doing so, he invoked Abraham Lincoln: "By general law life and limb must be protected; yet often a limb must be amputated to save a life."
Indeed, Lincoln, too, impeded elections in Maryland, ordered Chief Justice Roger Taney arrested, shut newspapers, suspended habeas corpus, arrested thousands who sympathized with the South’s right to independence and ordered a blockade of Southern ports.
What has been the reaction of the great evangelist of Wilsonian democracy in the White House to its suspension in Pakistan?
Military aid to the regime and army will continue.
Welcome to the real world, where state interests always trump ideology. The "world democratic revolution" and the Second Bush Inaugural goal of "ending tyranny in our world" have been put on the shelf. For what is at issue is more critical than whether Musharraf is dictator or democrat.
Pakistan, a nation of 170 million with nuclear weapons, is up for grabs. And the major contenders are not democrats. On one side is Musharraf and loyal elements of the army, police and intelligence services. On the other are radicals with guns — disloyal soldiers, pro-Taliban militia, al-Qaida sympathizers and suicide-bombers.
Such folks do not settle quarrels at ballot boxes.
The crisis in Pakistan brings home the reality the Bushites have ignored in their ideological crusades. For in the Pakistan crucible we see starkly who our real enemies are, whence the true dangers come and where our vital interests lie.
Musharraf is — as were Franco, Pinochet and the Shah in the Cold War — a flawed friend and an enemy of our enemy. If he falls, any democratic successor, like Benazir Bhutto, would not likely long survive al-Qaida and the suicide bombers who already tried to kill her.
What is happening in Pakistan exposes, too, the limits of U.S. power and the failure of President Bush — because of the democratist ideology to which he converted after 9-11 — to see clearly the real dangers to his country. Our enemy was always al-Qaida. It was never Iraq. And it is not Iran, at whom the GOP candidates are all braying their bellicosity.
After 9-11, those who viewed the horror and asked, "Why do they hate us?" were hooted down as unpatriotic. We were told Muslim militants hate us because we are free, democratic and good, and they are evil.
American can no longer afford to indulge this ideological claptrap. We are hated not because of who we are, but because of what we do. Nowhere is that more true than in Pakistan.
A loyal ally in the Cold War, Pakistan served as a strategic base camp for the Mujahideen, who used U.S. mortars and Stinger missiles to run the Red Army out of Afghanistan. Then we dumped Pakistan to court her adversary, India.
Millions of Muslims now no longer see America as the beacon of liberty, but as an arrogant superpower with a huge footprint in their world, dictating to their regimes. Instead of bringing our troops home after our Cold War and Gulf War victories, we moved permanently into Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. Then we attacked a Muslim nation, Iraq, that had neither attacked us nor threatened us, to impose our system upon it.
Like the British, French and Russians before us, we are seen as imperialists, and shall be so seen and so hated until we get our troops out of their world. Finally, we are despised for our toxic culture and our uncritical support of the Israelis, who are viewed as the persecutors and robbers of the land and dignity of the Palestinian people.
Why cannot we see ourselves as others see us?
Pakistan reveals, too, the limits of military power. With an army of 500,000 "breaking" from Iraq and Afghanistan, we lack the forces to wage any more wars. And NATO is a paper army.
If Pakistan’s army cannot crush the Taliban and al-Qaida in its western provinces, and now in its cities, how can America do it, if Musharraff falls? How can the Afghan war ever be won, if the Taliban and al-Qaida enjoy a permanent privileged sanctuary from which to launch forays into Afghanistan?
With the end of the Cold War, America needed a strategist of the caliber of George Kennan. But we got George Bush, Condi and the neocons, with their messianic vision of global democracy brought about through an endless series of cakewalk wars.
Pakistan brings us back to Earth.