The Impotent Hegemon
Emerson`s couplet comes to
mind as the New Year opens with Pakistan, the second
largest Muslim country on Earth, in social and political
chaos, trending toward a failed state with nuclear
Former Prime Minister
Benazir Bhutto, whom the White House pressed to
return home from exile to form an anti-Islamist alliance
with President Pervez Musharraf, is dead, assassinated
on the second try in two months.
19-year-old son, who has spent most of his life
outside the country, is now the declared leader of her
Pakistan Peoples Party but is remaining at Oxford. Her
husband, widely regarded as the bag man of the Bhutto
family, is playing regent, denouncing the Pakistan
Muslim League with which Musharraf is affiliated as a
As riots ravage the
country, the PPP is demanding that the Jan. 8 elections
go forward and calling on the nation to repudiate
Musharraf and bring the PPP to power—in her memory.
Nawaz Sharif, a two-time
prime minister like Bhutto who presided over Pakistan`s
test of an atom bomb, who is close to the Islamists, who
was also ousted for corruption, and who is detested by
Musharraf, had declared an election boycott. Now his
party, too, is urging that the elections go forward.
Sharif wants Musharraf out and himself in.
If Musharraf postpones the
elections, or they are not regarded as free and fair,
the whole nation could erupt. If he does not postpone
the elections, he will almost surely be repudiated.
Revealed by all this is
the inability, if not the impotence, of America to
assure a desired outcome in a nation whose support is
indispensable if we are not to lose the war in
Afghanistan, now in its seventh year.
Moreover, the reactions of
some U.S. presidential candidates suggest they are not
ready to run this country, let alone Pakistan. After
Bill Richardson called on
Musharraf to resign. Hillary Clinton has suggested
that Musharraf could be toppled and demanded that he
submit to an outside investigation of the murder of
Nancy Pelosi is suggesting
a cutoff in U.S. aid if there is no outside
investigation and demanding the White House ensure that
Pakistan`s elections are "free and fair." Perhaps the
Pakistanis will demand observers this year in Florida
But if Musharraf stands
down, who steps in? Do we know? And if elections go
forward, are we ready to accept any outcome?
After all, this is a
country whose provinces bordering on Afghanistan, the
Northwest Frontier and Baluchistan, are ruled by a
coalition of Muslim parties sympathetic to the Taliban.
Tribal regions along the border play host to the Taliban
and perhaps Osama himself. Elements of Pakistan`s
military and intelligence services are Islamist. The
A.Q. Khan and Osama are far more popular than
Musharraf or Bush. Lose Pakistan in the war against
al-Qaeda and the Taliban and you lose the Afghan war.
In recent elections in the
Near and Middle East, many of them called at the
insistence of President Bush, the
winners were Hamas, Hezbollah, the
Muslim Brotherhood, Moqtada al-Sadr and Mahmoud
What are the primary U.S.
interests today in Pakistan? That its nuclear weapons
remain in secure and friendly hands and that Pakistan
remains an ally in the war against al-Qaeda.
Whatever happens in the
elections Jan. 8, or later, the United States should
retain close ties to Pakistan`s military. As Rome`s
Septimus Severus counseled his sons on his deathbed,
"Pay the soldiers. The rest do not matter."
But the United States must
begin now to look at the longer term.
It seems clear that we are
so hated in that country that any leader like Bhutto,
seen as a friend and ally to the United States, is ever
at mortal risk. Musharraf has himself been a repeated
target of assassins.
Second, our ability to
influence events is severely limited. What does
democracy mean in a country where 60 percent of the
people are illiterate and parties are fiefdoms of
families and political instruments of religious
We need to ask ourselves
hard questions. Has the blood we have shed in
Afghanistan and Iraq, the hundreds of billions we have
plunged into these wars, and into foreign aid, made us
safer? Has it made us more friends than enemies?
Perhaps, as is seen today in Anbar, locals are better at
dealing with al-Qaeda than even our American soldiers.
Russia, China, India, and
Japan are closer to Pakistan than we. Yet, none of them
feels the need we apparently do to be so deeply enmeshed
in her internal affairs.
CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
Patrick J. Buchanan
no introduction to VDARE.COM readers;
his book State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, can be ordered from Amazon.com. His latest book
Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War": How Britain Lost Its
Empire and the West Lost the World,
Paul Craig Roberts.