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The Daily Times of Pakistan reports:

The Musharraf regime is “unlikely to evolve into a long-term ally in the war on terrorism,” though the United States should seek to “prevent Pakistan from descending into chaos in the short term,” according to the Cato Institute, a leading liberal think tank.
Given the, um, interesting description of Cato there and the fact that I hadn't seem them argue any such thing, I was skeptical. The magic of Google, however, reveals all (PDF) and I think it's pretty persuasive:
Policymakers should consider an alternate interpretation of Pakistan’s behavior. Since 9/11, Musharraf has been opportunistic. He responded to political and military pressure from the United States by ending his country’s alliance with the Taliban and other radical Islamic groups, taking steps to liberalize his country’s political and economic system, and opening the road to an accord with India over Kashmir. But there are no signs that Musharraf and his political and military allies have made a strategic choice to ally themselves with U.S. long-term goals in the war on terrorism by destroying the political and military infrastructure of the radical and violent anti-American Islamic groups in Pakistan. It is highly probable that Musharraf is not strong enough to do so. From that perspective, the partnership with the United States and Musharraf’s willingness to negotiate with India over Kashmir are nothing more than short-term moves aimed at winning U.S. assistance and preventing India from emerging as Washington’s main ally in the region.

If this alternate interpretation is correct, the current American relationship with Pakistan is, at best, a short-term alliance of necessity. Over the medium and long term, U.S. policymakers should distance themselves from Musharraf’s regime, seek out ways to cultivate liberal secular reforms in Pakistan, and engage in more constructive relations with India.

Such a policy shift would reflect present-day reality: Westernized and secular India is a stable democracy and a rising regional power, not a de facto client of the Soviet Union, as it was widely presumed to be during the Cold War. With the Cold War order long since dismantled, the United States has a clear interest in establishing strong ties with India, whose political, economic, and military clout places the country in a position to counterbalance even an increasingly assertive China. As the world’s largest democracy and an important bilateral trading partner with the United States, India, not Pakistan, should be the focus of long-term U.S. policy in the region.
I'm not sure that "cultivat[ing] liberal secular reforms in Pakistan" has much promise, but I think this is generally right. I wonder if anyone else remembers having watched General Musharraf's address sometime in the week after 9/11 explaining that he was going to side with the USA. It was obvious from the look on his face and the tone of his voice that this was a man who was scared shitless. Pakistan had been playing a dangerous game for years, and it had just blown up in the faces of several thousand people in Lower Manhattan. If he didn't get his shit together, there was going to be hell to pay. The result was a very useful tactical alliance for the United States. But that moment is passed, and it's time to put US policy in South Asia back in line with the fundamental realities. We may not see eye to eye on the Social Security calculator, but I love Cato's foreign and defense policy stuff. I'm with them on this, too. And outsourcing. Remember outsourcing? Ah, those were the days. . . .

January 31, 2005 | Permalink


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Yup, it all makes good sense. I have nothing against the Pakistanis or Indians, but it is quite clear which government we should be cultivating long-term relationships with: the Indians. We do have to prop Musharraf up to a limited extent, because while he has no right to be ruling the people of Pakistan, there are some fairly frightening consequences to non-peaceful dissolution of his government. Of course, propping him could very well come back to bite us in the ass...

But it is incredibly naive to assume Pakistan is currently our ally. We can trust each other as much as we can verify.

Those damn liberals at CATO.

Posted by: Timothy Klein | Jan 31, 2005 2:28:06 AM

The story is obviously using the word "liberal" in the "classical liberal" sense that it retains in much of the world. Since the very next sentence after the one you quote notes that Cato was established to promote libertarian values, it's a bit unfair to use a selective quotation to make them look like idiots.

Or, to put it another way, we're all liberals when Pakistan is the comparison.

Posted by: Chris | Jan 31, 2005 2:33:58 AM

The Pakistan matter is a prickly, thorny thing (especially with the buhs...no bombs Elaine) although I'm not sure that encouraging democratic reform there still isn't the smarter course in the longer term, but that really wasn't the question was it?

PS Outsourcing bad. I'm thinking of opening a Chinese restaurant because you can't outsource those. Is it politically incorrect for white people to open Chinese restaurants, or just unusual?

Posted by: Green Dem | Jan 31, 2005 2:43:29 AM

I've never understood our kissing up to Pakistan while giving the cold shoulder to India. India is closer to sharing our values, and we fight a common enemy(Islamic terrorism).

The biggest thing keeping the civilized world from winning this war is the constant undermining of each other's war efforts politically. Russia, India, Europe, and the US all face the same enemy, yet each nation is always urging the others to take the peaceful approach while using force themselves.

We need to be more united against the Islamofascists.

Posted by: Adam Herman | Jan 31, 2005 2:47:25 AM

I welcome our curry eating overlords.

Posted by: Mimiru | Jan 31, 2005 3:19:38 AM

I agree with Adam, we need to be more supportive of our allies in the WoT. We should allow Putin to consolidate more power, so he can take the fight to the terrorists. Also, the rest of the world needs to get off our back, the 100,000 people who died in Iraq were well worth the cost of today's election. Just like the half-million children that died during sanctions were well worth the cost of, well you-know-what.

The war on terror is a battle between good and evil. Our way of life is at stake, Just like in WWII. We need to take a stand.

Posted by: Jor | Jan 31, 2005 3:30:14 AM

Cato states the obvious, but I suppose the obvious needs to be stated once in a while.

And, yes, the Cato Institute IS "liberal". In the sense of favoring liberty, as opposed to the sense of how they want to spend other people's money...

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Jan 31, 2005 6:06:10 AM

We better not make too many noises about ending our alliance-of-convenience with Musharraf until our troops are out of afghanistan. The turkmenistan government is a recent, unstable kleptocracy. If they were our sole nation to transport through they *might* just jack up the prices but they might try for some real blackmail. And afghanistan to turkey is a real long air-commute.

It isn't supporting the troops to stick them out on the end of a very long supply chain and then go rattling cages among the locals along that chain.

India is not our natural ally. India is the biggest nation in the area, with the strongest economy. They have vigorously resisted US domination of their economy. Luckily they haven't been doing much militarily because they have no neighbors that have anything they want. Pakistan is full of muslims and not worth occupying. China is, well, china. They want some control over nepal but muslims in nepal are resisting. And western burma (myanmar) is hardly worth passing through, it takes a special kind of person to live there. Again note india's borders. Pakistan, china, nepal, myanmar, and bangladesh. India can't do much for us as a regional partner, and they don't want to. If we provoke them they'll put money into their navy and annoy us in the indian ocean. There isn't much they can or will do *for* us, but luckily there isn't much they want to or can do *to* us either. Let's keep it that way. Let them stay just an economic threat.

Posted by: J Thomas | Jan 31, 2005 8:19:33 AM

"liberal" means "classical liberal" over there.

Posted by: praktike | Jan 31, 2005 9:20:31 AM

Matt--This isn't exactly relevant to this or any other post, but I can't find an email address for you. While I generally like the new layout, the type size of the material you quote is really small. And, as a result, I find it more than a little difficult to read.

Posted by: Donald A. Coffin | Jan 31, 2005 9:28:11 AM

as opposed to the sense of how they want to spend other people's money

as opposed to wrecklessly, like the GOP.

Posted by: cleek | Jan 31, 2005 9:28:42 AM

And I agree with Adam as well. US should encourage Putin to consolidate more power so that we can kill more civilians in Chechnya and elsewhere. We should promote the so called "democrarcy" in india so they can llegetimately kill more muslims(in reference to Godhra '02 and the latest findings on how the fire in the train actually started). I think fighthing "islamophobia" should require the active effort and coordination of all the "civilized" leaders of the free world namely Sharon, Putin, Singh etc...
Being a pakistani and an ardent opponent of the past pakistani policies, I strongly believe that US should support pakistan during these critical times. Pakistan's past foreign policy decisions have always being shaped in accordance to it's security requirements vis-a-vis india. If US and above all UN becomes a neutral arbitrater with pakistan on issues of utmost importance to pakistanis e.g. kashmir, then US and the world will find pakistanis more receptive to any change.
We cannot achieve peace in the world because of people like Adam Herman. People, who have an inherent and unjustifiable hatred against a particular group, which I take is Muslims.

Posted by: Paki | Jan 31, 2005 9:30:04 AM

I'm not sure that "cultivat[ing] liberal secular reforms in Pakistan" has much promise, but I think this is generally right.

Look, there are certainly at least as many Pakistanis--at least who are positioned to influence policy--who want to be a Muslim version of India as there are who want to be a more modern version of Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia. Speak of what you know, Matt.

Posted by: bobo brooks | Jan 31, 2005 9:42:35 AM

It's good to see Cato described as 'liberal'. They get (wrongly) decribed as 'conservative' far too often. Being a European, I (along with The Economist) regard a liberal as someone who believes in freedom, both socially and economically.

Posted by: Alex | Jan 31, 2005 9:49:25 AM

Especially when American leftists have fled the term "liberal" en masse.

Posted by: digamma | Jan 31, 2005 10:37:05 AM

It's *not* good to hear Cato described as "liberal," because the meaning of the word has drifted since J.S. Mill. Does "libertarian" not describe Cato? If not, why not?

It would be nice for "liberal" to recover some positive content, but collapsing it into "liberatarian" contributes to semantic poverty.

Posted by: Anderson | Jan 31, 2005 11:16:55 AM

Actually, Cato is pretty liberal compared to, say, the Heritage Foundation (and more honest too).

Of course, in ten years' time, Heritage will be considered the "centrist" think tank, Cato and Brookings at the far left.

Alan Keyes' Renew America will be the leading right-wing think tank.

Posted by: Brad Reed | Jan 31, 2005 11:27:26 AM

Are we sure that our very best advertising/marketing brains are at work winning hearts and minds in Pakistan and elsewhere?

Posted by: yesh | Jan 31, 2005 12:52:43 PM

Anderson - the word "liberal" has migrated in meaning here, and to some degree in Britain, but in much of the English-speaking world it has not. The usage of the word "liberal" to mean something close to what we would describe as "libertarian" is perfectly normal in Pakistan and India (as well as many other places, including Germany).

Posted by: aphrael | Jan 31, 2005 3:24:31 PM

Almost the only strategic miracle I've seen from the Bush administration has been the (admittedly problematic) cooperation of the Pakistani government. It really is the indispensible ally in the Afghani effort.

I've never understood our kissing up to Pakistan while giving the cold shoulder to India.

You may recall that before 9/11, the US wasn't dealing with Pakistan at all. The US didn't even recognize Musharraf's government. Again, this is one of the only points on which I agree with Bush's after-9/11-things-changed rhetoric: in order to go after Bin Ladin and by extension the Taliban, the US had to determine whether Pakistan would help or obstruct US efforts in that region. We needed some carrots.

Musharraf's rule is unstable. He's making concessions left and right to radical factions in the population and in his own government. He seized power in a military coup. I don't know what the alternative to Musharraf is, today, but for now he seems like the most stable option. This is a country that needs help shoring up democratic institutions, but can any external power do that? For the time being, it seems as though short-term aid is all we can reasonably expect.

Posted by: Jackmormon | Jan 31, 2005 8:41:58 PM

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