Unfortunately, Pakistan probably has already been lost, and U.S. policy has played an important role in its demise. U.S. policymakers have repeatedly underestimated the consequences of the deep unpopularity engendered by profligate U.S. government meddling in the affairs of other countries. In Iran, although the Shahs government was brutal, the regime also became so identified with its unpopular U.S. benefactor that the United States became a major contributing factor in its collapse and replacement with a militant and enduring Islamist substitute.
The Bush administration, with its macho bravado, has had a tin ear for the ramifications of anti-U.S hatred. After 9/11, instead of using the attacks as a justification to go after Saddam Husseins Iraq, the Bush administration had the opportunity to eliminate the Taliban in Afghanistan, take full advantage of Musharrafs limited-time offer to give the U.S. military free reign in Pakistan to hunt down bin Laden and al Qaeda, and then withdraw from the region.
Instead, the Bush administration allowed mission creep to take its eyes off the prize of taking down al Qaeda. The U.S. mission in Afghanistan turned to nation-building, counterinsurgency, and cutting off the drug trade. The continued occupation of Afghanistan by non-Muslim forces and the close U.S. support for the dictator Musharraf in neighboring Pakistan, predictably revved up Pakistani Islamic militants and gradually turned them against his regime. In an attempt to discreetly court these militants to support his government and to maintain the flow of U.S. military aid to ostensibly fight them, Musharraf allowed these groups to operate in the wild tribal regions of western Pakistan on the Afghan border and even reached a truce with them to withdraw the Pakistani governments military forces from these areas. This wink and nod policy has allowed both al Qaeda and the militant Taliban to recover and step up attacks from these safe havens.
Given Musharrafs unenthusiastic pursuit of al Qaeda in Pakistan, why does the United States continue to support him? The answer is mainly a fear of instabilityread, any change of leadership in a nuclear weapons state. The United States fears that the only alternative to Musharraf in a nuclear-armed Pakistan is the Islamic militants; but this outcome is actually more likely if the unpopular United States continues to zealously back Musharraf. At the same time Musharrafs popularity has faded. He has faced mass protests across Pakistan for his increased despotism and his suspension of the countrys chief justice. Musharraf feared that the judge, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, might issue rulings that would interfere with his attempt to have the parliament elect him to another five-year term. In addition, several former Pakistani generals have talked openly about overthrowing him in a coup. But it may be too late to control a coup and reestablish military rule. The Islamists have been strengthened by Musharrafs suppression of alternative non-Islamic opposition parties; Musharraf has said that their leadersexiled former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawa Sharifwill not be allowed to return for upcoming parliamentary elections.
The Bush administration should change policy and end the occupation of Afghanistan, which would cool the Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan and the Islamic militancy in Pakistan. In addition, the United States should threaten to cut off aid to Pakistan unless Musharraf and his intelligence services make a genuine attempt to capture or kill bin Laden. With a cooling of militant Islam in the region, Musharraf should have more leeway to pursue bin Laden without an Islamist backlash. Finally, the United States should press Musharraf to genuinely open Pakistani elections to non-Islamist parties and allow their leaders to return from exile. These actions would further erode support from the Islamist radicals.
Unfortunately, keeping the Islamists around, but contained, has been good for the autocratic Musharraf regime. The problem is that the instability caused by this policy can no longer be contained. Like the Shah of Iran, Musharraf must use increased violence to put down popular protests, thus further fueling the spreading uprisings. The Shahs Iran and Pakistan have one important difference, however: Pakistan has nuclear weapons. Tragically, the Bush administration may eventually give the world an Islamist bomb.
Ivan Eland is Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute and Assistant Editor of The Independent Review. Dr. Eland is a graduate of Iowa State University and received an M.B.A. in applied economics and Ph.D. in national security policy from George Washington University. He has been Director of Defense Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, Principal Defense Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office, Evaluator-in-Charge (national security and intelligence) for the U.S. General Accounting Office, and Investigator for the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Full Biography and Recent Publications
Jonathan J. Bean is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, Professor of History at Southern Illinois University, and editor of the forthcoming book, Race and Liberty: The Classical Liberal Tradition of Civil Rights.
Gregory is a Research Analyst at The Independent Institute. He earned
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Dominick T. Armentano is professor emeritus in economics at the University of Hartford (Connecticut) and a research fellow at The Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif. He is author of Antitrust & Monopoly (Independent Institute, 1998).
Alvaro Vargas Llosa is director of The Center on Global Prosperity at The Independent Institute. He is a native of Peru and received his B.S.C. in international history from the London School of Economics. He is widely published and has lectured on world economic and political issues including at the Mont Pelerin Society, Naumann Foundation (Germany), FAES Foundation (Spain), Brazilian Institute of Business Studies, Fundación Libertad (Argentina), CEDICE Foundation (Venezuela), Florida International University, and the Ecuadorian Chamber of Commerce. He is the author of the Independent Institute books The Che Guevara Myth and Liberty for Latin America. Full biography and recent publications.
Gabriel Roth is a transport and privatization consultant and a research fellow at the Independent Institute, where he is editing a book on private-sector roles in the provision of roads, Street Smart: Competition, Entrepreneurship, and the Future of Roads.
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author of Against Leviathan and Crisis and Leviathan, and editor of the
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William Marina is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif., and Professor Emeritus of History at Florida Atlantic University.
T. Beito is a Research Fellow at The Independent Institute, Associate
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