Who sups with the devil
    needs a long spoon

Would someone please pass Secretary Powell a napkin so he can wipe some of the egg off his face?

So instead of landing hard on Gen. Musharraf for first allowing Dr. Khan, the chief Pakistani nuclear weapons designer, to sell WMD technology to a variety of rogue states, and then pardoning Khan when he got caught at it, the Bush Administration decided to make a deal with Musharraf instead. The deal was that Musharraf’s forces would help in the hunt for what’s left of al-Qaeda, and we’d proclaim Pakistan a “key ally.”

Pretty disgusting, when you think about it: We ought to have a strong preference for making sure that anyone who helps hand out nuclear technology to Libya, North Korea, and Iran becomes dead, with or without the formality of a trial. Whoever puts a bullet in Dr. Khan’s brain will be, in my view, a friend of mankind. [More on this point here.]

Still, arguably it wasn’t a bad deal compared to the alternatives. If the third assassination attempt against Musharraf were to succeed (he’s already survived two, unless they were stage jobs to impress us) he’d undoubtedly be replaced by someone even worse. The two dominant forces in any succession struggle would probably be the ISI (the Pakistani KGB, which enthusiastically backed the Taliban first against the Russians — with our money — and then against the other Afghani factions) and Pakistan’s Sunni fundamentalist religious leaders. And if the Pakistanis were now really willing to go after al-Qaeda, and especially if they were able to deliver Ayman al-Zawahiri, you couldn’t really call the deal a total loss.

But if there’s anything more disgusting than having to make a disgusting deal because there’s nothing better on offer, it’s making a disgusting deal and then discovering that the other side isn’t going to deliver. That seems to have just happened to us: al-Zawahiri seems to have “slipped through the net,” and the Pakistanis are now arranging a cease-fire with al-Qaeda.

Would someone please pass Secretary Powell a napkin so he can wipe some of the egg off his (and our) face?

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