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the blog

Monday Nov 12, 2007

The Importance of Pakistan

I always felt that my foreign policy chapter in "Wait! Don't Move To Canada!" was the most important of the book. I also sensed it would be the chapter that would gain the least traction.

Arguing, as I do, that a liberal foreign policy vision should be largely based on supporting credible democracy abroad surely seems counter-intuitive in the shambles of the Bush Era.

Bush rhetorically based his foreign policy on promoting democracy, and it's been a total disaster. The nation's reactive mood seems more partial to realpolitik than anything with a whiff of idealism.

But the point of the chapter was that Bush in fact was not promoting democracy of any sort, but was practicing realpolitik of the worst kind:

The argument is not that Bush shouldn't be promoting democracy. The argument is that Bush and his fellow conservatives are totally insincere about promoting democracy. Their game is the same ol' shortsighted, reckless unilateralism -- aggressively exerting dominance over far-flung regions of the world, particularly those regions with strategically important natural resources. Never mind if such a strategy leaves, to quote Bush again, "whole regions of the world [to] simmer in resentment and tyranny -- prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder."

That approach didn't have immediate resonance with the scarred American public, many liberals included. And so, you haven't heard many presidential hopefuls making it.

But now there's Pakistan.

Bush's Pakistan policy was nothing but realpolitik, reversing the Clinton Administration policy of sanctioning Musharraf for his coup, and instead, becoming best pals. It was either our friendly dictator or Osama controlling a nuclear arsenal.

Now it is clear that the realpolitik choice was not based in reality.

Those leading the democracy movement and suffering from Musharraf's crackdown are secular liberal attorneys and judges -- not terrorists and not religious extremists.

Further. propping up Musharraf with our tax dollars didn't do anything to get Bin Laden. His government -- with Bush's approval no less -- has played footsie with tribal militants the last six years.

The fact is that conservative foreign policy has been primarily concerned with propping up leaders it likes, and taking down those it doesn't. Supporting democracy and fighting terrorism have always taken a backseat, or more accurately, been kicked to the curb.

That reality is all the more glaring when lawyers take to the streets to get their country back, and Bush leaves them hanging.

Just as his father told the Iraqis to rise up only to sit quietly while Saddam cracked down, Dubya told the world "When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you," yet has done nothing for Pakistanis risking their lives for their freedom.

This is not an exception to Bush's conservative foreign policy. This is conservative foreign policy. And it is a failure.

Yet we liberals have not put forth, in a coordinated way, what are the core principles behind the liberal foreign policy alternative.

If we had, even when our true principles might not have immediately resonated, we'd be better prepared in the wake of crisis like in Pakistan, to explain how we would do things differently and build more trust in our ability to take America and the globe in a more secure and prosperous direction.

That if we had a foreign policy that engaged all parties in any country, in power and out, regardless of ideology, we would show the world's people that we were not trying to pick the leaders of their countries, and show dictators they could not expect blind support from us to stay in power illegitimately.

That would go a long way to removing the fear of Western domination in the Arab/Muslim region that helps terrorist organizations recruit.

Pakistan is simply a major event that speaks volumes about foreign policy.

The individual protesters in Burma deserve just as much as support as the protesters in Pakistan.

But unlike Burma, Pakistan crystallizes the failure of conservative foreign policy

That's why it is critical for us to talk about Pakistan in broader terms, and explain how a liberal foreign policy would have made a difference, and still can in the future.

Posted by Bill Scher on Nov 12, 2007 email post email Spotlight / / You are in Foreign Policy/ Pakistan/ Terrorism
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