Kerry’s naive ideas of security

Expediency is not pragmatism

Ironically, the Democratic party’s presidential candidate does not want to promote democracy ! Levity aside, John Kerry thinks that coddling up autocrats in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia is going to fix America’s national security woes. As history has shown, this approach will just cause severe problems for another American president a few years down the road.

Sen. John F. Kerry indicated that as president he would play down the promotion of democracy as a leading goal in dealing with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China and Russia, instead focusing on other objectives that he said are more central to the United States’ security.

Kerry said Pakistan is a “critical relationship,” and he said he would not immediately pressure President Pervez Musharraf to loosen the reins of power.

“Is he a strongman to a degree? Did he promise elections that have not occurred and all the rest? Yeah,” Kerry said. “I don’t see that as the first thing that is going to happen in our priority of making America safer. It is a long-term goal. It is a goal that I will keep on the table. But it is not the first thing that has to happen.”

Instead, Kerry said, the first priority is keeping nuclear weapons from radical Islamists in Pakistan, with the secondary objective of crushing al Qaeda through better intelligence sharing with Pakistani security services. [Washington Post]

Kerry wimps out conveniently by saying that although establishment of democracy in Pakistan is a long-term goal, it is not the first thing on his plate. It is quite unfortunate that Kerry should think pushing democracy is an act of ‘idealism’. It is not – shoring up unpopular autocrats has not won any support for America in the Islamic world.

Even in the short term, Kerry should realise that he will lose a lot of leverage with Musharraf once the legitimacy of the General’s military dictatorship stops being questioned. Pakistan’s radical Islamic parties never had much popular support, if Musharraf’s regime had not engineered the last elections, these parties could never have won as many seats in parliament. The link between keeping Musharraf, establishing democracy and keeping nuclear weapons out of radical Islamic hands is at best tenous and has never been proven. On the contrary, the link between the military rule and strengthening of Islamic radicals has long been obvious.

Kerry would do well to understand that America’s security can be best assured by staying the course…on democracy.

Update: California Yankee (via The Command Post) has more.

2 thoughts on “Kerry’s naive ideas of security”

  1. The fact is that Musharaff is not an “unpopular autocrat”. He is in fact a “popular autocrat”. Previous civilian Pakistani governments (that of Bhutto Sr., for instance) have played the religious card as much as or more than Musharaff. In fact, a fully democratic Pakistan may be more anti-US and as anti-Indian as the current governent. The notion that a democracy would magically be a peaceful and secular country is chimerical.

    It is not wimping out at all to say that establishing democracy in Pakistan should be a long-term goal. Realistically, a country that has almost never had an elected government complete its term is not very fertile ground for democracy and its most certainly not going to become a stable, secular democracy in the short term. Any actions taken have to be long term, begining with building a secular educational system.

    What Kerry has said is basically what the current administration is going (remember its billions of dollars in aid to Musharaff and Bush greeting him on the WH lawn). Only, the current administration cannot say openly what Kerry does. If Kerry were elected, he would have a similar policy and would not be able to say it openly for reasons of statecraft.

  2. Raman,

    Everyone agrees that the democracy is the best solution for Pakistan in the long term. Unfortunately, no one decides to promote democracy immediately or in the short term.

    The cold war presidents did not, because of the standoff with the Soviets. In the 80s it was the immediate struggle in Afghanistan. No its the war on terror that is an immediate concern.

    Kerry’s statement has come as music to Musharraf’s ears. It’s not made the General more eager to step down and strengthen democratic institutions.

    As for democratic governments’ tendency to be anti-India or anti-US, it is a hypothesis that does not stand up to realities.

    If the Damocles sword of an army coup does not hang above democratic government in Pakistan, the government’s can reflect popular will. Remember Nawaz Sharif had concluded the Lahore Agreement when he was undermined by Musharraf himself.

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