Our Man in Pakistan?

He is perhaps an unlikely point person for the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism policies. General Pervez Musharraf took power in Pakistan through a military coup in 1999 and has shown little interest ever since in establishing democracy. Up until a couple days ago, he maintained a tactical alliance with the Taliban. In 2004, he pardoned arch-proliferator Abdul Qadeer Khan, whom he called “my hero,” as part of a deal that allowed the Pakistani government to claim that Khan’s proliferation ring was a rogue operation in exchange for the United States having freer rein to go after al-Qaeda in the Pakistani badlands. And for all his strong-arm policies, the Pakistani general presides over a state that ranked #12 in Foreign Policy magazine’s latest Failed State index, sandwiched between Haiti and North Korea. With friends like these…

But wait, didn’t Musharraf just order a commando raid on Islamic militants holed up in a Islamabad mosque? And, as Daniel Markey points out in Foreign Affairs, U.S. cooperation with Musharraf has meant the capture or killing of several al-Qaeda operatives in Pakistan. Dirty wars require dirty deals with dirty operatives, the pragmatists inside the Beltway argue. This bit of realpolitik reveals the lie behind Bush’s democracy promotion efforts, but it’s also part of a long history of relying on Pakistani strong men. In the late 1960s, the Nixon administration used the services of West Pakistan’s Yahya Khan to open up diplomatic channels with China and then looked the other way in 1971 when Khan’s army slaughtered as many as 3 million East Pakistanis in one of the worst genocides of the post-World War II era.

The recent assault on the Red Mosque in Islamabad seems to be the latest example of “our man in Pakistan” doing our bidding despite his questionable credentials. But this week, Foreign Policy In Focus gives you a very different picture of the Red Mosque assault.

The Hand of China

The Red Mosque militants wanted to create an Islamic state in Pakistan. Led by two firebrand brothers, the militants tried to change the country neighborhood by neighborhood. As FPIF contributor Najum Mushtaq describes in Musharraf’s Madrasa Muddle, the students from the mosque’s school, or madrasa, took matters into their own hands. They “forcibly occupied a children’s library,” he writes. “Zealous students kidnapped policemen and government officials. They gave ultimatums to music and video shops to close business, and burned down one of them.”

But their greatest tactical mistake was to abduct seven Chinese nationals who worked for a massage parlor. The students accused the Chinese of running a brothel. “Outraged by the kidnapping, the Chinese government made a visible departure from its past diplomatic courtesies to publicly demand that Pakistan ensure the safety of its citizens,” writes FPIF contributor Tarique Niazi in China, Pakistan, and Terrorism. “Hours after the demand, all abductees were freed unharmed.” But several days later, militants in another part of the country executed three Chinese nationals who ran a small business near Peshawar. And this time the Chinese government applied a great deal more pressure on Musharraf.

It was at this point that Musharraf changed strategy. The army had been laying siege to the Red Mosque for a week. When news of the executions reached Islamabad, Musharraf ordered the storming of the compound. As Niazi argues, Chinese influence has expanded in Pakistan beyond mere military cooperation, and China’s role in the Red Mosque incident illustrates this new influence.

The other important part of the story is the failure of Musharraf’s vaunted religious education reform. With millions of dollars of U.S. assistance, Musharraf was supposed to modernize what has been one of the chief sources of radical Islam. But as Najum Mushtaq points out, the Pakistani government backtracked on nearly every element of the proposed reforms. The brazen actions of a mosque located in the heart of the country’s capital couldn’t have revealed this government failure any more clearly.

“Washington might like to see a few more Red Mosque-like incidents as proof of Musharraf’s determination to battle extremists,” Mushtaq writes. “But the patience of the Pakistani people, tired of religious fundamentalism from the mullahs and military fundamentalism from their president, is wearing thin.” The breakdown of the truce between the Pakistani government and tribal chiefs (Taliban) in North Waziristan is certainly not making matters any better. Over the weekend, more than 70 people died in fighting in the areas near the Afghanistan border. Some in Beijing and Washington may well be rejoicing at Musharraf’s crackdown on extremism. But the average Pakistani, who pointedly ignored the Red Mosque calls to establish theocracy, will pay the price.

Meanwhile in Iraq

In a recent speech to the Naval War College, President Bush declared that some day Iraq would be as well functioning as … Israel. Oops, call in rewrite! What possessed the president’s speechwriters to chart an Israeli future for an Arab country?

“Openly referencing Israel as a model for Arab countries to emulate is more likely to turn off Arab audiences than endear them to the administration’s reform goals,” writes FPIF contributor Pascale Combelles Siegel in Iraq Equals Israel?. “The reference validates Sunni insurgents’ propagandistic claims that the war in Iraq is part of a ‘Crusader-Zionist’ plan to dominate Iraq and control Arabs. Their supporters and sympathizers will interpret the President’s Israel reference as proof that the conspiracy is real.”

Maybe the Israel analogy is in the president’s mind because of Turkey’s recent actions. Ankara has sent over 100,000 troops to the Iraqi border as part of its efforts to stop cross-border attacks from Kurdish separatists. Sound familiar? Last summer, Israel attacked Lebanon to stop cross-border incidents. Might Turkey be tempted to repeat the folly?

FPIF contributor Richard May predicts that a Turkish incursion into northern Iraq would have two adverse effects. “First, the Kurdish soldiers that are operating in Baghdad as part of the U.S. military ‘surge’ would be tempted to abandon their posts in order to protect their homeland in the north,” he writes in Turkey vs. Iraq?. “Second, because Turkish troops would not likely remain for long in the north of Iraq, the remaining PKK fighters could regroup and continue to use northern Iraq as a base of operations for its recent offensive attacks in Turkey. Iraq would have difficulty meeting either of these challenges. To face both simultaneously would only exasperate and quicken the destabilization of Iraq and the region.”

While Bush dreams of Israel and Turkey contemplates invasion, Congress is getting ready to make a move. As FPIF’s military affairs analyst Dan Smith writes in Putting the President in His Place, Congress is considering various measures to draw down U.S. troops in Iraq and reverse the concentration of presidential power. “Only one letter separates a palace from a place,” Smith concludes. “The Founding Fathers took the first ‘a’ from King George III’s ‘palace’ and put him in his ‘place’ more than 225 years ago. By voting to bring home the troops and restricting the impact of signing statements, Congress can help put King George W. Bush in his place as well.”

The Drug War and the IMF

These days the U.S. strategy seems to be: if it’s broke, export it. As FPIF columnist Laura Carlsen explains, the United States first tested out its “war on drugs” at home, during the Nixon administration. The strategy didn’t work to control the nation’s drug problem. But it did help Nixon increase his presidential power.

“The U.S. model not only served to bolster the presidency,” Carlsen writes in Militarizing Mexico: The New War on Drugs. “It has also proven useful as a tool for geopolitical control abroad. By elevating drug trafficking to a matter of national security, the war on drugs model has led to U.S. intervention in the politics of both drug-producing and transit nations. It has been used to justify the militarization of whole regions of foreign nations (Colombia), invasions to oust inconvenient foreign leaders (Panama), and now the extension of the U.S. security agenda into a neighboring country (Mexico).” Inspired by both Nixon and Bush, Mexican president Felipe Calderon may be angling for a Plan Mexico, modeled on Plan Colombia, to strengthen his own position domestically.

The International Monetary Fund will soon be changing leadership, with French socialist Dominique Strauss-Kahn likely to replace departing managing director Rodrigo de Rato. “In contrast to the circus atmosphere that surrounded the World Bank presidency, a surprise handover of the reins at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) should prove to be a quiet affair,” writes FPIF contributor Peter Chowla in Change and No Change at IMF. “It will be conducted mostly out of the media spotlight and by the prevailing tradition, meaning that another European male will govern an institution that because of its checkered past is facing serious questions about its future. If the United States and Europe continue to throw away chances for reform, the IMF will become even more marginalized.”

Fiesta!

History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then, alas, as tragedy again. In an interview with FPIF contributor E. Ethelbert Miller about Asia, racism, and the foreign policy of Minnesota, Japanese American writer David Mura talks about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and parallels to today’s internments.

“One key aspect of the internment was the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus,” Mura says. “Japanese Americans were not given a trial in which they could prove their innocence. We are now seeing similar suspensions or violations of civil liberties today with regard to Muslim Americans. If people were more cognizant of what happened to the Japanese Americans, then people might be more reluctant to suspend civil liberties when dealing with the current threats facing our country. They might think twice and come to conclusion that we should avoid making the same mistakes we have made in the past.”

Novels set in Burma have been very popular of late. There’s the latest from Amy Tan, The Lizard Cage from Karen Connelly, and The Piano Tuner, which will soon be made into a film. But FPIF contributor Kyi May Kaung argues that American readers are missing the best Burmese novels, the ones that haven’t been translated yet. In Out of Burma, she describes the prison narratives of Mya Than Tint, Mahn Nyein Maung, and Nay Lin. “Perhaps the popularity of Amy Tan and Karen Connelly will attract publishers and readers to the lived and felt experiences that are contained in the Burmese novels and that await the translation and international appreciation they deserve,” she concludes.

Nor surprisingly, the GPI failed to generate headlines in the United States. But Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) did spread the word among his congressional colleagues by talking up the index on Capitol Hill. “We’ve got to clean up our act,” he told Michael Shanks in an interview for FPIF. “We are unquestionably the wealthiest nation in the world. But the question is, in this age of globalization, are we using that wealth and that power to help others so that we can bring them up? Or are we using that wealth and that power just to continue our power and our wealth at the expense of others?”