Friday, September 07, 2007

Pakistan -- We Cannot Easily Dismount The Tiger

In one of those silly intellectual articles that they love to run on the L.A. Times Op Ed Page, Rajan Menon, a professor of international relations at Lehigh University and a fellow at the obscure "New America Foundation," advocates that the U.S. essentially do nothing in the crisis now enveloping Pakistan.

Nick Goldberg, editor of the Times Op Ed Page, loves to run starry eyed, would-be appeasers, and Professor Menon is one of them.

He writes, notably, "The Administration's best course of action in Pakistan is inaction. Let Pakistanis find a solution to their crisis. Any made-in-America remedy will not only fail to make matters better, it will make them worse. President Bush would do well to remember the aphorism, 'First, do no harm,' or, given his penchant for the informal, a folkster variant, 'Don't do something, just stand there.'"

That was what the intellectuals advised President Carter in the crisis that deposed the Shah of Iran and brought the Ayatollah Khomeini to power, and we know how that ended up. America abdicated its position and has been paying for it ever since.

No, we are going to have to choose in Pakistan, or we may find ourselves with a nuclear-armed Taliban and Al Qaeda. In a flash, they could seize power in a country which, for the most part, remains with a secular majority. That majority could be overwhelmed and the whole country cast into the dark ages.

Ever since the War on Terror began, we have been allied in Pakistan with the regime of Army dictator Pervez Musharraf. Now, there can be no question that Musharraf is in political trouble. Suicide bombing has become commonplace and the country's Supreme Court has strayed out of Musharraf's control.

Is the answer, simply to move away from him and let the chips fall where they may? Or should we try, as we are doing, to patch together a national unity government of Musharraf and the former premier Benazir Bhutto (not including the former premier, Nawaz Sharif, who is no friend of the U.S).

To me, the answer is obvious. As in the old proverb, that you cannot dismount a tiger because you may end up inside, the sounder course is to try to stick with the continued authority, although perhaps reduced in a coalition, with Musharraf. It is too early to conclude, as this weak-kneed professor does, that he is another Anastasio Somoza, Shah of Iran or Ferdinand Marcos, in short a dictator without a prayer of survival.

Musharraf, for all his faults, has at least turned out to be resourceful. When his life was threatened, the plane he was riding in told that it could not land in Pakistan, years ago, Musharraf directed that the plane ignore the threats to shoot at it and land anyway. It did, and that was the day he seized power. Since then, after casting his lot with the U.S., more or less, he has survived several assassination attempts.

It was a mistake for the departing British in 1947 to allow the Pakistani state to be created in the first place. It has been a military fiefdom, with rare, brief exceptions, ever since. that has contributed little good to the world, while a democratic India, the country it split from, has prospered by comparison. Now, in terrorist hands, it could threaten the world, and force us to take action far more severe than trying to stick with Musharraf, possibly in a coalition with Bhutto.

Meanwhile, a little realism on the Times Op Ed Page is in order, but we probably can't hope for it until Goldberg leaves town and moves back, with his Eastern-loving wife, to New York.

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George Skelton, the L.A. Times staff political columnist, had another of his classic columns yesterday on the career of Michael Deaver, the aide to Governor and President Reagan, who died recently. The column recalled Skelton's 50-year association with Deaver, going back to their days together an San Jose State, and how Deaver parleyed piano playing and general resourcefulness to build a successful career.

I wrote about Deaver too after his death, but not nearly so eloquently as Skelton was able to do.

Word also comes today that Janet Clayton is leaving the L.A. Times and her post as metro editor. She has been with the newspaper a long time, and has served the paper ably, but I'm sure a good replacement can be found.

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