The Wall Street Journal reported this week that “[m]embers of Pakistan’s spy agency [ISI] are pressing Taliban field commanders to fight the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan.” Referring to the story Thursday night on Fox News, war hawk John Bolton — potential GOP presidential candidate in 2012 — made an astonishing claim regarding the type of government that should be in control of Pakistan: that the country was better off under military authoritarian rule, which (allegedly) would have been easier to “lean” on to prevent the ISI from helping the Taliban:
BOLTON: [D]emocracy and civilian governments in Pakistan have been so discredited because of incompetence and corruption. I thought the Musharraf government, military, authoritarian rule that it was, was the most likely kind of government to be able to make the changes we made. […] I would have kept Musharraf in power. I think the Bush administration made a mistake in pushing him out. In Pakistan they call the military the “steel skeleton” because it really is the only thing that holds the country together. That offends some people who think democracy is always the answer. Personally, I would put American interests above that. I wouldn’t have gotten rid of Musharraf.
So it seems that Bolton has officially taken himself out of the democracy promotion crowd. But his prescription for stability in Pakistan appears to be at odds with what he himself said in 2007, that the military regime that governed the country at the time was untrustworthy and “filled with fundamentalists”:
Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile may be technically secure, Bolton said but the issue isn’t whether the weapons are locked away. “It’s a political issue,” the former U.S. ambassador said. “If the military comes unstuck, if it divides, then the technical fixes won’t protect those weapons.”
Musharraf is in a difficult spot, Bolton said. “Even the military is filled with Islamic fundamentalists that he’s tried to keep in lower positions.”
“But they’re pervasive,” he said. “And he doesn’t have the flexibility of a real military dictator.”
Bolton has even reportedly said that he “did not think one democracy should tell another democracy not to act like a democracy.” Maybe now he feels that this is permissible or perhaps he is just looking back to his non-democratic roots. “I’m with the Bush-Cheney team, and I’m here to stop the count,” Bolton told election workers recounting ballots cast in Florida’s disputed presidential race between George Bush and Al Gore in December 2000.