Friday, November 09, 2007

The Iranian Path & Pakistan

Many people & pols are saying history is repeating itself in Pakistan. They claim we supported a strongman in the Shah & incurred the wrath of the Iranian people and instigated the Shia revolution that bebuggers us to this day. The one side of the debate obviously wants to dump Musharaff the other side may not like him or what he is, but fears the consequences of cutting him loose.

Well, I tip my hat to Tee Bee on pointing out this:
In reading various bloggers' reactions to events in Pakistan, I have noticed that a number of them seem to think that Musharraf is all that stands between us and a nuclear-armed Islamist state.
Source: Obsidian Wings – Islamic Extremism In Pakistan (by hilzoy)

Hilzoy makes a point very much worth considering. Who and what do the Pakistani people support? According to Hilzoy's work a majority support Nawaz Shariff (whom returned to Pakistan about one month ago to be refused entrance and returned to his exile in Saudia Arabia), btw, Nawaz Shariff was the PM prior to Musharaf ejecting him from Pakistani leadership.

Now a number of things. First, I do not consider our threats against cutting off aid to Pakistan as serious, they are strictly pro-forma and I hope the language which the threats are being conveyed to Pakistan are being expressed properly – i.e. with language that indicate they are only pro-forma.

Now, many commentators support supporting Musharaf for one reason and that is the fear of the takeover of Pakistan by a fundamentalist Islamic regime. Hilzoy's post is to demonstrate this is an incorrect belief. However one commentator in the comments states:
Good write up hilzoy.

13% of the Iranian people believe that Sharia must rule. Ahmedinejad and the Mullahs are reportedly very unpopular in Iran. Nevertheless, the Iranians are ruled by Mullahs. Gays are hung from cranes. The reason the Mullahs are able to rule over the Iranian population is the power of the teachings of Mohammed. As time has proven, his system of government is brilliant. It is a mistake to underestimate the power of Islam, even when it is unpopular.

What percentage of the Pakistani people believe that Sharia must rule? 13% like in Iran? Double that (26%)? Triple that (39%)?

Answer: 60% (Gallup polling attached). Another 21% of Pakistanis believe that Sharia must be a source of legislation, but not the only source.

Pakistan has a lethal combination of a pious majority, violence sanctioned through its state religion, and a modern nuclear stockpile. It is no place for President Bush to be spreading freedom to ‘ordinary moms and dads’ through democracy. As if he had the power.

But the bigger threat is not Islam through democracy, it is the religious elements in the military. There are probably men making plans as we type. They are on a mission from God.
Source: Comment by Bill in response to Hilzyo's Islamic Extremism in Pakistan
That is the danger of an Islamist takeover is not related to its popularity in the polls but the willingness of the Islamic fanatics to use violent means to accomplish their goals.

Okay so where does that leave someone who is supposed to guide our foreign policy? I think Iran is a good place to look. Its too late to try to win over the radical elements of Pakistani society, remember, the rebels in Saudia Arabia are not champions of freedom of religion, women's rights, freedom of speech for everyone they think the Saudi rulers are not sufficiently Islamic. Just because someone is a radical and a rebel does not automatically confer upon them righteousness (can there be anymore stark example of this phenomena than Che Guevara?)

Iran was obviously going to fall into the hands of the enemies of the USA and are no better than the Shah, that wasn't a gain, that wasn't a bold stand for human rights, it was a loss for our nation and the US and at best a stay even play for human rights. We should have stood by the Shah.

Another example, this time going the other way is that of a nation near & dear to my heart, a nation I have visited twice and very much look forward to visiting again – The Philippines.

In 1986 in what is known as Edsa I the Filipino people turned out to support the widow of Benigno Aquino (assassinated by Marcos goons in 1983, ironically enough I was "Up North" when this happened and distinctly remember hearing this news) in her election to the Filipino presidency over Ferdinand Marcos. Ferdinand wanted to put down the "insurrection" they way thugs typically do and asked Ronald Reagan for support. Ronald in consultation with Paul Wolfowitz (yes, that Paul Wolfowitz) urged Ferdinand Marcos to leave the Philippines. This time the USA urged a strongman to leave his post of power.


Because the opposition that was in a position to take over was not threatening to the USA or the regional balance of power and (a big and) that power respected human rights. We did not fear Corazon Aquino would all of a sudden join with the USSR or start persecuting any specific or general populations in the Philippines.

In Pakistan, it would be foolish to count on either Nawaz Shariff or Benazir Bhutto to be able to consolidate enough power to effectively rule the nation or to even consolidate power. It is not always the most popular party sometimes it is the group most willing to use violence.

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