FM: John Whitbeck
The article transmitted below, by Harvard professor Graham Allison, is well worth reading -- particularly for the public opinion statistics which he cites.
However, by now, no one should be surprised that any "democratic" government -- that is, any government which accurately reflects the views of its citizens -- in the Muslim "Broader Middle East" would be fiercely anti-American. The virulently anti-Muslim policies pursued by American governments in recent decades have ensured this. Furthermore, since American politicians will never be permitted by those who pull their strings to change these policies to any material degree, the situation will not change. It would both wiser and more honest for Americans to accept that the only congenial governments which they will have in this part of the world (aside from those under American military occupation) are those run by monarchs or dictators -- and to abandon the laughable pretense of seeking to spread "democracy".
P.S. -- As a Harvard graduate, I find it slightly embarrassing that a famous Harvard professor would confuse Pakistan's North West Frontier Province with Canada's Northwest Territories. As someone who lives in the Middle East, I, unlike Professor Allison, do not find it at all hard to believe that "Osama bin Laden is four times as popular among Pakistanis as President George W. Bush". However, aside from these minor flaws, his analysis looks sound and, to the extent that it may surprise (and enlighten) Americans, worthwhile.
And now the deluge
By Graham Allison
Published: February 22, 2008
President Pervez Musharraf's stunning defeat in Monday's elections in Pakistan represents a decisive rejection of what his opponents called his policies of "subservience" to the United States.
An American press that has been virtually unanimous in opposing Musharraf will now predictably call for his resignation in favor of "genuine democracy." Since this outcome is a possibility, it is essential to ask where a government that accurately reflects the views of Pakistani citizens would stand on issues that matter most to America.
The answer to each of these questions is as unambiguous as it is uncomfortable. A Pakistani government whose actions align with its citizens' views on these issues would be at loggerheads with the United States.
Over the past year, polls have highlighted the sharp decline in Musharraf's popularity, with his approval ratings dropping to 15 percent in December.
But what most American commentators have missed is that however much Pakistanis dislike Musharraf, they are more hostile toward the United States. When asked to name the "single greatest threat" to their country, 64 percent of Pakistanis named the United States. Historic archrival India, with whom Pakistan has fought five bloody wars, was second, well behind America.
Eighty-nine percent of Pakistanis said they disapprove of the U.S. war on terrorism. Eight in 10 Pakistanis oppose allowing the United States to pursue Al Qaeda terrorists in their country. A similar percentage rejects U.S. pursuit of Taliban forces into Pakistan.
In opposing Musharraf, opposition parties called him "Busharraf" and accused him of being a "lackey" of the United States in the "so-called war on terrorism," which they say is a U.S.-led war on Islam.
The U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, where earlier Pakistani governments were the primary sponsors of the Taliban, is opposed by 83 percent of Pakistanis.
Critics of Musharraf's limited cooperation with the U.S.-NATO campaign should recognize that a government that more closely followed the wishes of its people would be less cooperative in combating the Taliban.
The United States has two vital national interests in Pakistan: first, to prevent any of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal and bomb-making materials from being stolen, sold or transferred to terrorists; second, to destroy Al Qaeda's leadership, sanctuary, and training camps. Neither interest will be advanced by a transition from the devil we know to the new democratic Pakistani government.
Fortunately, Pakistan's nuclear weapons are secured by its army, the country's most effective national institution. Unless the army were destabilized or became substantially disaffected because of extended political instability, it will fulfill its custodial responsibilities.
In contrast, a government that truly reflects the current views of the Pakistani people is more likely to be an unspoken opponent than an ambiguous ally in the U.S. war against Al Qaeda and other terrorists in the region. Hard as it is to believe, Osama bin Laden is four times as popular among Pakistanis as President George W. Bush, whose approval rating is 7.7 percent.
That leading U.S. opinion pages generally critical of Bush's democracy crusade in Iraq should now so uncritically promote democratic shock-therapy as a panacea for Pakistan's problems is puzzling. The inconvenient, painful truth is that a truly democratic Pakistan would be, at least in the foreseeable future, less inclined to act in ways that advance urgent American interests.
Advocates of instant democracy should be careful what they wish for.
Graham Allison is director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and author of "Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe." This article first appeared in The Boston Globe.