Monday, November 5, 2007

Rich Lowry on Pakistan and Bush

Over at Townhall, there is an article by Lowry that shines a light on some of the flaws in Bush's "freedom agenda." Lowry isn't the first to do so by any means, but the recent declaration of state of emergency by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraff adds some clout to his argument. Here's the meat:

Pakistan is a microcosm of the difficulties of establishing liberal democracy in the greater Middle East. Its institutions -- except for the army -- are weak, its politics traditionally have been clan-based, and it is riven by ethnic divisions. This is the worst possible starting point for establishing a true constitutional democracy, but is basically the same cultural material we have to work with in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority.

This is the reason that the Bush administration's Middle East policy so often has sunk to abject hopefulness. There is always a chance that key local players -- your Malikis or Musharrafs -- will act responsibly and in the interest of greater political openness, but old habits usually triumph over hope. Bush isn't wrong to promote democracy, but he never should have done it in such a sweeping, grandiloquent way that set him up for failure on his own terms. His freedom campaign should have shown keener appreciation for the fact that he was dealing with countries that had missed the wave of democratization of the latter part of the 20th century for a reason. Our ability to dictate their political development was always going to be limited.

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