Friday, September 12, 2008

Did Musharraf Place a Losing Bet?

11 September 2008

I recall that shortly following September 11, 2001, President and Retired General Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan nominally threw his weight with the United States in the War on Terror.

It is no secret that few decisions in third world countries are driven by moral principles. Rather, third world politics is pragmatic.


Those who make decisions based on principles don't survive long enough to make principled decisions the next day.

Pragmatics rules the third world, and this is a very different political climate than we are accustomed to in the West. In fact, the primacy of principle has been a historically short-lived and localized development in the nations of the West (though of course our actions based on principle are not necessarily more right or correct than actions taking place in the third world).

Pragmatic strategic decisions often await an assessment of which social group has momentum and which social group is most likely to dominate the flow of events in the short to intermediate term.

In developing nations, very few long-term decisions are placed pragmatically, and for practical purposes, essentially none are based on principal.

These are the parameters of political survival that drive the third world.

My point in entering into this discussion is to consider the rise and fall of Pervez Musharraf.

Of course, President Musharraf was an inconsistent ally of the United States at best. He did little to rein in extremism in the tribal regions of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan. Essentially, Musharraf permitted extremism to thrive on the margins of Pakistani society, but he threw the weight of policy and official military deployment behind the United States, and, by extension, the West.

The point of my discussion is that we know full well that Mr. Musharraf's decision was based on pragmatics, not principle. He threw at least some weight of policy support behind the Western nations because he though we would emerge as the longer-term winners of the battles and, most likely ultimately, the war. He respected our ability to dominate in a conflict that deeply divides his State of Pakistan.

On August 18, 2008, President Musharraf resigned.

Following his resignation, the United States has increased cross-border incursions into Pakistan.

I'm not sure what this means.

But if Mr. Musharraf tied his fortunes to the expected success of the United States and its allies in his region of the world, the current developments raise the prospect that his view has not prevailed in his home country, and that another view is rising to prominence.

Of course, the insurgents in Afghanistan retreat across Pakistan's borders in order to plan, organize, staff and equip their missions.

If we do not pursue them there, our military effectiveness will be deeply compromised.

The new government of Pakistan is vigorously protesting the recent military actions of the United States.

On what pragmatic analysis is this present response founded?

My take is that the locals are now casting their bets differently than did Mr. Musharraf.

What will it take to cause Pakistan's leaders to believe that the West will prevail in its defenses against the excesses of the Islamic extremist movement?

I do not know the answer, but I think that this is the question that most requires our strategic consideration.

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