James Forsyth

Bush’s gravest misjudgement

Bush's gravest misjudgement
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One of the great myths about the Bush administration is that is has adopted a cookie-cutter approach to foreign policy. As Tim Montgomerie pointed out in The Times yesterday, there is actually very little ideological consistency to it as proven by the very different approaches taken to Iraq, Iran, North  Korea and Pakistan.

Of all these approaches, the ‘realist’ one taken to Pakistan may turn out to have been the most mistaken. The short-term convenience of a military strong-man prepared to back the United States, albeit only under duress, has—predictably—actually worsened the situation in the medium term. 

Bob Kagan, one of the smartest American strategists, explains why the idea of backing dictators is so flawed in the Washington Post.

“The dictator always argued [during the Cold War] that the choice was to support him or give the country to the communists. And he always made sure that this was the choice

Today, Pakistan's Gen. Pervez Musharraf is playing the old game, as is Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, and it appears to be working. Substitute radical Islamists for communists, and the pitch is the same: Apres moi, le deluge. If you force me out, the radical Islamists will win. And Musharraf is busily trying to ensure that this is the only option. He cracks down on moderates with good democratic credentials, and with far greater zeal than he has cracked down on al-Qaeda. If he can hold on long enough, he may so radicalize the opposition that no reasonably moderate alternative will be available.”

Kagan is also right about how high the stakes are in Pakistan:

“If the administration cannot muster the courage or skill to replace this eminently replaceable man in the name of Pakistani democracy, all because it fears the alternative, then it had better cease the absurd rhetoric about democracy promotion. It had also better get used to a greater Middle East and Muslim world where there are only two types of regimes: radical Islamists and stubborn dictatorships. That, presumably, is not the legacy Bush wants to bequeath to his successor.”

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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