Backing the wrong horse in Pakistan

Musharraf is going down. We backed a thug, and all we got is this lousy reputation.

So the Bushies decided that Parvaz Musharraf was our guy in Pakistan, the only thing keeping the Islamists out of power. A little dictatorship, a little state-supported terrorism (jn Kashmir), a little patronage of the A.Q. Khan network that peddled nuclear-weapons technology to all the bad guys in the world, a little sponsorship of the Taliban: after all, what do such trifles amount to, among friends? “Realism” dictated that we back him; he was a sunuvabitch, but he was our sunuvabitch.

As usual, (see under “Pahlevi,” “Battista,” “South African National Party,” etc.) the “realistic” option turns out to be not only immoral but wrong-headed even in purely cynical terms. According to the Financial Times, Musharraf is now so unpopular he probably can’t hold on to power, and neither of the the two civilian parties that (if Pakistan and the rest of the world are lucky) might take power owes anything to the United States. Instead, we’re identified with what may be the worst regime in Pakistan’s history of gross misrule, with all the popularity that goes with it.

If the civilians don’t get their act together, then we’ll get another military dictator, who also won’t owe us squat, or perhaps the Islamic parties, which couldn’t win an election, might be able to take over amid chaos, putting the Bomb at last in the hands of a thoroughly jihad-friendly regime.

As Michael Walzer once said, “There is neither profit nor glory in doing evil badly.”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: