Ding, dong!

Musharraf is on his way out.

Yes, Pakistan’s civilian politicians are nothing to write home about, but the fall of a military tyrant always ought to be a matter for at least provisional celebration. I only wish I believed the Bush clique and the career folks at State, Defense, and the CIA had figured out that helping those civilians rein in the Army and, especially, the ISI ought to be the most important objective in U.S.-Pakistan policy. Right now, they still seem to be thinking of Musharraf as “our SOB.”

This, for example, is pretty damned unhelpful if the goal is to influence the civilian politicians who can’t agree on anything but their loathing of the guy who fired the Supreme Court:

President Bush appreciates President Musharraf’s efforts in the democratic transition of Pakistan as well as his commitment to fighting Al Qaeda and extremist groups.

Why not:

The United States joins with the Pakistani people and its elected leaders in celebrating the completion of Pakistan’s course back to lawful, constitutional civilian rule. The course of democratic government is often rocky, but Pakistan should know that as long as it stays on that course it will have the full support of the people and government of the United States. We look forward to the day when all the nations of the world will be ruled by ballots and not bullets.

Of course that wouldn’t have been true; Bush and his acolytes have long suffered from tyrant envy, and have no principled opposition to rule by strongmen. But when before has this administration been constrained by the truth?

Under the best of circumstances, making civilian rule in Pakistan a reality would be no easy task. The Pakistani Army, like the P.L.A. in China, owns a big chunk of the country’s productive capacity, and the guy Musharraf put in charge of the Army &#8212 who promptly stood aside as the civilian pols pushed Musharraf out, thus presumably putting many credits in his favor bank &#8212 used to run the ISI (the Pakistani KGB).

The problem is that those are the institutions we’re used to going to when we need help against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Since the ISI had more responsibility than any outside entity (other than the Kremlin, by inadvertence) for putting the Taliban in power, it’s always seemed to me that trying to beat the Taliban by using the ISI is a lot like trying to douse a fire with gasoline.

Given that the besetting problem in Pakistani politics is corruption, has anyone done a careful analysis of how much $10 billion in bribes (that’s less than a month’s spending in Iraq, if you’re keeping score at home) would buy us in Islamabad?

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: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com