The case for standing by Musharraf

Lee Smith in Slate:

Screenhunter_02_nov_07_1221The Pakistani military, as is the case with most armed forces in the Muslim world, is the citadel of the country’s modernity, its most significant secular institution and protector not only of the modern nation state but the idea of the nation state itself. Still, that is a mighty thin green line standing between 1,300 years of Islamic military principles, many thousands of years more of tribal and ethnic rivalries, and a nuclear arsenal. We have no idea if the military has become as Islamicized as the rest of Pakistani society. If the level of Islamist infiltration in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency is any indication, there is reason to be very concerned. When Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., complains that we have a Musharraf policy rather than a Pakistan policy, he needs to come up with a better idea. Musharraf is fighting the bad guys in caves as well as the badder guys who are much closer to the presidential palace, and there is no guarantee that anyone else on the horizon is willing to tackle that job for Washington.

If the secretary of state is concerned that Pakistan is falling behind in its commitment to democracy, she should recall that there is no democracy without the institutions of a nation state, and if Musharraf falls, there is no telling what would happen next. For instance, an al-Qaida state would be considerably less accommodating around issues of government reform, not to mention at fighting al-Qaida. Besides, the Bush White House has done such a poor job of articulating what it means by democracy, it is hardly surprising that it sometimes appears to be a major part of its post-9/11 national security strategy and sometimes not.

More here.