Sunday, November 04, 2007

A Historical Reminder

Police and soldiers emboldened by state of emergency powers swept up hundreds of activists and opposition members on Sunday, dragged away protesters shouting "Shame on you!", and turned government buildings into barbed-wire compounds.
This nation is, according to President Bush, one of our "key allies in the global war on terror," and yet here they are acting like the military dictatorship that they are.  Bush administration officials relentlessly use the word democracy- at every turn- when discussing Pakistan, but there is nothing democratic about that nation.  Musharaff took power in a coup, appointed himself President, conducted elections that were decidedly less than free, and has now given up all pretense of democracy by suspending the Constitution and seeking out hundreds of political opponents.
This is reminiscent of one of the key areas of moral confusion in the US during the Cold War- many of the nations we supported then because they were 'anti-communist' were horribly undemocratic, corrupt, and every bit as evil in their treatment of their people as communist nations. 
Will we repeat this mistake (or perhaps I should say, continue to repeat this mistake) in our struggle against terrorism?  We certainly appear to be poised to do this.
In doing so, the people of the US should realize that they fan the flames of extremism and make our terrorism problem worse, not better.  A key complaint of Al Qaeda and other jihadis is that the US supports corrupt regimes in the Middle East.  While this complaint is more than a little disingenuous (remember that the Taliban was selling opium as its major export), it is none the less hard to defend ourselves against when we DO in fact support corrupt regimes like Musharraf's.  Bush and Rice repeating the word 'democracy' repeatedly when discussing Musharraf or Pakistan is not only simply an example of the 'big lie' technique (just repeat the lie over and over until it becomes perceived as truth), it is a laughable one, as no one, despite the repetitions, believes it.
This is just another example of how a moral compass must guide our foreign policy.  Lies, support for repressive dictators, and, of course, torture, will undercut any US efforts in the struggle with terrorism, and, in the end, leave us more vulnerable and in a weakend position in the world.
The sooner we recognize that moral thinking is also pragmatic thinking, the better off we will be.

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