Musharraf Needs to Stay

Recent headlines give the impression that Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf is a bad guy who suppresses his people and disrupts the legal system of a peaceful nation.  Our state department appears to be pressuring him to relinquish his power and allow the good people of Pakistan to elect new popular rulers in a spirit of democracy.  To me, all that brings back memories of 1979, when the Jimmy Carter-led government put enough pressure on the terminally ill Shah of Iran that he surrendered power to the people in what was once our greatest ally in region, even more so that Israel was.  The bloody mess that followed needs little review to anyone much over 30.

For those younger, here it is in brief.  A global, fundamentalism movement grew out the popular rebellion in Iran.  It directly led to the deaths of thousands of Persians, Arabs, Americans, and just about every group of people who do not agree with them.  The religious foundation of the Pakistanis is quite similar to that of the folks who took power in Iran back in 1979.  One glaring difference is that Pakistan is a nuclear power.

Following 9/11, Musharraf had a choice to make.  He decided to cooperate with the United States, even though a majority of the people in his country sided with the terrorists targeted by the US for attack.  Had he gone the other way, the US would have had to resort to employing our own nuclear weapons to subdue them, because we were going to Afghanistan either way.  Musharraf saved his people from themselves, and has remained a loyal friend of the US ever since.

That is not to say the Pakistani people follow his leadership because they are our friends.  Talk to any B-52 aviator who flew missions against Afghanistan.  If you’re polite enough, they’ll tell you about the anti-aircraft fire coming at them from Pakistan positions during their ingress and egress over “friendly” territory.  Altitude is another loyal friend of the bomber crew dog.

In a civilized world, international relationships are dealt with based on the policies and decisions made by established governments, not the prevailing popular opinion of the population.  This paradigm allows for the US to wage war against governments as opposed to killing everyone who lives in a country that has provoked us to violence.  If you consider human life to be valuable, it really is a better way to solve our differences.

Traditionally the US avoids getting too involved in the inner workings between the governments and population inside their countries.  When a government crosses a certain level of unacceptable behavior, we usually respond with a combination of political, economic, or even military influence.  The most obvious recent exception to that has been China, but that is another subject, so lets get back to Musharraf.

Musharraf recently declared emergency rule in Pakistan, shut down their media, and fired the Supreme Court justices.  If we simply mirror-image those decision into our lives, it seems easy to label Musharraf as a bad guy.  However, mirror-imaging is one of the great errors when it comes to judging the actions of others.

In our country, the check and balances between the three branches of government and an open and free press, no matter how slanted they might be from time to time, are held up as pillars of a free society.  All of that is made possible by the Constitution.  James Madison said, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion.  Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”  That’s why mirror-imaging doesn’t work.

Musharraf won the democratic election in Pakistan.  However the Pakistani Supreme Court refused to acknowledge his victory on the grounds that he is disqualified because he is still wearing a military uniform.  It is interesting that a lot of US media joined the Pakistani media to support the view of the Pakistani Supreme Court, especially when they seem to care so little about Syrian president Bashar Assad who basically inherited his Axis of Evil position or the boisterous outspoken anti-American Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.  Many US editors prefer to broadcast news that assaults the leaders of governments that are our allies in the Global War on Terrorism.  The American people could fix that quickly by refusing to consume or support the sponsors of so-minded media.  As it is, until the taste of the American people change, those editors will provide news they believe is financially fruitful to them. 

In Pakistan, it is not uncommon for courts to order women to be raped as punishment for the crimes of their male relatives.  One bizarre charge against Musharraf is based on his promotion of the Women’s Protection Bill, which would punish the act of rape, instead of using it as punishment against women for being related to criminals.  It is obvious that the Pakistanis are not like Americans.  They need a shepherd with an iron-staff to keep them from following the bad example of the poor company they’ve been associating with. 

With enough faith in humanity’s potential, you might see a time when the Pakistani people may morally evolve to the point where their unbridled passions will be suppressed by a changed heart.  However, until that time comes, we can be thankful that they have General Pervez Musharraf in command.  It just makes sense.

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