The Bloc That Wasn’t There

There’s too much in this Barnett Rubin post on Pakistan to even try to summarize (always the sign of a good piece) so read it yourself. I’ll just pull out one insight he offers about the way the United States (I think it’s unfair to make this out to be an idiosyncratic failing of the Bush administration) sees the world:

The Bush administration has decided that in the “Muslim world” a battle is going on between pro-American “moderates” and anti-American “extremists.” According to them, the “Muslim world” has a two-party system organized around how Muslims feel about America. In Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf is a “pro-American moderate.” Benazir Bhutto is a “pro-American moderate.” Therefore it is only logical (and in U.S. interests!) for the U.S. to realign Pakistan politics so that the “moderates” work together against the “extremists.

To America, in short, the defining issue in Pakistani politics is . . . people’s attitude toward America. But of course that’s not how it looks in Pakistan, where “it is not just a random problem that the ‘pro-American moderate’ institution headed by General Musharraf executed Benazir’s father and held her for years in solitary confinement.” In short, Pakistani actors and institutions need to be understood in terms of their own interests and goals. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s elections are going to be delayed until February, but the real issue would seem to be less the timing of the election than the extent to which the security services will try to rig them.

Elections aside, one thing Rubin emphasizes is the extent to which the military has tended to allow civilian rule just insofar as military retains control over everything it cares about.