The entire issue of Pakistan seems to have fallen off the radar once it turned out that Benazir Bhutto’s assassination wasn’t going to lead to a total breakdown over there. That was a good thing, but the lack of attention to Pakistan isn’t a good thing. So it was nice to see Barack Obama offer some remarks on the subject during yesterday’s Iraq speech:
The choice is not between Musharraf and Islamic extremists. As the recent legislative elections showed, there is a moderate majority of Pakistanis, and they are the people we need on our side to win the war against al Qaeda. That is why we should dramatically increase our support for the Pakistani people — for education, economic development, and democratic institutions. That child in Pakistan must know that we want a better life for him, that America is on his side, and that his interest in opportunity is our interest as well. That’s the promise that America must stand for.
This seems right to me. Making deals with the Musharrafs of the world, people who put themselves forward as the only alternative to radicalism, is a dangerous business. A dictator like that can’t actually afford to see the forces of radicalism go into eclipse; he needs them because they’re his whole rationale for attracting foreign support. Ultimately, that’s not a path that leads the country anywhere productive.