During Friday’s presidential debate, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) claimed:
I don’t think that Senator Obama understands that there was a failed state in Pakistan when Musharraf came to power. Everybody who was around then, and had been there, and knew about it knew that it was a failed state.
Matt Yglesias contacted William Milan, U.S. ambassador to Pakistan at the time of the 1999 coup, who flatly said that McCain was wrong:
There are a number of interesting books, including a forthcoming one by me, that cover the 1999 coup by the Musharraf-led army. You might want to look at those already published by Steve Cohen, Hasan Abbas, Hussain Haqqani (long before he became the present Pakistani Ambassador), and especially Ian Talbot’s updated history of Pakistan.
I think that all of them would agree that, while there were a lot of things wrong in Pakistan during the years leading up to the 1999 military takeover, Pakistan was not a failed state as we normally define such states. I am on record as stating publicly that, having come to Pakistan from Liberia a year before the takeover, I had a pretty good idea of what failed states look like, and it was not one.